Sermon 1-21-18 Epiphany 3 Lamb of God Church Fort MYERS FL
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Today, we are going to explore Mission, God’s mission, our mission. (MUSIC) How many of you remember this tune?” That is the theme music the Mission Impossible movies, based on the 1960’s TV show. The main character is Ethan Hunt, a super spy that leads the missions of the IMF’s (Impossible Missions Force) main field team. This team of people work together to thwart the threats of many super villains. The team used incredible devices, superb intellect, and special forces like skills.
The premise of this great movie series and television show was this: “a small but effective group of people come together, as a team. They bring their many gifts and talents together, as a team. They possess a clear focused purpose, and amazingly, they were able somehow, with the help of a greater outside support system, to accomplish an impossible mission.” Sound familiar?
Mission is radical and life-changing, and it tests our loyalties.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Later he found James and John and gave them the same mission call, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Have you ever wondered why these four people would just leave their lucrative family fishing businesses, and follow this young, “new on the scene” Rabbi?
Maybe “when Jesus comes along, then, and calls the four Galilean fishermen to follow him, he is essentially saying: “You’re working for me now, not Antipas; you’re fishing for the kingdom of God, not the Roman-Galilean empire.” (1) Maybe it was “perhaps they already sensed in Jesus the prospect of a new way of doing business, an alternative kingdom.” (1) Maybe God’s call on their lives was so radical and life-changing that following Jesus gave them the pprospector an alternative way of being and doing life, to partner in work of the Kingdom of God.
Simon, Andrew, James, and John left family, business, and promises of financial security, to follow a new way of being. They re-prioritized their ultimate loyalty to God. The church has a mission in the world and it requires us to re-prioritize our loyalties, our commitments, and our time/talent/ and treasure toward the ultimate loyalty; God. These four disciples and billions of disciples throughout the ages have re-aligned their priorities to the Jesus Christ, who is the source of our very lives. in other words, would you drop everything, if Jesus said to you, “come follow me.”
I want you to try something. Breathe in … hold it … now, breathe out. Everything we have, even that very breath you just took is a gift from God. That breath from God enlivens the body, so that we might go and do the mission we have been given to do. Our time, talent, treasure and our very lives are gifts from God, and we should be ready, willing, and able to return a portion of that to God to further the work of God’s mission of love.
As we breath out the life giving Pneuma (breath, Spirit) of God given to us, we through our words, our hands, and our feet make possible the mission of the Kingdom, the Good News, and we become instruments of God’s love that flows without delay to all the world. God is calling us to drop our nets and follow him on a mission of grace, and we need to know that Mission is radical and life-changing, and it will test our loyalties.
The Church’s Mission – Change the world
SO, what is a mission? Webster says mission is “a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity.” The ELCA defines mission as: Together in Jesus Christ we are freed by grace to live faithfully, witness boldly and serve joyfully. The Episcopal Church defines mission as: To restore all people into unity with God and each other in Christ. Combined, both mission statements clarify what mission we are to focus on together: faithful living, bold witnessing, joyful service, all to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
So, how do we accomplish that mission? We gather to be fed and prepared; We grow together in our love and commitment to Jesus Christ and each other; We go out into the world and serve and restore what God set in motion. Our mission as the Body of Christ is to change the world toward the Kingdom of God. With all that is going on in the world today, it seems like the church’s mission is a “Mission Impossible”, but it is POSSIBLE.
Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE
Bringing about God’s Kingdom, changing systems to bring about justice and right relationships among all people is a huge mission. Thwarting the powers of racism, bigotry, misogamy, and any other power that threatens the dignity of all people seems a Mission Impossible. Bringing dignity to EVERY human being, sharing Good News by word and deed all seem like an overwhelming task. Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE, when we choose to rely on on God, when we are focused on God, partnering with God, and when we realize that we do not need to do it all ourselves, then it becomes possible.
We have neighbors to help, and each has its unique part. If you look at a map of this city, you will see that it is dotted with hundreds churches, each diverse in its worship expressions, different approaches to theology, and different ways to serve the local community. The multiplicity of denominations and churches does not exist because one is right, and others are wrong (although some might claim that concept). Lamb of God is unique because in your very corporate structure (Lutheran and Episcopalian) you serve as a witness of what is possible, when two denominations come together in mission.
Some churches miss that they are part of a bigger mission, and they inaccurately measure their mission effectiveness, by comparing themselves to one of their neighbor churches down the street. Some say, “well, Local Cool Church of ‘what’s happening now’ is growing and we are not, they must be doing something right and we are not. Hogwash! Each church is uniquely gifted to share in God’s mission, just like each individual is uniquely gifted. Comparing to our mission partners is futile and a waste of time. We need to understand that numeric growth is situational, cyclical, and it happens in God’s time, not in ours.
Growth in the church happens when a community is clear about who she is, when she is focused on following God’s perfect mission plan for that community, when the people are growing in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ, and when the people invite others to experience spiritual transformation. That is when growth happens.
Mission Possible – Lamb of God
Lamb of God has a unique mission, but what is it? I can tell you that it is most likely not what it was ten years ago. Yes, some things that set this community in motion, like your awesome fellowship gatherings, your incredible outreach to the community, and your upbeat, blended, and welcoming worship are all the core values and key mission gifts of this community. Even so, you have changed incredibly in the last five years, and even ten years, but that is what makes this place so wonderful. You are open and nimble, always ready for change.
I bet that God has even more changes in store for you in the coming years. Your mission has changed and it will change again. Your work now is not to look backward and try to return to the good old days, but to discern what your mission will become. Your greatest challenge now will be to practice discernment and discover God’s mission for you going forward.
Discernment begins by understanding and committing to the mission of the church (universal church), and then prayerfully listening for what Lamb of God’s part is in that mission. To do that effectively and with God’s guidance, you need to be grounded in the ultimate loyalty to Jesus’ mission of reconciliation. “Our families, friendships, political agendas and churches may be appropriate centers of loyalty, but not of ultimate loyalty.” (2) Never forget that our purpose is to further God’s Kingdom and not our own.
Remember, the church is “a small but effective group of people that comes together as a team. We bring many gifts and talents together. We possess a clear focused purpose together, and amazingly, with the power of God’s Spirit, we are able somehow to accomplish what some may say is an impossible mission.
God’s mission to some, sounds like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and it would be impossible, if we were merely relying on our own power and resources alone. But it really is God’s mission in the world, this so called MISSION POSSIBLE, and this work of being a lighthouse of love in this neighborhood is your mission Lamb of God, that is, should you choose to accept it.
(1) Spencer, F Scott. “‘Follow Me’: The Imperious Call of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.” Interpretation, vol. 59, no. 2, Apr. 2005, pp. 142-153.
(2) Bartlett, David L. “Conditional Responsibilities.” The Christian Century, vol. 108, no. 2, 16 Jan. 1991, p. 43.