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5MarksofLove

Mission Malpractice: Week 5 | Day 6

Just as malpractice exists in medicine, a tragic history of malpractice exists in the Church, where the good intentions of mission have gotten corrupted. Br. Keith Nelson explores how we might do mission in a different way, with a curious, listening, open-hearted approach to others.

Question: Where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful and curious? Where have you noticed mission “malpractice”?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: Professor Robert Heaney of Virginia Theological Seminary introduced the brothers to a phrase that I find actually incredibly helpful, “Mission malpractice.”

So as I understand it, in much the same way that malpractice exists in the practice of medicine – you know, a doctor, someone who is a trained healer, never intends deliberately to hurt a patient, but sometimes through negligence, through insufficient training, it happens – in the same way, in the history of Christianity, we see a really tragic and kind of trenchant pattern of mission malpractice, in which there are missionaries sent out primarily from European countries to non-western countries, bringing with them the gospel, bringing with them the desire, the good desire to spread the gospel.  But also with certain blind spots so that that good intention gets clouded or actually kind of corrupted by the interests of colonial trade, by racist denigration of the wisdom of local peoples, the wisdom that’s already active within a place, by not listening to the unique needs and unique world view of the people to whom they are sent.

It was one of the most discouraging things for me that led to a really prolonged hiatus and made high school in my early 20s from Christianity altogether, because if that was the mission of the church, then words like “mission” and “missionary” actually became kind of dirty words to me.  They were words that I didn’t really want to have anything to do with.

If we take a step back from that and we think about doing mission in a different way, doing mission in a way that is curious about – if all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God – spreading the gospel with this open-hearted, listening approach that is curious, “How might God already be active in this person, in this place?” rather than presuming that it’s something that we bring that isn’t there already.  And then also just asking ourselves the question, “In what ways do we as the church today participate unwittingly in mission malpractice?” And in sensitizing ourselves to the ways that we do that, beginning to transform unjust structures by stopping and saying, “No, we can do this a different way.”

In the church today, where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful, and curious, and where have you noticed a spirit of mission that contributes toward the kind of mission malpractice that we’re talking about?

– Br. Keith Nelson

Question: Where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful and curious?  Where have you noticed mission “malpractice”?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

I Renounce Them: Week 5 | Day 5

As good as our intentions may be, we can become complicit in the evil we renounced in our baptism. Br. Jonathan Maury encourages us to reflect on how, in our daily life, we might contribute to the evils the fourth Mark of Love names, and to renounce them.

Question: Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you are making which contribute to the suffering of others. What actions could you take to transform that suffering?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: In the Rite of Holy Baptism, the candidates are first presented by name.  They are then asked a question, “What do you seek?”  At the time of their response, they say, “I do,” and they are asked to make baptismal vows.  This is an electrifying and very powerful moment in the baptismal rite when it is used in its fullness.  The candidates make three renunciations of evil in all its forms.  “I renounce them.  I renounce them.  I renounce them,” as they face to the west.  Then they are invited to turn, to turn to the east, toward the rising sun, as they are asked to turn to Christ as their Savior, to trust in his grace and love, and to obey Him as Lord.  “I do.  I do.  I do.”

We’re committed, right from the first by God’s love, to this awareness of the world as it is, not as we would have it.  We are reminded each Lent on Ash Wednesday, in the litany of penitence, how we can become complicit in the evil which we have renounced, or become lax in the ways in which we follow Christ.  We confess our appetites and desires that in various ways ignore others and exploit other people.  We also speak of our carelessness and pollution of God’s environment and creation, and our lack of concern for others who are to come.

God’s desire in drawing us to himself in Christ is that we may be transformed, that our awareness of the world may be transformed.  And it begins with daily life.  We look to see, for example, and start to ask the questions, “Where might we be complicit in the evil, which we have renounced or lax in following Jesus?”  The energy, for example, that we use daily, where does it come from, how is it produced, and what human cost, at what cost to the earth?  The food and clothing that we have produced at various places in the world, often by persons in poverty, or our clothing, those who work in dangerous situations to create inexpensive garments that we can wear.

We’re called to this new awareness, this Christ awareness, that we may be transformed, and we transform the world to God’s vision.  Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you’re making which contribute to the suffering of others.  What actions could you take to transform that suffering?

– Br. Jonathan Maury

Question: Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you are making which contribute to the suffering of others.  What actions could you take to transform that suffering?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

I’m Only One Person: Week 5 | Day 4

Br. James Koester confesses that to him the fourth Mark of Love is the most daunting. “I’m only one person,” he exclaims. He encourages us to start small, start here, and start now.

