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Sermon for 18 June 2017

 

18 June 2017

Genesis 18:1-15, Matthew 9:35-10:8

 

Last Sunday we began a short sermon series on Mission. And I began by going back to the absolute basics, by talking about God. And I said that God is mission - that God’s love overflowed as He created the Universe, and it overflowed into Jesus coming to earth and it overflows in the Holy Spirit being poured out. God, it seems, just can’t help throwing himself into our lives. God is mission.

Mission therefore isn’t about us heading off to distant parts of the world to tell people who don’t know about God all about him, mission is who and what God is.

And that means that mission isn’t something that we do for God, its what we do when we become like God.

And today I want to talk about us - about the church - and to ask the question, if God is ‘mission-shaped’, and if our task is to model our lives on God, what does a mission-shaped church look like?

And it’s a good time to pick up this subject.  A month or two ago I talked about our vision for the church - and you can read what I said in this leaflet at the back - but it was, at heart, a vision for a church that is growing. Growing in depth of faith in God, growing in our service to the local community and growing in the number of people who are part of the church community. A church with wide open doors through which everyone is welcome, and wide open doors through which we are confident to head out to share the Good News of Jesus and to invite people to find out more. But a vision remains a vision, if it isn’t lived out.

Have you ever had the experience of being asked to do something which you are sure you are completely unqualified for? When someone hands you a task, or a job, and says - ‘you’ll be great at this’ and then walks off, leaving you feeling absolutelycertain you’ll be a disaster.

I remember, like it was yesterday, the day that our eldest, Eli, was born. I remember the total thrill of meeting him for the first time, and holding him in my arms. And I remember the lovely midwives who were so helpful, and phoning to tell parents and family that he had been born, and it was so special and exciting and wonderful. And then I remember the moment that everyone left, and Lizzie and I were left on our own with this little life. And I had no idea what to do! ‘You can’t all go!’ Please don’t leave! I can’t do this! Someone else needs to be here to look after this baby with me. Someone who’s a professional’

If we think about what God is asking of us as the church, we might feel a bit of that. Because God has given us the most almighty and glorious task. Us! God hashanded his mission on to us.

God created the Universe in all its glory and massiveness, he sent Jesus to show us what love looks like in action, and to restore what was broken in creation, and he gave the Holy Spirit to keep that love burning within us, and then he says - over to you now. My mission is your mission. On you go. In his last words to the disciples Jesus says - go and make disciples of all nations.He doesn’t say, ‘don’t worry, I’ll go and make disciples of all nations, you just come along and build some churches afterwards’. He says - over to you. Here’s your calling. My mission is now your mission.

It’s not surprising if we’re a bit nervous. We’re asked to do God’s work.

Someone once said ’it’s not the church of God that has a mission in the world, it’s the mission of God that has a church in the world’. If we are being true to who we are - we have to be missional. We have to be the people who are doing God’s work in the world. It’s in our DNA. All of us. God doesn’t make mistakes, and there are no imposters here. This is for us all. Together as church, to do God’s work. To be God’s mission in the world.

So what does that actually mean? I want to look at the gospel reading we just heard, and to pick out three things from it. Three answers that Jesus gives to three key questions about mission; Where do we go? what do we say? What do we do?

It’s a story from early on in Jesus’ ministry. He has done some incredible things, healing and teaching, and he has gathered together a group of 12 people who are learning from him, and now it’s time to give them a go - to let them do what he has been doing. To carry on his mission. And so he sends them out.

And the first question is  ’Where do we go?’

Jesus says they are to go to the ‘lost sheep of Israel’. They are not to go to the Gentiles, but to the people of Israel. It’s as if Jesus is saying, ‘go where I am already at work’. Don’t head out to the first place that you think of, nor to the place where nothing’s going on - look for the places where God is already at work, and join in there. And that reminds us that mission is never about us taking God somewhere that he has never been before. We are to go where God is already at work, and to join in.

And that means looking around the people we know and the communities we are part of and asking - where does it seem that God is already at work? Where are there people who are open to finding out about God? Where is there a need that we can meet? Where do we sense that God has prepared the soil for us to sow the seed of faith?

So, for instance, 4 years ago, Henrietta sensed that there was a place for the church to get involved with the young children and their parents - that God had opened a door into that community - and she set up Cafe Toddlers, which is thriving.

And early this year Rose wondered who she could invite to Alpha, and she’d had conversations with her neighbours in her block of flats, and so she invited all of them.

And at the moment, Caroline has been asking the same question, and a new project is emerging - which will be called Blend; lot’s more about it to follow in the next few weeks - but the aim is to connect with children and teenagers in a new way, where we believe God is opening a new possibility.

And that applies to us personally as well. There’s little point in us forcing a conversation about Jesus on the person who we know is just not open to it at all - but we all know someone who’s exploring the big questions of life, or we have that conversation with someone who asks us about church, and why we go, or we have a moment when we sense strongly that it would be a gift to say to someone ‘could I pray for you?’ - or if we’re really bold ‘could I pray with you?’

Where do we go? We go where God is already at work.

Second question. What do we say? Jesus tells his disciples to say ‘the kingdom of God has come near’. We might not use that language precisely, but we say something similar. We’re to tell people that God is much, much closer to them than they imagine. That he’s not far off beyond the clouds - he’s intimately involved with their life, and always has been. He’s ready to step in and to get stuck into their lives just as soon as they ask. To heal, to forgive, to lift the shame and guilt they carry. He’s just itching to bring respite from anxiety and worry, to lift them up when they’ve fallen, to bring them into a communitythat will care for them, to help them with their practical needs. That’s the good news - that’s what we have to share. And why wouldn’t we want to do that? God knows the world needs it.

What do we say? We say that God can’t wait to get involved in your life.

And final question. What do we do? We need to know where we go and what we say, but Jesus didn’t just give the disciples words to say, he gave them a task. And the task was to ‘cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and to cast out demons.’

Fortunately there aren’t many lepers in our villages - but the fundamental task remains the same - to change and to transform. Not just to tell people that God can heal, but to pray for healing, and then to stick with them; not just to tell people that they can be free from the problems that burden them, but to get stuck in and to offer practical support; not just to tell them we’ve got good news, but to be good news in their lives. What do we do? We change things for the better, and we do it in the way Jesus did it.

 

Where do we go? Where God is already at work

What do we say? That God is deeply, passionately interested in their lives, and longs to get more involved.

What do we do? We change things for the better - as Jesus changed things for the better.

 

Next week, I’ll talk in more detail about the second of those questions - how do we actually go about talking about God and Jesus. And I really, really encourage you also to come along to the short course that starts this Wednesday evening.Talking the Good News will give you a hands on and fun opportunity to learn more and to practice talking about God. If you’ve been meaning to sign up, but haven’t quite got round to it, I won’t think you rude if you get your phone out right now and go to the church website, where you can tell us you’d like to come - or just tell me afterwards.

 

So what does a mission shaped church look like?

It is the kind of community which is always looking out for the places and people where God is already at work, and is ready to join in.

It’s the kind of community that is bold and courageous in supporting each other to tell people that God really is alive, and that He is massively interested in peoples lives

It’s the kind of community that invests time, love, prayer, gifts and money in getting it’s hands dirty bringing Jesus shaped change to our communities.

 

May we learn to be like that. And may God’s mission be our mission.

Amen

Posted: 20-06-2017 at 13:05
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