Can you see Mt. Fuji on the horizon? I can see it, right out this window I'm looking through! (I'm trying to make you a little jealous... Isn't that terrible?)
Mt. Fuji is a majestic handiwork--a volcano standing 3,776 meters tall, towering above the surrounding plains. On a clear day like today, I wonder, "With this huge mountain always standing there, why is it only visible to us here in Yokohama a few days out of the year?"
Well, there are three good answers--smog, haze and clouds...
Christian poet, Denise Levertov, had these same feelings about another great volcano--Mt. Rainier in her own Washington State (pick up a copy of her Evening Train for a handful of blessings this week). The mountain was always there, but seldom clear to view.
This is often our experience of God's kingdom--it is a tremendous thing of awesome power lying at hand, though unperceived. I caught a glimpse of it again this week during a college class when about 75 kids and I were discussing the story of the Garden of Eden. In this class titled "Christianity and Modern Thought," the majority of students consider themselves "non-religious." But even so, it was clear that most of them were riveted to the discussion over the question, "Why is it that humans sometimes don't seem to be satisfied, even in the most ideal of circumstances?" One girl from the back started the conversation with, "Obviously, because something is wrong inside..." From there flowed a fountain of wisdom about the human condition from these "non-religious" students...
The kingdom is not far off to any of us, I was reminded! It's really very close, isn't it? Closer than we know! It's not something hard to find, if we only knew where to look. Missionaries don't "bring the gospel" to people so much as they invite people to turn their gaze so as to recognize the gospel that is already close at hand.
I've recently been reading a good book: A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, a key leader of the emergent church movement. In it, he makes the point that churches have for far too long focused their energy on dividing people into in-groups and out-groups. Who's on our side, and who's not? Who's going to heaven, and who's not? Who's right--who's wrong?
What we need nowadays is a new focus. We need churches which are "come-on-along-groups." We need to recapture the sense that we are on a journey together with all of these other people around us, everyday, discovering and re-discovering the Kingdom of God--a Kingdom which is not so far away from any of us as we might suppose.
Please pray for Kari and I this month as we continue to witness to this great trust! Just like many of you, we feel discouraged at times. Sometimes we feel disconnected from what God might be doing in the world, or we simply forget that God is doing anything at all. We forget the mountain is over there. I guess that's part of being human.
But God is amazingly present before and behind us--an "operator" working covertly. So let's continue to pray for each other that we would keep faith even on those days when the mountain is behind the clouds.
Thanks for your giving to World Mission Offering this month. Through your generosity and responsible stewardship, you are providing witness to Jesus' good news to fellow travelers all around the world.
Grace & Peace,
Dwight & Kari Davidson
American Baptist Churches, USA
IM Missionaries in Yokohama, Japan