The Wild Space
The location of the Kingdom of God
There are two Christian preoccupations that leave little room for the ‘wild God’, says Sathianathan “Sathi” Clarke, Bishop Sundo Kim Chair in World Christianity and Professor of Theology, Culture, and Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.
In the first of a series of devotions to Synod 2021, Dr Clarke said the first preoccupation was the western scientific mindset that sought to explore and analyse the nature of God. While the second preoccupation was our “anthropocentrism” – a turn to the self that needs to be “coddled and served”.
He warned that his devotions would not be asking ‘who is the wild God?”, nor will it seek to answer, “what can God do for me in my wildness?”
“Instead, we will explore where the Wild God is. The space, the synergy, the dream where the wild God is,” he told Synod delegates on Saturday morning, the second day of Synod 2021.
His first study centred on Mark 1: 4-15 and reflects upon Jesus’ crossing via the river Jordan from embeddedness in kinship-security to relocation into the wildness of God’s kingdom.
“The wild space of God’s kingdom is the Good news: This is where the wild God wishes to reign,” Dr Clarke said.
“In this bible text, marginal figures in the wilderness (John the Baptizer) appear coarse but testify to the wild demands of the kingdom.”
Dr Clarke said he first learned about this wild space that God operates in from a homeless man in D.C. who told him John the Baptist was similar to the homeless of today. He lived on the margins on society’s norm and he passed judgement on ‘the civilised’ world.
“Jesus went to this homeless man, Jesus sought John out, in the wilderness, for baptism,” he said.
Dr Clarke said the baptism of Jesus invites us to a radical break from the sanctuary of kith and kin -blood/ ethnic identity to the wild possibilities of God’s kingdom identified through water and universal identity.
“The Spirit drives us into the wild space of God’s kingdom with the assurance that Jesus is there and, even if there are “wild beasts,” “angels” wait on us,” he said.
The devotion was the first of three that Dr Clarke will deliver (the other two in June and August) throughout Synod 2021.
As well as his role at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., Dr Clarke serves as Assisting Clergy at the Church of the Epiphany, Diocese of Washington, where he facilitated a bible study among homeless friends from 2010.
His vocation has been a unique blend of the joy of Church ministry, passion for working with communities of the poor and other religious faiths, and love of academic research and teaching. From the very beginning of his ministry, Clarke has worked passionately for justice for the poor and has travelled extensively to educate and encourage inter-religious dialogue.
He started his ministry in the Church of South India as a social worker and priest for the Diocese of Madras among oppressed Dalit communities in rural India. Clarke bridges the world between establishment and the marginalised, the global and the local, and academy and the congregation. For the last twenty years, he has taught and lectured on global Christianity, contextual theology, World Christianity, Christian mission, and interreligious dialogue in various countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South and North America.
In the second half of 2021, Dr Clarke will undertake a residency at United Theological College.