God could set everything right in our world with a single word, yet he chooses to use us in this process . A transformation happens within us when we participate in this process. God's work grows and multiplies as we become agents of transformation in the world.
Early on in humanity's history God grabbed a neighbor and chose to use him and his family in the process of setting things right in the world. It was said to Abram, "I will make you into a great nation and I bless you... and all peoples on earth will be blessed by you." God chose a people to participate, and a vessel to pour blessings into so that they would pour blessings out into the whole world.
However, this people, when the blessings were poured onto them, they often hoarded them, and refused to pour them out into the world. The very people God had chosen to be an example and image of the blessedness of God to this world, became the exact opposite. God's chosen people became enemies of God, thwarting His work in the world.
Onto the stage enter the prophets. They came to speak this truth; the very people that thought they had God's blessing were actually under God's condemnation. Jesus begins his ministry in his hometown with this very message. Israel thought that it was God's exclusive vessel of blessing, yet Jesus gives specific examples (the Phoenician widow, and Naaman the Syrian) of people outside of Israel that had been used as vessels of blessing. Throughout his ministry he continually opposes the Temple system. The very symbol of God's presence with, and blessing to, the the Jewish people, Jesus proclaims, is actually devoid of God's presence and is under God's condemnation. He boldly enters the Temple, stops it's godless practices and foretells its eventual destruction (which happened in 70 AD).
St. Paul too echoes this message. Jewish culture thinks it has the corner on accessing God's blessing, and that observance of its customs and laws is the only way to God. But God's transforming work is spreading throughout the whole world, entering and transforming every culture. The Jews think the law gives them access to God, but as Paul points out, it has become the very thing that is preventing people from experiencing what God is now doing.
And today the story is the same. Jesus chose the Church as His vessel to pour the Holy Spirit into, so its blessing and transforming power might be poured out on all the earth. Yet in our culture today there is so much within the Church, especially our weekly practice of "church" that actually stands in the way of the Spirit of God powerfully transforming peoples lives, the societies we live in, and the whole of creation. What is supposed to be an example and image of the blessedness God has for this world, has become the exact opposite.
When faced with this same experience, St. Paul brushed his shoulders off and left the religous culture he was from. He entered into a cross-cultural ministry in order to learn, communicate, and live out a blessed life that pours out blessings on others. Yet he always had a specific goal in mind; that he would return to heart of Jewish culture, the Temple in Jerusalem, and again seek to mobilize and equip the Jewish people to become agents of transformation in the world.
This too has been my path. I come from the Christian culture of suburban America, but with my family we have left this culture behind. We have entered poor urban culture to learn, communicate, and live out a blessed life that pours out blessings on others. Our goal in the end is also like St. Paul's; we hope that in the end we can re-engage with Christian middle-class American culture and again seek to mobilize and equip the church of suburban America to become an agent of transformation in our world.
Experiencing the life that pours out God's blessing on the world... This is what is before us in the Eucharist. The bread of life, Christ's own broken body, a blessing given to us. And the cup of His blood poured out to bring the blessing of forgiveness and freedom from sin.
May we all begin to understand what it means to live a life poured out, spilling God's blessing onto the world around us.
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."