Our perspective on things is decisive for how we approach and travel in the world. For instance, whether it’s been a good week for the Lions tour depends a lot on which side of the fence you stand. And whether Jimmy Spithill is a good guy depends a lot on which boat you want to win.

Along these lines, Eugene Peterson makes an insightful observation about how we tend to see things as modern people. In relation to our faith, for instance, our scientific paradigm tends to treat any mystery as uncertainty to be clarified and made certain through sharp-lined description. If we can just solve the mystery then everything else will fall into place. And yet the most important aspects of Christian belief terminate in paradox. Who can fully explain the divine trinity, or the incarnation, or what embodied life in the Age to come will be like? Yet, as Peterson says, our faith does not present complex problems to be solved, but rich mysteries to be entered into and explored. Even in the fruition of that future age, we will never reach the end of our understanding of who God is.

For me Peterson’s insight also provided a pastoral epiphany. Forming an authentic community of faith is a messy business and it can feel, at times, like people are complicated problems needing to be fixed. This never-ending slog ultimately creates an unbearable burden for those involved. Peterson helpfully flips this perspective on its head, so that becoming part of a community of faith is less like solving a murder mystery and more like admiring the pattern of an intricate Persian rug. It is our joy to enter into the unfolding mystery of relationships as we enable the Spirit to bring transformation in each of our lives. Just like that Persian rug, this brings coherence to the complexity of our community rather than simplifying it!

The same is true as we look across our world. One perspective would be to see endemic chaos, corruption and violence, and to throw our hands in the air or to engage in mission as an act of defiance. But it’s here where the divine lens gives us a radically different perspective, which brings with it hope and energy for mission. As Tom Wright says, the central message of the Gospels is not to prove that Jesus is God but to show that, in Jesus, God has become king of the world. His peaceable kingdom has come in power and one day we will see His rule throughout the whole of creation. Although we don’t always see the evidence of this on the surface of things, every act of generous love we make is sowing seeds into this eternal and unshakable kingdom.

I’m proud that St Paul’s is such a generous community and actively engaged in God’s mission in the world. As we highlight missions this month, I hope you can take this opportunity to sow more seeds of generosity into the great work going out from this community.

Rev Jonny Grant