Recently I was reading 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath, and started to reflect on the connections it was making for me with missional community, particularly in the times we are in.
The context of 1 and 2 Samuel is of a significant shift in the life of the people of God as the time of the judges transitions into the era of the Kingdom of Israel. Israel asks for a king, just like all the other nations, and God reluctantly gives them a king. But there is a constant theme of the small, weak and unlikely person being chosen over the strong one who looks like the sort of person a king should be.
It is similar with David and Goliath – David, the youngest of all the sons of Jesse, who has already been chosen to succeed Saul, comes against the classic powerful warrior. He rejects the armour of Saul, another rejection of the normative cultural expectations of kingship, and advances on Goliath with nothing but a sling and “five smooth stones from the stream”.
Sam Wells has written about this story, reflecting how the Church in our age continues to think we should be Goliath when really, are we not being called to be David? Small, vulnerable, armed with nothing but five small pebbles and a slingshot – and our faith?
I believe the Church is being called into a time when it must learn again to trust in the small, the local, the relational and in the rather ordinary business of building connections and being neighbours and loving people in the midst of their lives. We have trusted too much in the big and the flashy, the technique and the enterprise. But the world hungers for authentic human relationship and for an encounter with God that is embodied and trustworthy.
Thinking about those five smooth stones of missional community.
Are we building a Christian community that is small enough to enable us to be “one another”, to adapt quickly to the changing world around us, to be participative and foster belonging?
Are we building a Christian community that rejects the accelerating pace of modern life with events and programmes that must always be better and more popular than the last. Community that does not exhaust people, that is humanising and spacious enough for the voice of God to be heard.
Are we building a Christian community that is local and deeply attentive to its context, not just so that it can respond to a perceived need on its own terms, but so that it can join in with the story of a place and make authentic connections between the life of a community and the good news of the gospel.
Are we building a Christian community that is earthed in people’s lives, the kitchen table, the back garden, the cafe and the street, that is stripped of all the accumulated hindrances of buildings and staff teams and therefore simple enough to give space for relationships to be the priority.
Are we building a Christian community that is open: open to the leading of the Spirit, to building the Kingdom in partnership with others, to conversation and dialogue as means of doing mission with others, to discipleship as a journey together into which we invite others as co-learners.
Please prayerfully reflect about our Christian community, gathered for worship on Sunday and scattered for learning, caring and service throughout the week. Returning again to the pattern of sabbath rest, worship and working out our faith through our daily lives, activities, building community and being in the presence of God.
Share your thoughts with one another, e mail
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love and prayers Revd Sara