Looking through today’s gospel reading in the lectionary I was struck by something I have called ‘God’s Algebra of Grace’.
God’s unconditional love for each and every one of us is what we call ‘grace’. Methodists cherish ‘prevenient grace’ because it is so important to realise that God is reaching out to us in love before ever we recognise it and respond.
The question Jesus asks of his disciples - “who do people say that I am” – points to this ongoing work of grace in the lives of his contemporaries in Roman-occupied Palestine. For us today it points to a conversation we can have with other people about their awareness of God and their perceptions of Jesus Christ. This conversation is sharpened when we have to turn it around and answer the question for ourselves. Who do we say that Jesus is and what is our awareness and experience of God’s grace?
Combine this pair of key questions to others and ourselves with a genuine openness to the Holy Spirit and we are talking about evangelism.
Add in Jesus' clear instruction to follow him into the hurt and pain of the world and to discover God’s grace there, the way of the cross which seeks to transform the world through the power of love, and we have mission. And viewed like this, mission always incorporates evangelism, and the ‘(b+c) x h’ of our discipleship will have an effect on the value of ‘a’. Let’s just hope to God that this is not negative.
And of course, the key term in all of is ‘h’: our openness to the Holy Spirit, the inspiring and empowering presence of God creatively at work in the world.