Sermon on Holistic Mission
Over the past few months we have been talking a lot about Mission
It’s a loaded word that has many different meaning depending on the context.
War against terrorism,
Undercover military operations
And a host of different associations within the church too.
It’s the street preacher who rebukes the lamppost
The person who goes overseas in Jesus’ name
The activity of people who go overseas and build schools in the Solomon’s
Here is an image I grew up with….OVALTINA
Mission is also a term that has been seen by some as co word for bigotry, oppression and imposing of alien values on tribal cultures…
The problem has been that many things we have called mission have been more about us
– expanding the empire
- making people like us
- ensuring that the resources of a country fall into the hands of good Christian folk rather than pagan Muslims
Mission has been so often associated with abuse because as the Church historically we have often abused those around us in our name and in the name of profit rather than going in the name of Jesus
- At the heart of the problem is a failure of the church to recognize mission is at the very heart and nature of God – Our God is a missionary God
1. The Father sends his Son to be the savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
2. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit into the World (John 14:26).
3. In the same way the God who is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, sends us into the world. So Jesus can say ‘In the same way as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ (John 20:21)
The point is that mission isn’t some kind of ‘bolt-on’ activity that gets added to God. Mission defines God’s character. (Cistene chapel)
The mission of the Church is not our mission but God’s mission – we are merely his hand and his feet.
Mission is joining in with what God is already doing…So that clarifies something – mission is about God’s activity. It’s about God being active and being active in God’s name.
The question is what does that activity look like?
Depending on whom you ask you’re liable to get some very different answers
I have a friend in CHCH who says mission is about telling people about Jesus – telling people a set of truths and then getting them to tick the boxes
We have a problem – Sin
Sin is separation from God
We need someone who can bridge the gap
Only God is able to bridge the gap
Therefore God must do something to bridge the gap
Jesus is the answer – the God man
Tick the box and score 1000 points
I have a friend in Auckland too
And for him mission is about restoring creation
God created a beautiful world for us to inhabit in communion with him
We spoiled it; God kicked us out the garden
Jesus died to reconcile the relationship – and through that we could work towards restoring creation
So who is right?
Who has the right view of mission?
CHCH or Auckland?
They are both right
The good news is about more than saving us from sin, but it’s also about more than restoring creation too.
In fact in the Anglican Church we talk about mission in five ways – not one way – it’s not an attempt to make everything mission but it is an attempt to express the fullness of God’s mission as described in Scripture.
(1) Proclaim the Good News
In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter says. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” That about telling people about Jesus – what Jesus has done – as God’s people we need to find meaningful ways to express the truth.
Proclaiming the good news may involve a formula and boxes to tick but for most of us it’s more likely to be about What Jesus has done for me – starting from your own experience often helps people connect with their experience.
(2) Making Disciples
That sounds easy but I guess the question is what is a Disciple?
Often in the Church we have talked about discipleship as learning scripture and understanding it – so churches have set up Bible classes studies on the Pauline letters, the synoptic gospels that sort of thing. But is that what discipleship really is head knowledge or is there more to it.
I think there is more – lots more. Discipleship is about equipping people to be part of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is a nation within a nation –it’s a different set of values, beliefs – a different way of living.
– it’s culture is based on sharing – as a church we regularly share a meal around the communion table – in doing that we are receiving foretaste – an appetizer of reality when God’s Kingdom has come and we will all be invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb - Jesus
mutual support, love, forgiveness, giving people second and third chances, a culture where leadership is primarily demonstrated in service
– It’s about a different way of living not just in the Church but in the world too.
It’s being salt and light
Salt being an antiseptic, a preservative, adding flavor
Light being about lighting up the dark places.
Being a disciple is about nailing our colours to the flag of God’s Kingdom, Taking up a new citizenship.
(3) Responding to Human Need
What did Jesus say the greatest commandment is?
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one” answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (NIV, Mark 12:28-31).
Standing next to the poor, offering a cup of cold water to someone in need (Matthew 10: 40 – 42) is an essential aspect of mission.
Now some people say we do that so we can preach to them because they are so grateful – no we do it because that is what God says we should do – the world has a word for this it’s called charity.
Charity is actually a biblical word – it comes from the root Charis – which sometimes we translate as love, but more often as Grace – and in both cases its God’s love and Grace.
To offer charity is about giving someone God’s grace – it’s a blessing.
Yes it’s open to abuse but God has poured out his Charis up on so who are we to say he shouldn’t do that to others just because they may sell the gift and but a lotto ticket or a 12 pack of beer.
We are simply called to love – to offer loving service.
(4) Challenge Injustice
If we are called to pray that God’s Kingdom should come on earth as in heaven – and if God’s kingdom is about how we treat one another about modeling forgiveness about sharing round the communion table as an appetizer for the reality when his Kingdom has come then as a church we should challenge everything that gets in the way of that shouldn’t we?
In Isaiah 58 God says that the kind of worship he wants to receive from his people is “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke”. That’s powerful stuff – coming against anything that would prevent God’s kingdom coming and allowing people to receive that Kingdom
This is the sort of stuff that challenged William Wilberforce to make the abolishment of slavery his life’s work.
But it could equally be about:
Saying no to gluttony when so much of the world is starving
Saying no to the moral decline of society
Saying no to Easter eggs because the manufacturers them but their coco beans from source that use child slave to harvest them.
(5) Caring for Creation
While it seems like an optional extra too many caring for our environment is also an aspect of mission
Now I know what some of you are thinking
“Why bother to care for the environment when heaven is really our home and the earth is going to be destroyed anyway?”
Well firstly we should care because it was the first commandment of God in Genesis 1
He said to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion – that’s not about exploitation or using up all the earth resources in one generation it’s about caring - looking after it – nurturing the planet.
But God doesn’t just leave it there..
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life – that’s not just about God loving humans – the Greek word that we translate as world is cosmos – and it refers to the whole created order.
If you like John 3:16 is about reversing the issues of Genesis 3 – we are redeemed but so is the whole world
Secondly we need to look after the planet because when we exploit it –someone else – usually someone who is a lot more poor than us suffer people who have less than us go without and all so we can have the latest toys – it’s sick…
We are talking about Mission but we are talking about holistic mission – that’s not some mumbo jumbo new agey thing it’s mission as God intended.
We are all called to get involved in this
Mission is at the very heart of who God is –
Our God is a Missionary God –
A God who reaches out to us…
And calls us to do the same