Bishop Alastair writes...
We live in what has been called an Age of Resonance. ‘Only connect’ is the great theme, or Good Vibrations as the Beach Boys proclaimed in the last century. As we claim more and more space and priority for our own personal preferences, we are guided by the messages and experiences that seem to connect, encourage or sustain us best.
The key sound is the buzz or resonance of our phone, iPad or other device through which we organise relationships and the unfolding of our time. Our favourite feeling is that of affirmation, seeing that our hopes and dreams are coming true.
The Melody of Ministry
Jesus offered ministry to this need in human beings. He offered moments of encounter, a buzz for an individual, group or whole crowd. A sign of hope, healing, wholeness – dreams coming true, a pleasing melody. Much of our mission and ministry falls into this category – seeking to offer resonance, a buzz of connection to the views and values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as guide and template for the unfolding of human lives. It is no coincidence that mission is often linked with music groups!
From Passing to Permanence
The problem with resonance is its momentary nature. As soon as we have answered a text or call we move onto the next. Tweeting and Instagram reinforce life as a series of moments of connection.
But what does all this hyper-activity and hyper-connectivity mean? An Age of Resonance requires an understanding of substance – of solid, enduring, dependable values, patterns of behaviour or structures of belief. More than moments we need a sense of being held, secure, confident for whatever comes.
Meaning in Ministry
In a time that can easily notice, and often appreciate, the moments of grace and goodness to which Jesus calls, it is easy to forget that his ministry of resonance came out of serious substance. The solidity of the Temple. The discipline of synagogue and personal prayer in the ‘wilderness’. Appreciation of the Law. These elements of substance provided a structure of values and behaviour within which to understand our desire for connection and development. The two belong together. Resonance without substance is like spray disconnected from the ocean – short lived and meaningless.
The challenge for our witness to substance in our age of resonance is not just to value the corporate life and teaching of the Church as essential context for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More, it is to invest in the substance – the structuring for Good News – with our time, our study, our service and our money. Without each of these things, substance will fade and so will the quality of our witness. And the most important of these investments will be money – the most challenging sacrament of seriousness, about not just making connections, but about guaranteeing the means to sustain them. Turning earthly moments into the meaning of eternity: the resonance of ministry into the mission of God. Stewardship has an important role to play in salvation, particularly in turning resonance into the substance of the Kingdom of Heaven.