Question: What’s the one small thing you can do today to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: Of all the Marks of Mission, I think I find the fourth Mark of Mission to be the most daunting: “To transform unjust structures, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”  That’s a really tall order.  And I often think, “What on earth can I do?  I am only one person.”

Somebody once told us a number of years ago – when we were thinking about our own sense of mission and ministry – her advice to us was, “Start small, start here, and start now.”  Yes, this particular Mark of Mission can be incredibly daunting, and so we could kind of throw up our hands and decide, “I can’t do anything.”  And yet there is something small that we can all do.

One of my favorite quotations come from Edward Everett Hale, who once said, “I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything but still I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Yes, this Mark of Mission is really daunting, but there is something small that all of us can do.  What’s the one small thing you can do today to begin to transform unjust structures, pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?

– Br. James Koester

Question: What’s the one small thing you can do today to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

The Power of God: Week 5 | Day 3

The Marks of Love are not some check-list we need to get busy working on. Br. Mark Brown encourages us, before setting out to “accomplish” the fourth Mark of Love, to reflect on how the power of God has transformed unjust structures of society in the past.

Question: How has the power of God transformed unjust structures of society?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: The five Marks of Mission might come across to you as a kind of to-do list, or even a checklist, of things you ought to be doing.  But I think it’s especially important to remember that these are signs of God’s love already in action in the world, and they have been since the time of Jesus.  The power of God has worked through the church, through the people of God, to transform unjust structures of society, it’s been happening all along.  Not perfectly, not completely, there is still much to do.  But before you decide what you’re going to do, we need to think about how has the power of God worked through God’s people in the past, and presently in the moment, to transform unjust structures of society.

– Br. Mark Brown

Question: How has the power of God transformed unjust structures of society?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Within Us and Among Us: Week 5 | Day 2

As we cultivate God’s Kingdom within us, we naturally desire to foster God’s Kingdom among us, by selflessly serving others. Br. Nicholas Bartoli explores how each individual’s way of fostering the Kingdom will be responsive to our unique individuality and vocation as a member of Christ’s Body.

Question: What desire do you feel within yourself to change the world for the better?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: So we’re now looking at the fourth mark of mission, transforming unjust structures of society, and pursuing peace.

In another of the videos of this series, I talked about the kingdom within.  However, whenever Jesus spoke about God’s kingdom, he spoke about it as both within and among us, and so there is this – in fact, there is sort of – a relationship between the two: that as we cultivate the kingdom within us, this awareness of God’s presence and His loving presence within us, that we would naturally desire to serve selflessly out of love in the world, and foster the kingdom of God among us.

In fact, you could say that the kingdom of God among us, and this working towards of kingdom among us, is a fruit of fostering this kingdom within us.  And in fact, in a few places Jesus talks about how you can sort of tell someone by the fruit.  So it’s not just enough just to feel like well, you know, maybe I’m cultivating the kingdom of God within me.  But the litmus test in community is, “Is this manifesting itself among the community” – the small community, the wider community, the world – “in terms of how I’m taking action in the world? You know, what do I desire, how does this motivate me?”

And this selfless service can take many forms.  You know, this sort of sense of the kingdom of God within us as an inner peace might motivate us to seek to instill peace among us in various ways, either by our presence, by our helping in various ways, and of course, there is a distinction that we can be of service in very sort of practical small ways, or we can look on a larger scale, and try to address the questions of the structures that perpetuate some of the injustices that we’re seeing.

You know, an example that comes to mind might be working with people who live on the streets, with the homeless population.  So, you know, in a way it’s sort of a vocational question.  Both people might be motivated out of their own sense of God’s kingdom within themselves to address this problem. But one person might be called to work on a very local level, working in a food pantry, serving meals, becoming friends with some of the people who live on the street, and helping in that way to bring peace on that level.  While someone else might be called to work on a larger level, and work toward eradicating the structural causes for homelessness, so that perhaps one day we can see this problem eradicated.

So one question we can ask ourselves is – in terms of being called to foster the kingdom of God among us, you know – where do we see ourselves taking action?  What desire do we feel within us to change the world for the better, to make it the kingdom of God?

– Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Question: What desire do you feel within yourself to change the world for the better?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Activity Guidance – Icons of Hope: Week 5

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity


Br. David Vryhof introduces the fifth week’s activity, “Icons of Hope,” which invites us to envision God’s Kingdom.


Transcript: In this fifth week of our program, we’re focusing on the Fourth Mark of Love, which is transforming unjust structures, challenging violence of every kind, and pursuing peace and reconciliation.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  And in order to lean fully into this prayer that we pray every day, and into this Mark of Love, we’ll have to do two things.  First of all, we’ll have to recognize our complicity with systems that are unjust, and to recognize the ways that we benefit from systems that oppress others.  To recognize the way that we participate in racial oppression, in economic oppression, and the ways that we benefit from systems that are created to support people of privilege and which marginalize others.  So we need to do some soul-searching about our own fears, our own prejudices, our own complicity with these kinds of systems in the world.

