On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”
We imagine the apostle Peter, who learned hard lessons as a disciple of Jesus, would have a handle on living the gospel faithfully in the culture in which he was rooted. But then he meets Cornelius and his foundations are shaken. Each converts the other to a new way of being in the world, in the kingdom work of joining God in mission.
Meeting last week to review the journey that is Path of Renewal, we spoke of the unraveling and dismantling that has confronted and challenged us as we seek ways of faithfully being disciples in our culture today.
The work of discerning where and how God invites us to join in mission for this age involves relinquishing our hold on things we thought we had learned and the laying down of skills we thought we had mastered to make room for new possibilities that God sets before us. Being involved in God's mission renders us novices instead of the seasoned professionals we previously considered ourselves. We find ourselves questioning all that we thought we knew.*
It's hard work - and it's tempting to return to the status quo, where we feel slightly better equipped and where we perhaps better fulfil the expectations of others. Life would be so much easier if we could stick with what we think we know. (Perhaps!)
But, having glimpsed that preferred and promised future that God lays before us and beckons us to pursue, we cannot turn back, no matter how awkward the terrain or how slow the journey.
We are compelled by the God of mission to keep on seeking out the Cornelius's who challenge us to broaden our horizons, to change our mindsets, to embrace a new commitment to discipleship and to keep on following God whose mission we are about.
And so the hard work of listening to God, of forging and deepening relationships, of letting go, of laying down our professionalism, of encouraging and empowering others and of continually re-aligning our notion of mission to that of God become the things that we take up every day - the tools and the work of the Kingdom. The great unraveling!
*Ministers involved in Path of Renewal Pilot have from 2 to 30 years experience!