Tag Archives: missio Dei

Second Sunday of Easter (Year A, 1 May 2011)

The risen life: forgiving sins

Readings
1 Peter 1.3-9
John 20.19-31

There is something very puzzling in today’s Gospel reading. Do you know what I mean? It’s this: the risen Lord Jesus says,

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

That could sound like we have the authority to determine which sins can be forgiven and which cannot. And it seems that is the way the Roman Catholic system of confession to a priest works. A Catholic priest has the authority to forgive the sins of those who come to him—or not to forgive them. In other words he has the authority to retain them. Is that what this means? I hope not.

Perhaps there are other ways of interpreting this saying. I think there are…

But firstly, the Catholic Church is right; only a priest can forgive sins. But the Catholic Church is also wrong, because we are a priestly community. Friends, each one of us is given authority to forgive others. You can say, ‘I forgive you’ to another person. And you know, when you do that, you are being a ‘priest’.

A priest is someone who links other people to God; it’s what a priest does and is. So we are a priestly community. We who make up the Body of Christ are a priesthood because we connect others to God.

So praying for others is a priestly thing to do. It’s priestly because we link another person to God through our prayer.

We especially link another person to God when we forgive them. And guess what?—we also link ourselves more firmly to God. It’s just the Lord’s Prayer in action:

Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.

A community that has the risen Lord Jesus in its midst is a forgiving, priestly community. Its members connect one another to God through forgiving, accepting and praying for one another.

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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 29 August 2010)

With glad and generous hearts

A Sermon on Stewardship


Readings
Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16
Luke 14.1, 7-14

We’ve reached the final week of our series on Mission and Stewardship. In our series, we’ve heard that the Church is here for the benefit of those outside, not for the benefit of its members. But we’ve also said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

We’ve also heard that the life of discipleship opens us up to the abundant life that Jesus promises.

We’re talking about stewardship today. Perhaps you haven’t realised it, but we’ve been talking about stewardship already. Stewardship is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Jesus are good stewards of their time, talents and treasure. And by doing that, they live the abundant life that Jesus promises.

A minister had served a church for a few months in an interim position. During the last Sunday service that he was to spend at the church, his hat was passed around for a freewill offering.

When it returned to the minister, it was empty. He didn’t flinch or hesitate. He raised his hat to heaven and said, ‘I thank you, Lord, that I got my hat back from this congregation.’

Were the people in this story good stewards? Maybe they were. But I’d guess they were terrible stewards. Why might I think they weren’t good stewards? I think it’s because they hung onto things instead of sharing them.

Stewardship is about generosity, it’s about being a generous disciple. Stewardship is about using our time, talents and money generously, abundantly. A good steward is not afraid to give of themselves in sacrificial ways. Continue reading

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 22 August 2010)

Living God’s Mission


Readings
Jeremiah 1.4-10
Luke 13.10-17

We’ve heard a fair bit the last couple of weeks about the Church being here not for the benefit of its members, but for the benefit of those outside. And we’ve said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

I’ve been asked, ‘What about the abundant life that Jesus promises? Isn’t the Church here to help deliver that?’ And I’m very glad indeed to get questions like that, because they help me to shape what I need to say.

Jesus does promise us abundant life. So shouldn’t the Church be there to give us that abundant life? No. And yes.

No, because the Church isn’t there to give us the abundant life directly. The Church is there to form us as disciples. But: the abundant life comes to us as we commit ourselves to Jesus as his disciples. Look at the woman in today’s Gospel story. She was bent over. Perhaps we are too. She stood straight when Jesus laid his hands on her. She was healed—and like her, we are not truly healed unless we give ourselves to Jesus in love and trust.

Look at Jeremiah: he gains confidence in God as he allows the word of the Lord to enter his very being:

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you.

Remember, our vision statement is

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

Being disciples is central! But never forget that first line: We are on about ‘living God’s mission’.

We don’t have a mission. God has a mission, and God invites us to join him in that mission. God’s mission is about setting people free (including us). God’s mission is about bringing purpose into people’s lives (including ours). God’s mission is about creating peace and harmony among people (including among us). God’s mission is about preserving the earth (so that all people can live and thrive, including us).

God’s mission is big. Seriously big. It’s bigger than the Church. It includes the whole creation. The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church says that God’s mission concerns the

coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation.

God’s mission is so big, it includes people of good will all over the place. Some of them don’t know they’re sharing in God’s mission. Some of them don’t even believe in the God with whom they are cooperating.

But notice: we are living God’s mission. God’s mission brings life. And when we are on about God’s mission, we bring life to people. Including to ourselves.

Sometimes, that life comes in the midst of death. Life is a bummer. Things are not going right; in fact, they are just wrong. But God is there, with abundant warmth and acceptance and compassionate love. Sometimes, that’s all we can know of the abundant life; but it’s there in abundance for those who live God’s mission.

Do you want the abundant life? Then see how you can share in God’s mission—through the congregation, and in your daily life. You’ll find the abundant life that Jesus promises through obedience to God.

So the Church isn’t here to give us that abundant life. It’s here to make us disciples. But: disciples are sharing in God’s mission, and that gives them the abundant life.

So the Church is here to bring that abundant life after all!… But the abundant life is a ‘side effect’ of sharing in what God is doing. If we seek the abundant life without sharing in God’s mission, without living God’s mission, then we’ll only have a counterfeit kind of so-called ‘abundant’ life. That counterfeit life will go once real difficulties come our way. That counterfeit life will go sour one day, and we’ll wonder where the joy and the peace went.

Living God’s mission. That’s the way to the abundant life that Jesus promises. It’s the way to true inner peace and joy and freedom.

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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.

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