The story of Jesus and the disciples traveling to Emmaus reminds us that mission is a journey, and that it has a goal – living out Christ’s reconciliation, breaking bread and forming community together. We reach that goal briefly, and then we begin the journey again, moving again towards reconciliation.
The mission journey does not end at a fixed point. Like the disciples, we might think we know where we are going, and where we plan to stop – but when the unrecognized Christ is revealed, our plans, and our journey, are transformed. We walk towards meeting Christ; we return to share what we have learned in that encounter.
In mission, our companions on the road may be individual people in our own community or entire churches in other countries. Engaging in mission through Accompaniment, we remember that in order to proclaim the Gospel, we must place a high priority on relationship – that relationship which God has intended for us since the beginning of the world.
When we walk together, we need to be able to talk honestly, to share with one another, to get to know one another – to undo the boundary of strangeness or suspicion between us. It takes time, thought, and commitment to learn to see how we create boundaries, to perceive the asymmetries in our relationships, and to respond to them from Christ’s reconciling mission.
People committed to being ambassadors of God’s reconciling mission have discovered that certain values appear in the praxis of Accompaniment over and over again. These Accompaniment Values, help and support us as we celebrate, reflect, act, and examine our work in God world.
In accompaniment, we work to build up our capacities to proclaim and live out the Gospel of Christ. We work to recognize that all of us have gifts to offer to God’s mission, and to value gifts of all, while caring for one another’s needs. Mutuality is built upon giving and receiving trust as we grow together.
1 Cor. 12: 12, 24-26. We are one body, with many members, all interdependent upon
one another in joy and suffering. How does this interdependence affect the way in which
we relate to one another in Christ’s reconciling mission?
God calls us to include everyone in the mission of reconciliation, yet we know that all communities exclude someone. In accompanying one another, we look to see who is excluded, and why, and commit to change community structures and habits that can exclude people without any deliberate intention. For those who experience exclusion, as well as for those who are “inside,” it takes great effort and courage to continue to attempt to build relationships across boundaries. Inclusivity requires self-reflection and honesty about our own communities and relationships.
Luke 10:25. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the one excluded, who has compassion on the other who has been injured. How does exclusion and inclusion affect our relationships and our communities as we engage in God’s mission?
Vulnerability and Empowerment taken together are an important key to accompaniment in God’s mission. In our culture, vulnerability often seems to be weakness, but Jesus shows us that vulnerability – openness to relationship, giving up power – is God’s way of redemption. We enter God’s mission through vulnerability, just as Jesus became vulnerable to us and with us.
As we accompany one another, we struggle to recognize and name power as it affects our relationships. When we recognize that relationships have asymmetries of power, and struggle to balance and correct those asymmetries, we are working to Empower ourselves and one another. Learning to let go of power – to become Vulnerable – is an act of empowerment, as is recognizing and standing up to power that hobbles people in their walk through life.
2 Cor 12:9. The power of God is made perfect in weakness. What does this mean for
us as we engage in God’s mission through relationship?
Often we imagine our relationships as simple and self-sustaining. In fact, relationships are complex, and connected to other relationships and commitments, and require much attention over time to sustain. The Accompaniment Value of Sustainability means that we recognize that any given relationship will require an intentional commitment of attention and time to build up all those who are involved. In a mission project context, sustainability means embedding the project or work in the community as a whole, so that the project doesn’t depend only on one or two people, and can continue over time.
Luke 10:1; John 15:15, 20:21. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ work in creating a sustainable community of disciples, with leaders empowered to carry on his reconciling mission. How can we learn from Jesus’ commitment to teach, walk with, and give responsibility to his disciples?