Table & Mission in the Ahupua'a
We love this city… not just certain parts of it… and not just in theory… and not just once it becomes more like the kind of city we think it ought to be. We love it because it is ours. We belong to it. It lays a claim to us far precedent of our mission here. But, at the same time and without any contradiction, we are on a mission in Honolulu, and that mission is related in everyway to our love for this city, born of the God whose love for her far exceeds our own.
But now, as we invoke the word “mission” we must be clear: just what is meant by “mission” precisely? And what else can it mean in a context, such as Hawaii, in which the word “mission” seems inextricably linked to some of the darker and more tragic parts of our local history?
Mission, in its truest Biblical (and, frankly, etymological) sense is always and ever about feasting. You can think of the Biblical narrative progressing in fivefold patterns that all center on feasting: gathering, breaking, transforming, feasting, and sending. In the beginning God gathers Adam to Himself, breaks the man (carving a rib from his side), transforms him (brings forth Eve), sets them to feast and commune with Him in the Garden, and then sends (or ‘gives’ them) them into the world to cultivate and create and make anew.
This pattern continues even after the Fall (which was, itself, centered around ‘feasting’ of another kind): God gathers his people to Himself, breaks (purges, cleanses, forgives, refines) them, transforms them, feasts with them at His Table, and then sends them out into the world (the gentiles) with a mission. What mission is that? To gather the nations to God’s Table, so that all people might do the thing we were created for: Feasting with God forever. All mission, biblically speaking, is that point of the drama where God sends his people out in order to bring more to the Table. Or, in other words, it is at the Table that God gives Himself to the world; and it is in Mission that the world is brought to God at the Table.
Mission is always about the Table.
When God-Incarnate comes to earth His ministry is marked (and mocked) by his singular focus on food and drink. Fishes, loaves of bread, wine from water casks, eating with disreputables, these are the signs of his ministry. Its as if every time He did something messianic His first directive to the bewildered crowds was “Okay, now let’s eat!” This is Yahweh, the God who draws us to the Table to Feast with us forever. It makes sense then, as He concludes His ministry that Christ reaches for bread and wine to establish the sacraments of the Church. Now, we are told “this is my Body… this my Blood…” What has happened? In Christ the Master of the Feast, the great Creator-Host who has hounded and chased us and invited us to dine and fellowship with Him, has Himself become the Feast, and bids us do the same: His life for ours, and ours for His.
This, then, is the what we mean when we speak of mission. Each Sunday we are gathered. When we gather we are called “the Body of Christ” and in that we are not unlike the loaf of bread raised in the priest’s hand which is also called “the Body of Christ.” The bread, His Body, is broken into pieces and is given away to us to be life for us. So also, the other Body of Christ, those people gathered together in the space of a Sunday morning, are broken, given, sent-out, put-on-mission, packed-in-cars, loaded-on-buses, dismissed, are dished-up-and-served-out to the world. This is what God does, He gives Himself (in broken bread, in crucified Body, in the sent-out Sunday parishioners) for the life of the world.
So, when we say we are on mission in Honolulu (cut roughly along the old Ahupua'a boundaries, from Kapalama to Makiki), we mean we are being given, sent, and broken for the life of the world in Honolulu, hoping to draw everyone to the Table of God who has given Himself to us.