Mission Sunday Joel 2.21-27, Matthew 6.25 -33 4th October 2015 (Guest speaker at my sending benefice)
May I speaking the name of the Father and the son and Holy Spirit.
It’s a real honour and privilege to be asked to preach and celebrate the Eucharist with you all today because without this benefice and all you people, I would not be standing here as a priest today. So I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you.
And then I discovered I would be preaching on your mission Sunday, one of the most difficult subjects in the church to speak about. So yeah, thank you, most sincerely, again for that!
So if I’m speaking about mission, you may be wondering why I chose a harvest hymn to open our service with. Well, as you know, this time of year is the season for harvest festival in church. In fact my home church this morning will be celebrating their harvest festival and are then having a communal roast lunch.
However, harvest and mission do have much in common as they are both about taking action in order to create food. Harvest reaps much needed physical food. Mission reaps spiritual food known as faith.
Now I know you are a missional church because Richard very kindly sent me a copy of the magazine Transmission by the organization US which incorporates a South American Mission. They have a project in Zimbabwe which enables communities to kick start their own income generation projects. All donations from this morning’s service will go to this charity.
But is giving money the be all and end all about mission? And just what do we mean when use the word mission? When we use the word mission, what do we think about? Helping others in faraway countries? Mother Theresa helping the poor? Or helping deprived areas in the UK? Or do we think of spreading the good news of the Gospel in our own community?
First of all, let us look at the word mission. This word is often used but it is not very easy to find a concise definition which describes it, even less to find one on which everyone can agree. So because the word mission is such a slippery word, the church of England came up with the now infamous five marks of mission. These five marks are:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
- To respond to human need by loving service.
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Ok, clearer now?! Yes? No?! Well they do sort of help. But personally I like to think of mission as things we do. Evangelism is what we say, mission is what we do. But what are the things we do? Give money to charities? Yes, that is part of the answer. But there is also so much more we can do just by going about our normal everyday business.
You see mission is in its essence is about being a Christ like presence where ever we happen to be. As Rowan Williams once said “Mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in”. Mission is not an either or thing where to give money to foreign countries is sufficient. No. Mission is both and. Mission can be about giving money but it is also about doing something where you are with the things you have and the people you are with. Its about seeing where is there evidence of human flourishing happening in your community and thinking about how is God using that community to show His glory? How can we enter into that part of community to be walking examples of what it means to follow Christ? Where are the places we can go instead of hiding ourselves away in our own little worlds hoping someone else will do it?
The point about mission is that we all can, and should be, involved in doing something and not leave it to someone else or some other group to do. Each one of us here has a responsibility in the mission of God.
Yet, such a call to mission fills us with fear, anguish and uncertainty about what to say or how to act. This is where our reading from Matthew comes in. God knows us everyone personally. He know our characteristics, our personalities and abilities.
In Matthew 6: v 30 if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry,
God knows our needs and he knows how to clothe us with the things we need in order for us to go out into the world with confidence. Despite how frail we feel, how lacking in the ability of eloquent speech or clever answers we think need, God will provide all the strength, courage and knowledge we need to go out to spread His good news. God knows the church needs not just ordained people but everyone to do their bit in the world, not just for the sake of the church’s survival but much more so for the healing of our communities. This past week we have seen the wonderful scenes of people being touched just by the presence of Pope Francis in America. Pope Francis once offered the image of a field hospital as an insight into the mission of the universal Church. He said:
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up”.
Simply caring for another person is being missional because we do it with the love of Christ. God knows we need physical food, clothes and shelter but, as it says in verse 33
“strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So God knows how hard it is to work for his kingdom but will help us when we ask. Besides that He has already gone before us, for our God is a missional God, because he first sent His Son. We are not the only ones, there have been others before us. As John’s gospel reads “One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.”
So in some ways the ground has already been prepared for us because God has been active in the hearts of all people we are called to walk alongside with. All God asks is that we get on with it! As in John 4 v 35 “Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.”
Being a missional people, means being a people who are sent by God to spread God’s glory, of showing what truly being in relationship with Him means, But most of all being missional means to love others both far away and close to home as God loves us. So, this day, this week, this month, what will you do to be a Christ like presence in your communities?