By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I have seen the affliction of my people… I have heard their cry… And I have come down to deliver them… to bring them to… a land flowing with milk and honey… Come, and I will send you… But I will be with you…” — Exodus 3:7-12
FOURTH OF FIVE PARTS
From captive land to promised land
Furthermore, spirituality for mission will also require us to participate actively in God’s work to bring people out of a land of captivity into a land of promise. The LORD said to Moses, “I have come down to bring my people out of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey… I am sending you to the King of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”
The God we believe in is a God who calls people to participate actively in his mission in the world. It is not because God could not do his mission alone by himself, but rather because his nature is community. God lives in communion with his creation. God lives in communion with the people whom he created in his image. We are part of God’s community. And it is because of this dynamic relationship with our Creator that he graciously enjoins us to participate in his work of redemption in the world.
It is interesting to note that land is central in the mission of the God of Exodus. It is quite different from our traditional understanding of God taught by our colonizers and their missionaries. For them, land is not supposed to be the concern of God, because land is material and God is spiritual. God and land could not simply be combined.
The Biblical God, however, the God of Exodus is a God who is concerned with land, because land means life to the people. As a matter of fact, a land of promise has become the seal of the covenant between God and the people. Hence, there is a need for us to renew not only our commitment to God and his mission in the world but even our understanding of God and of land.
Like the people of Exodus, the indigenous peoples among us, also affirm that land and people are one. We have a kinship of life that binds people and land together. The land has the power to produce food for life, so that without land there is no life. The people, however, should cultivate the land in order for the land to give life. This dynamic relationship between the land and the people is also affirmed in the Book of Genesis when the writer declares that God created the human person from the dust of the ground (cf. Gen. 2:7). It is important to note that the Hebrew words for human being (adam) and for land or ground (adamah) come from the same root word. This shows that there is some kind of kinship between the human person and the land.
The people and the land have a common life and destiny. The land on which we stand is not simply land. It stands for the lives not only of people who are alive today, but even of people yet unborn. It stands for generations yet to come. Hence, to take away the land from the people is to take away life from them. To destroy the land is to destroy their life as well as the life of future generations.
The Biblical understanding of land as well as the indigenous peoples’ concept of land show us how far modern civilization has alienated the people from the land, as well as the land from the people. Today, the land is there no longer to give life, but to satisfy human greed and selfishness. The land of promise has become a land of captivity. The land is a land of promise if and when it promises life and sustenance for the people.
But then the land becomes a land of captivity, if and when the people could no longer cultivate the land in order to give life for the people. And worst of all, the land is a land of captivity if and when the people are displaced from the land, because the land is given to foreign mining companies or the land is converted into subdivisions and golf courses. In this so-called age of “development aggression”, the land and the people are no longer one. They have been alienated from each other. The land of promise has become, indeed, a land of captivity, a captive of the powers-that-be.
Hence, the call of our time is a call to redeem the land from its alienation and captivity, so that once again the people and the land will become one: the people cultivate the land, and in return the land gives life to the people. And so, once again they can forge a common life and destiny, not only for the people of today, but for all the generations to come. So that once again, the land of captivity will become a land of promise.
Indeed, spirituality for mission will require us is to participate actively in God’s work to bring people out of a land of captivity into a land of promise. #nordis.net
Continued next week