Sharing in the mission of God

As we listen for the word of God, let us pray:
God of the poor,
you see the generosity of those with little to give,
and you witness the greed which does not care;
open our eyes to the dignity of each person,
that we may work with you
for the coming of your day of justice;
in Christ’s name. Amen.

Readings

Ruth 3.1-5; 4.13-17
Psalm 127
Mark 12.38-44

Some months ago, we worked on a vision statement for our congregation. Do you remember it? It’s

Living God’s mission
as disciples of Jesus
united in the Spirit.

I’d like to talk about mission today. I want to talk about our vision statement a line at a time.

Living God’s mission

Whose mission is it? It’s God’s mission. Not ours. Sometimes we hear people talk about the mission of the Church. The Church has no mission other than to share in what God is doing in the world.

‘Mission’ means sending, or being sent. God is a sending God, and mission is part of who God is. Out of the overflowing love and grace and mercy at the very heart of God, the Father sent the Son into the world. And out of that same overflowing love and grace and mercy the Spirit is also sent into the world. Through the Son and the Spirit, we are able to share in God’s mission. We don’t decide what the mission is, and we can’t direct what God will do; we can only live so that we share in what God does.

We live the mission of God, each and every day. Mission is part of God’s nature, and it’s meant to become part of our nature too. It’s not just an optional extra for super keen Christians.

In theologian-speak, the mission of God is the missio Dei. Don’t be put off by that — missio Dei is just Latin for the ‘mission of God’. And the mission of the Church is only to share in the mission of God.

Our God is a missionary God by nature, a sending God, a God who is always reaching out beyond himself to the world that he has made. God’s missionary nature isn’t something tacked on. It’s essential to who God is. Therefore it’s essential to who the Church is. A Church that isn’t on mission is a Church in denial.

God is reaching out to the whole world in love and grace, desiring peace and reconciliation in the world. God’s mission is aimed at bringing a new creation into being. We — the Church, the Spirit-led Body of Christ — are invited to share in what God is doing, to live it day by day.

We are called to lives of faith, hope and love; we are called to reach out with the Good News of God’s grace and forgiveness; we are called to join with those who are bringing peace and justice into being.

Notice it’s both-and, not either-or. It’s both proclaiming the Good News and working for justice. It’s talking the talk and walking the walk. The mission of God holds both together.

The second line of our vision statement is

as disciples of Jesus

We live God’s mission, but how? As ‘disciples of Jesus’.

Jesus is the pioneer of our faith, and he shows us what it means to be on the mission of God. It means being Good News for others, as well as speaking Good News to others. It means bringing hope to the demoralised and the fearful. It means supporting actions that are life-affirming.

Sometimes, we may decide to support secular groups like Amnesty International or AusAID, the Australian Government agency responsible for managing the nation’s overseas aid program. Are they bringing hope to people and upholding human dignity? If they are, let’s support them.

A disciple lives the mission by giving everything. The two widows in our readings today did that; Ruth in leaving everything she knew to be with her mother-in-law Naomi, and the unnamed widow in the Gospel story by giving everything she had.

A disciple needs discipline. Next year, we’ll be talking about spiritual disciplines as we approach Easter. Disciplines such as prayer, study, simplicity, service, worship and guidance. Following Jesus isn’t automatic. We have this tendency inside to turn away from the way of Jesus. We simply call this tendency ‘sin’.

If we lose our discipline, in time we will also lose our sense of being a disciple. We’ll lose our way. The only way of being a disciple of Jesus is to be disciplined in our discipleship.

The third line is

united in the Spirit.

We’re not alone. We have one another. If we will allow it, the Spirit forms us into a community of disciples, following Jesus, living God’s mission.

How do we join in the mission of God? The Spirit draws us. The choice we make to share in God’s mission is Spirit-inspired and Spirit-enabled.

One of the names of Jesus is Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. God came to be with us in Jesus Christ. The Spirit is ‘God with us’ now, enlightening our hearts and minds to the way of Jesus Christ.

The Spirit is God within us, changing us from within so that we might reflect the image of the Son of God.

The Spirit is God among us, creating us anew as the Body of Christ, as a new humanity. This last is the one people most often seem to forget. It doesn’t mean we all have the same ideas, or do the same things, or vote the same way. It means that we value our diversity and work to build a new community of the Spirit together.

Living God’s mission
as disciples of Jesus
united in the Spirit.

That’s our vision statement. It describes who we are, and who we want to be. It’s where we’re headed.

Today’s Psalm, Psalm 127, starts:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.

(‘God gives sleep to his beloved…’ That’s why it’s ok to sleep during a sermon!)

We’re not meant to be anxious about mission. It’s God’s mission. We’re meant to live it. Our anxious striving gets us nowhere and fast. Waiting on God and seeking what God is doing enables us to see where God is on mission and to join him.

Here at Centenary Uniting Church, we’ve found that we can share in God’s mission in a variety of ways, including:

  • in Africa among people suffering from AIDS;
  • in getting shoeboxes ready for Operation Christmas Child;
  • in partnering with our local state school in the Kids Hope program;
  • in the growing faith of people, old and young;
  • in families bringing children for baptism and making connections;
  • in worship as we are caught up in the eternal praise of the living God.

The mention of worship leads me to one last thing: let’s not imagine that we can define mission as what happens only outside the four walls of the church. Right now, right here in worship we are caught up in the mission of God. We’re most definitely not having a breather from the mission. Worship is not ‘time out’ from mission. Worship is participating in the missio Dei, sharing in God’s mission. We are worshipping the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit again inspires our worship as it is offered in the name of Jesus Christ.

God’s mission is as wide and as broad as we can imagine and then some. God’s mission embraces

  • people chatting to people about their faith;
  • people in silent prayer at home;
  • communities gathering together to worship God;
  • people risking their lives to work for peace;
  • people seeking to care for planet earth as climate change seems just about inevitable.

The mission of God is wherever people are reconciling or being reconciled, and we are called to share it.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.

The Lord is building the house. Let’s get with the plan!

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1 Comment

Filed under RCL, sermon

One response to “Sharing in the mission of God

  1. Thanks for this, it was really helpful.

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