But secondly, we also have to have a vision for what this Kingdom is that we’re praying for.  What is the Kingdom of God, how does it look, how is it different from the world’s system and the structures that we encounter that are oppressive and exploitative?  In God’s Kingdom, there is no oppression, there is no exploitation, there is no hatred or violence, there is no division.  In God’s Kingdom, there is peace, and love, and reconciliation.  How can we long for that Kingdom to be established on earth as it is in Heaven?

First, we have to be able to envision it, and our exercise this week gives you a chance to try to envision what this Kingdom might be about.  It’s called Icons of Hope, and we’re actually asking you to come up with pictures, with images, with icons, that represent the values of this Kingdom to you.  So for example, a picture of a garden might represent God’s desire for everyone to have access to food and to water.  A picture of children playing together might be an icon for you of the kind of peace and harmony that God hopes for and longs for among the peoples of the earth.  What are the icons that you can picture for yourself that represent this Kingdom for which we are praying and for which we are striving?

– Br. David Vryhof

Prophetic Witness: Week 5 | Day 1

In this introduction to the series’ fifth week, on the fourth “Mark of Love,” Br. David Vryhof explores how the prophetic witness of Jesus calls us to recognize and fight for human unity. Jesus came to tear down the walls that divide us. How can we continue this mission, challenging unjust structures, working for peace and reconciliation?

Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: When Jesus came to live among us, his voice was a voice of comfort and of hope, a voice of love and assurance.  He told us that God loved us and valued us.  He lifted up the poor and gave them a special dignity.

But his voice at times was also a voice of warning, a prophetic voice.  His voice was at times a critical voice pointing out human hypocrisy, challenging human systems of oppression.  He challenged the religious rulers of his day and the systems that they put in place – systems that divided people, that distinguished between the “righteous” and the “unrighteous,” between the ones favored by God and those despised by God.  Some were “in” and some were “out.”  And Jesus challenged those systems by the way that he acted and by the way that he taught.

And so part of the mission of those who are followers of Jesus in the world is to be a prophetic presence in the world: to see and to challenge unjust structures; to challenge oppression; to challenge the separation of the powerful against the weak, or the rich against the poor; to break down those walls that divide us; to lift up the lowly, and to give them honor and dignity; to ensure that they have every opportunity to live into the fullness of their lives.

And so we who follow Jesus also take on this mission in the world.  This is a mark of God’s love and a mark of our witness in the world, our work in the world, our vocation in the world — to challenge unjust structures that oppress and divide people, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.  Christ came to tear down the walls that divide us and he urges us to do the same — to reach across the racial, and cultural, and class divisions that separate us.  To stop thinking in terms of “we” and “them” and to see the unity of all people, all of us created in God’s image, loved by God, and valued by God.  And to work toward peace and reconciliation wherever strife, and hatred, anger, and division exist.

This week we’ll be exploring this Mark of Love and trying to ask how we can live more fully into the prophetic role that God has invited us into in imitation of Jesus, in imitation of the prophets of God throughout history who have spoken challenging words to those who oppress with power and privilege.

This is an important part of our mission that we consider this week together in prayer and in dialogue with one another.

– Br. David Vryhof

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

God Sighting Map: Week 4 | Day 7

Adwoa Lewis-Wilson shares her experience of completing the “God Sighting Map” activity, particularly reflecting on how we first become aware of human needs – especially our own – before we can offer any loving service.

Activity: God Sighting Map


Transcript: Hi, my name is Adwoa.  This week I was trying to figure out how I might respond to human need in loving service.  And as I did that, I realized how quickly one’s mind can jump to the part of service, actually, and in specific, thinking about service as action.  And that didn’t feel actually quite right to me.  I wondered about what it meant to respond in loving service.  What would be a loving response to the needs around me?

And actually also as I began to do this exercise, I started to wonder about how in the world I knew what the needs around me were.  I could make assumptions about that based on what I see.  I could see somebody on the street and imagine that they needed food or shelter.  I could see somebody who was crying and imagine that they needed comfort or a particular kind of healing.  But all of that was based on me looking from the outside.  And so as I did this exercise, I began to realize I needed another way of thinking about how I understood what need was.  How I’d listened for what need was, how I felt need, before I could truly love someone in need, and then respond to them.

