Missio Dei: God, where are you?
Christians understand their objectives and church mission in various ways. It ranges from direct outreach, inviting people to come Church to mission as solidarity, co-participation, and compassion. Like ‘yeast’, Church changes the very structure of social work. We cannot do everything. Therefore, it is important to stay focused and to understand, what mission direction in the range is the most relevant one for today. Where does it hurt most? What is needed most?
When we talk about Church mission, we also mean God’s mission, Missio Dei.
Church is taking part in what God is doing. Thus, before planning our direction, we should understand where God is, and join him. For instance, no one had expected that God would be working in Maidan. It was a revelation to Church. We are so accustomed to the idea that we should bring people to Church. God, however, revealed himself outside Church walls. When we saw that, we intuitively understood that it was something God was at work with, we could not help joining. So Church got involved. Therefore, Church mission is derived from Missio Dei and it focuses on the most important aspect: what God is doing, and not what we can generally do.
We have to think about prospects. We have way out only in front of us. In all troubles we have to keep in mind that perspective: where are we going forward to? We do not want to live in deception. Nobody can buy us with bread or meat. I do not claim that life has become easier nowadays, but we are holding to that perspective, we fight for that perspective. We have no right to go backwards. We are not allowed to do that. At least because thousands of Christians had paid a high price with their blood and sacrifice so we can move forward. Therefore, anyone, who compares the present with the past, is neglecting that sacrifice, which has been done. We cannot do it. There is only way forward.
The battle of images of future
During the bloody events in Donetsk, several Christians put a prayer tent there. They were dispersed, beaten up, kidnapped, and tortured. But they got together again and again and prayed for unified and peaceful Ukraine. These people in Donetsk have shown that Donetsk is not uniform. They showed another image of Donetsk. In the same way, our goal is also to show what our society can look like if it is built on Christian values. We should not expect immediate changes, though. Today there is competition of images of future. Most of them have their roots in the past. However, if we win the war for the image of future, we will win the future. And we have to begin with ourselves.
You see, we do not have any buttons or devices to turn the starts on or make sunrise shorter, so the night is over sooner. They simply do not exist. Sometimes, this thought can be depressive, because we want some quick changes. What can we do about it? We have no political parties, no oligarchs, no resources. What do we have? A candle, which I can put on fire. If you are able to put on fire yours, there will be more of us, and the night will get lighter. We cannot make sunrise come sooner, but we can create such places of light of God’s Kingdom, so there is more light. We have candles, not searchlights, but we are able to do make difference with such minimalism. I doubt that we can drastically change the situation in the whole world, but we can make oases of God’s Kingdom, so that people, tired of wondering in the dessert, in darkness, would say ‘At last, there is a place where we can come, have rest and be restored.
From privatization to nationalization
There is a concept of ‘religion privatization’. That is, Jesus is my personal Savior, personal faith, personal spirituality, and personal holiness. Now we can notice that we read the Bible through the glasses of nationalization and socialization. When we think not of personal relationship, but about God’s relationship with nations, his people Israel, with gentile structures. He addresses certain communities. Church is a community as well. For Ukrainian nation there is a question of whether we see God to be our God with such collective and national perspective.
Reform or lose
The civil society in Ukraine hardly existed, because the state dominated it. So, Maidan was the last desperate protests, because people had been experiencing restrictions from all sides. In the same way, church structures were dominated by the government. There is hardly any community nature in the Church. By the term ‘Church’ we mean bishops, particular people, who appropriated it. Where is the sense of community in it? There were numerous different structures. The state faced a newly born civil society, and the Church realized that within the Church there is another Maidan going on. To some extent, it frightened those small ‘yanuvokiches’, who were living in all of us. Therefore, the same processes took place in the Church. And now, we are facing a choice: will the Church manage to be rebuilt from the downward pressure or not? Is the Church a structure or a community? Is it a brotherhood or a bishop institute? Will the Church have its own Christian civil community? It is a very serious question, and if the Church does not respond to it, the credit given to the Church by the society in Maidan, will end up with the feeling of deep disappointment. Everything, which good for status quo or causing hesitation, is doomed.
Opportunity for Christians
We all agree by default that Christians must be proactive and responsible as far as social and political issues concerned. We used to have discussions before. Nowadays, this idea is a starting point for discussion. The process has been launched. Of course, we would like things to change quickly, but we have to keep in mind the long-term perspective. And we also have to be aware that every attempt to change something is always a risky enterprise. It seems to me, we sometimes refuse to admit or accept those risks. Surely, we wanted to return the taken away dignity, lost freedom, rights, and we supported those desires among the people. How could we stay aside and say that it’s better to keep a low profile? By all means, we had to support that pursuit. What did it lead us to? To the destruction of our conventional lifestyle. We ended up in a desert, but there is hope!
At this time, I see that there is a window of opportunities still open for Christians. Eventually, it will be closed. When the situation is settled, there will be fewer opportunities to participate. Stability means there will be a group of people who know: who is doing, what is being done, what outcomes to expect, who is in charge, who are following. Ukrainian identity is open now, and Christian churches are components, or active factor of that identity taking on shape. When it has been shaped, it will be too late for us. Nobody will ever ask us. The narrative will be written by someone else, and all we will be able to do is to comment. If you agree with it – do it! If you disagree – go and look for better things elsewhere. We will not have a chance, unlike Israel, to build our own state in the wilderness. The Kingdom of God is on the earth. Currently in Ukraine we still can incorporate our values, integrate them, add them up, make them happen, while the window remains open. It is getting smaller and gradually shuts down. We abuse patience. To a certain degree, this uncertainty in the country works on our side. God is patient. He is addressing us: while this thing is still going on and the invitation is still valid, are you going to use it or not? That will be it. No place for regrets in future. The door will close, the window will be shut, and you will remain in your sectarianism, being the outcasts of the society and you will keep grumbling and feeling discontent. You did not cease your chance, so now do not scold those who have used it.