I was the final speaker at the Council for World Mission Assembly (CWM) at Jegu Island, Korea.
My talk was “Healing Towards Future”. I am reposting below the short summary originally posted by CWM.
Rev Dr Grace Ji Sun Kim, gave an energising inspiring presentation that offered Assembly perhaps its most hopeful theme exploration, that of looking to the future.
‘The future is the present now’
Rev Dr Kim spoke of the connectedness of present actions and future consequence; the reality of a hopeful future can only be achieved through positive and hopeful actions in the here and now.
For children and youth, the present and future of the church and the world, Rev Dr Kim offered a message of what it means to be rooted and to be formed in Christ and the importance of a secure and open community to surround the individual. Community means putting others before oneself, it requires inclusive language that speaks of ‘our’ rather than ‘my’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘I’. Using the Lord’s Prayer, Assembly was invited to work towards the realisation of God’s Kingdom by releasing our predisposition for the building of our own, individual, kingdoms: “thy kingdom come means let my kingdom go”.
Relating her presentation to Assembly’s earlier exposure to the suffering of comfort women during the Second World War, Rev Dr Kim talked of a future in which issues of gender injustice were not only addressed but no longer a reality. One of the ways this can be realised is through the sharing of stories, and of the opening of our hearts and ears to the cries of women all over the world. It is also important that scripture is not misinterpreted so that abuse of any person, or of the earth, cannot be legitimised through fanaticism.
‘We need to open ourselves to spirit-God within us to embrace those around us’
To close, Rev Dr Kim spoke of the importance of dialogue and recognition of other religions, a topic which brought Assembly full circle to the opening keynote address. Openness towards others is a key feature of Christ’s ministry and for Rev Dr Kim, we as followers need to be open to being led by the Holy Spirit to connect with those we share our environments with, acknowledging that the concept of a leading-spirit is present in almost all indigenous cultures across the world. The spirit that we understand as ‘breath’ and as the ‘spirit that gives life’ can help to release us from our fear of the other. For Rev Dr Kim it is the spirit that keeps the hope of future alive.
Rev Dr Kim was the last of the CWM Assembly’s sub theme presenters and was able to bring the Assembly theme to a conclusion that looks hopefully to the future through a right relationship with God as the Holy Spirit.
We thank all of the presenters and the keynote speaker for their work and help in exploring what will be an exciting and fruitful series of themes through which CWM will be able to explore the mission of God over the next three years.
Healing Towards the Future: Hope for Tomorrow
What is our collective imagination of the future?
Rev Peacock led the Assembly in a rigorous interrogation of the Bible Study text. He focused on the relationship between the rich unnamed man and the poor man, Lazarus. Their respective locations in society indicate the divide that separated the rich and the poor in society. However, in the afterlife that situation is reversed. Unlike other narratives in the Gospels the poor man is named in this passage while the rich man is not.
Invisible boundaries separate the powerful and the powerless; poor and rich. They are often supported by ideology which blames the poor themselves for their circumstance. The ideas of the afterlife that are suggested in the parable indicate that hades is a place of transition where repentance might be possible (cf. 1Peter 4:6). Rev. Peacock critiqued the practice of throwing money at the needs of the poor for obscuring and oversimplifying the underlying problem of Empire and the unjust power relations entailed by it.
Rev Peacock noted that there is an indication in the parable that the rich man’s wealth is what sent him to hades. Ensuing from this is the fact that heaven is offered as a lens that exposes unjust powers. He concluded with two thoughts about heaven and how it is used in Scriptural tradition. Firstly, he offered that the afterlife cannot be used to legitimise the current neoliberal economic system. To yearn for a just future is to condemn the present and to work for transformation in this life. Secondly, that healing brokenness in the present implies the healing of relationship. Deep seated solidarity with the oppressed commits the powerful to a humble stance towards the poor and powerless. Therein is the link between faith and hope. The hope of the oppressed who long for salvation projects into the future. It commits the rich and powerful to action for justice today which would convert the one who serves.
‘As it is on earth, so shall it be in heaven’ is a critique of unjust social relationships on earth which will be subject to judgement in the afterlife.
How did you enjoy Rev Dr Grace Ji Sun Kim’s talk? Did you find anything especially inspiring or interesting?
It was inspiring. I thought her comments regarding children and youth and the importance of formation and community were very helpful and insightful.
Rev Dr Kim advocated pushing youths into the centre of church life but a concern was raised about a loss of tradition and wisdom.
What is you view on this?
My view is that youths need to be part of the church now, but older people need to pass on their wisdom. Young people are vital for the church today and we need to help them grow by passing on our batons of wisdom now.
What will you take back to your local church from Rev Dr Kim’s presentation?
Our hope, faith and trust needs to remain grounded in God who promises never to leave or forsake us.