So when I read the prompt for this exercise, I took seriously the idea of starting at home and looking at the needs that were in my own home and where I’m staying right now.  But I actually realized that I needed to take a step before that.  And so when I did my exercise, my very first step is actually looking inside myself, trying to make peace with the needs that I recognize in myself.  Am I comfortable letting people see those needs?  Am I comfortable sitting with them, identifying them for myself, letting myself find the places that I’m vulnerable, and to find ways to let other people wash my feet as it were, because I began to realize that if I didn’t do that first, I wasn’t going to be able to respond to the needs around me in a way that was, for lack of a better word, chase I guess, not about my own ego.  But I also wasn’t going to be able to respond from a place of humility and of connection and contact.

So the first part of this week for me really was taking a stock of my own human need and the places that I was vulnerable and needed to be mindful of that, both in order to receive care, but also how I might pass on that vulnerability to people that I might serve if I’m not mindful of it.

But the second thing that I noticed – and I sort of took it on as a challenge this week actually – was to look at not only the concrete needs, the needs that I could see with my eyes, or smell, or touch, the person asking for money, or the person who had fallen and needed help. I tried to imagine what the needs were beneath that and maybe the needs that we all have in common.  So for example, I was sitting on a train one day and there was somebody who had an odor, and was perhaps drunk, and talking to himself, and the natural inclination was to see that as the person with need.  And I registered that.  I took a little check.  But as I opened my awareness, I also noticed all the people around me in business suits who had their cell phones right in front of their faces.  And all of us were on this train and none of us was noticing the moment, and none of us was noticing each other.  And I thought that there was a real human need for all of us as we were going to wherever we were going that day.  We all seemed to have our basic needs met.  But in fact, there was a human presence and connection that we hadn’t put on when we left our homes that morning.

And so I found myself holding at once the person who we might all look to and say, “Oh, they need help.”  But also, all of us together who were mindlessly entering this day that God had given us as a pure gift.  I didn’t have anything to give to that person.  But I could choose to give my presence to that train that day.

I found that doing this exercise gave me an opportunity to think about that.  To think about whom we are as human beings.  What a human being needs to thrive.  It might be more than the basics and all of us can help contribute something to that.

– Adwoa Lewis-Wilson

Week 4 Activity: God Sighting Map
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Vocation: Week 4 | Day 6

Everywhere we look, we see a world in desperate need of healing. So where do we even begin? Br. Jim Woodrum invites us to consider mission through the lens of “vocation”: what is the unique way in which you are being called to participate in God’s mission.

Question: What is God’s mission in the world? What is your unique way of participating in that mission?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: God Sighting Map


Transcript: The third mark of mission says, “To respond to human need through loving service.”  But where do we begin?  Everywhere we look we see a world that is hurting and in desperate need of healing.  It can often be daunting to even take the first step.  But I think that Jesus gives us a clue in Matthew’s gospel.  You may remember he’s asked, “Which commandment of the law is the greatest?”  And Jesus replies, “To love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  But then he adds a second part that he says is just as important.  He says, “And to love your neighbor as yourself.”

There is a Latin word, vocare, which means to call.  It’s where we get the word vocation.  Walter Brueggemann defines vocation as a purpose for being in the world that is related to the purposes of God.  So one way we might pray with the third mark of mission is first to discern what is the mission of God.  How is God working in the world?  And then the second part would be what is my unique way of participating in God’s mission.

– Br. Jim Woodrum

Question: What is God’s mission in the world?  What is your unique way of participating in that mission?

Week 4 Activity: God Sighting Map
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Being Loved: Week 4 | Day 5

“Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus said after washing the feet of his disciples. Br. Luke Ditewig notes that love comes out of being loved; it is in allowing our own need to be seen and touched that we can then reach out and touch others’ lives.

Question: Who is “washing your feet”? How are you “washing” others?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: God Sighting Map


Transcript: Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He said this having gone around the table kneeling down to wash each of his friends’ feet.  To wash the feet that were dirty, messy, they stank.  Feet I think are figurative for our vulnerability, which we really are when we show up.  Things that we don’t necessarily want to show others, it’s risky, it’s emotionally exposing, but it’s real, which we are right now.  And like Peter, we often say, “Jesus, I don’t want you to wash my feet.”  But Jesus’ response to Peter and us is, “If I don’t wash you, you have no share with me.  I need to wash your feet.  I love you fully as you are.”

I find it’s easier for me to go and wash someone else’s feet, to go out and serve the world, to listen to others, to care for others.  But I, too, need to be washed.  Love comes out of being loved.  We, too, need to accept another’s invitation to let our feet be washed, to show up as we are, to share our story honestly, to share our emotions to be real.  And having accepted love from that then we go and wash feet tenderly, listen to others’ stories, help them in many ways.

So a question for today, who is washing your feet, and then how are you washing others?

– Br. Luke Ditewig

Question: Who is “washing your feet”?  How are you “washing” others?

Week 4 Activity: God Sighting Map
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity