This is the final of my series of five articles addressing the theme of the upcoming National Convention: Sing to the Lord a New Song.
Being a people in mission is not merely a matter of strategies and methods; it is a matter of spiritual formation. Being in mission requires us to have a trusting relationship with God and ourselves that is more than the mere learning of facts. Formation is a process through which a relationship develops and shapes our very personality. Out of that deep personal experience, values and commitments originate and love grows.
A great deal has been written and taught about spiritual formation. It involves a life of prayer in which God is allowed to be the main speaker as we open ourselves to receptivity and reflection. Participation in the liturgy of the church, living in communion with others, and reflecting on GodÕs actions in the world are contributors to our formation as Christians. Being mentored, guided and encouraged is also important to the process.
The outcome of this formation, for mission, is the development of a person who is free from anxiety about their relationship with God and with others; a person who is freely open in the presence of God and free and open with their inner self. Anxious people act out of fear, which turns relationships adversarial and makes love impossible. Anxious people are unable to trust God or others and feel that every outcome is dependent upon their own resources. The catch is that anxious people feel their resources are inadequate. In other words, anxious people are caught in a bind that erodes their self-esteem and makes free-flowing relationships with others extremely difficult. Such people cannot witness effectively to the love of God or model the outcome of God's free grace operative in their lives.
We have developed programs for Christian initiation (The Adult Catechumenate) and witness in our families (Partners in Faith). Now we need to learn how to form our psyches for mission. The gospel is good news for everyone, Christian or not, convert or not. It is a gift to share with neighbours purely because we treasure it and believe it will do them good. It is a phenomenon that is experienced through relationships more than it is learned through the teaching of information. The gospel brings about spiritual, mental and emotional health in people and can heal those who suffer from illnesses of those kinds.
As we prepare to host the Lutheran World Federation Tenth Assembly and its theme, For the Healing of the World, can we contribute to the communion by the way we attend to our own health in this way? Is there such a thing as healthy Christian self-esteem? How would we, as a church, develop a process for bringing this about in people?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
I am grateful to my friend, Dr. James Battle of St. Albert, AB, for getting me started on this line of thinking. See my Web page for some other information Jim has shared with me.
-- Bishop Raymond Schultz