A few months ago my family began our new mission here in a village named Pucacaca in the municipality of Picota, Peru. It has been such a blessed beginning. There is so much need here but, as it is so often in missions, we really felt unprepared to fill in the gap and be Jesus in this place. The many gods of the jungle still exert such an influence on the people often times stunting the work of the Holy Spirit and leaving us feeling confused and frustrated. Here in the land of the mythical El Dorado I have been reading more closely the Gospel of Luke mining hidden treasures worth more than earthly gold. God has given us such a beautiful group of 23 missionaries all giving their lives to be Jesus to a world confused about the meaning of life. This community has been a blessing beyond words. When one suffers we all bear the burden and when one rejoices we all celebrate as well. I have reflected often on this community life in mission and the communion of the saints.
The communion of saints refers to the christian belief that all men and women who have placed their hope in Jesus Christ and belong to Him through baptism are united in Christ, whether they are dead or alive. In Christ we form one body, a resurrected body not a corpse. This body contains members both here on earth and in heaven. Some have been glorified in Christ while others are still fighting or being cleansed and prepared for future glory. One awesome way in which we are all united is in intercessory prayer.
I was speaking with Joseph Summers, our mission company director, recently and together we prayed for our mission here in Peru. Praying over the phone is in a certain sense an earthly replica of what I imagine in the communion of saints. We directed our prayer together to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Joseph prayed for aspects of our mission here in Peru and help for my family and I also likewise for his needs and family. I couldn’t see him but I could feel a great strength as we prayed together and as he interceded for me and my loved ones. It gave me pause. Is this not the whole point of the communion of saints. Speaking with Joe on the phone never distracted from my focus on Jesus, on the contrary it emboldened me and gave me greater courage to plead for others as well.
In the story of the Transfiguration as told in the Gospel of Luke we have a beautiful display of how this communion of saints worked in the life of Jesus:
Luke 9:28 About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. 29While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. 30And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents,one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.34While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”36After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
What is unique in the Lucan version is that Jesus is twice mentioned to be praying. In fact, in Luke’s version the purpose of His mountain hike was to pray (9:28). Then while he is praying the disciples get to see with their eyes what is happening. They see Him speaking to Moses and Elijah. He is praying and speaking to Moses and Elijah. God also speaks shortly after proclaiming Jesus’ identity as His Son. What is fascinating to me is that Jesus is there, God the Father is present and Jesus is also speaking to Moses and Elijah about His death and resurrection. These saintly men were mediating in some way between Jesus the man and God the father. God had no real need to use them and Jesus had no obvious need to have them show up. It was rather God’s great and generous mercy that always seeks to involve others in His great work. The same two men who encountered God on a mountain and whom God used during their earthly lives He was still using after their death. We see a similar case in the Garden of Gethsemane when Luke records that after Jesus prays for help an angel comes and mediates between Jesus the man and God the Father emboldening Jesus to complete His mission. Just as here on earth across time and space we can intercede for our loved ones and more importantly for our enemies, so also we can be certain that our brothers and sisters who have gone before us are still interceding for us not because they have any power of their own but because God is so gracious as to allow them even now to love us and pray for and with us, just as I know my FMC missionary community is doing for us and we are doing for them. Thank you brother Jesus for this wonderful family!
P.S. We have a surprise to share with you all next week. God is so good and we have been working so hard to prepare something special here in Pucacaca. More to come next week…