Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Monday, 22 June 2015

Discover & explore: Home

In 1992 the World Council of Churches published a short but influential book by Raymond Fung called ‘The Isaiah Vision’. In this book Fung set out a simple but profound agenda for social action based on the vision in Isaiah 65 for God’s new heaven and earth. In this vision: infants survive into adulthood with good health; older people live in dignity; there is decent housing for everyone; work is there for all who want it; and different kinds of people live together in harmony.

The main features of this vision are good health and long productive lives, shelter, food, work that benefits the worker, and peace. In the Isaiah vision for the world no one would have power over another in such a way that the less powerful are deprived. It is a vision of a settled, creative and fulfilled community and, as such, one where people are released from struggle to focus better on their spiritual lives and their devotion to God.

Van Morrison conjures up a similar vision of home in his song ‘On Hyndford Street’ which recalls in idyllic form his childhood in Belfast. His song combines a sense of familiar locales, people and activities with a sense of the wider world both through trips outside the City and through the influences of radio and reading. All of this is encompassed by a sense of God’s presence, so that both his dreaming and his living is ‘in God’.

Such visions of Home began to be realised in some measure in the Victorian period, which documented in the re-hang of the Guildhall Art Gallery’s collection. The beginning of the nineteenth century saw the separation of work from the home. The Arts and Crafts Movement and the Aesthetic Movement created beautiful objects which enabled homes to change from utilitarian spaces to comfortable and tastefully decorated refuges for families.

While these Victorian movements often catered primarily for the cultured and wealthy, Fung’s understanding of the Isaiah Vision is that it is a “minimum social vision” which encompasses the whole of society and “around which people of all faiths and none can unite.” Fung says that, “If the Isaiah Agenda is a Christian Agenda it is no less a Jewish, Islamic and a secular Agenda… Christians rejoice over the fact of our non-monopoly.” Therefore he calls the church to partner with “everybody and every organization which has anything to do with the Isaiah Agenda.” The book therefore recommends partnering with other groups in the community who would share this same vision, working with them for the transformation of society and then inviting them to get to know God for themselves.

Fung notes that the church engages in the Isaiah Agenda, not just through activities in the congregation but in “the involvement of its members — from where they are: in their homes, in their village or neighbourhood, in the market place, in schools, community organizations, trade unions, cooperatives … in short through their whole life and all their activities … Once it is recognized that the witness of the congregation takes place outside the four walls of its buildings and is carried out mainly by the laity in their homes, their neighbourhood, and the market place, the role of the clergy and the elders becomes clear. Their role is to enable the laity to do a better job.”

“A central focus of modern mission theology is that all our mission is God’s mission, the missio Dei. God’s love overflows into the creation, sustaining and renewing our world, patiently remaking and restoring the mess we have made of our beautiful planet. God calls us to help with this act of love and not to hinder it by destroying God’s reconciling action. The missio Dei includes human beings in this act of love, calling us to help create a world in which God’s vision and purpose for human beings can be realised right now. For the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures the sinfulness and destructiveness of human behaviour means that world is exceptionally difficult to bring into being and to keep in being, but it also makes means that the prophetic vocation is to articulate what God’s future would be like.”

This is what Isaiah 65 and Raymond Fung have done. To what extent do we share this vision of new homes in a new heaven and new earth where: infants survive into adulthood with good health; older people live in dignity; there is decent housing for everyone; work is there for all who want it; and different kinds of people live together in harmony? If we do share this vision, to what extent are we prepared to work towards it here and now?


Anton Bruckner - Locus Iste.

No comments: