Saturday, July 4, 2009

5 Pentecost Proper 9 Yr B

The purpose of Mark’s gospel is to bear witness to Jesus as the proclaimer and embodiment of the Kingdom of God, and to challenge us to follow Jesus, who Mark also tells us from the very beginning is the Good News, the Son of God. The particular passage that we hear today is the sending out of the disciples, it is the way that the Good News is spread so that we can follow Jesus, it is the mission we are all sent on.

This mission, which is most assuredly the most difficult work we will ever do, is accomplished in a way which stands at odds with values in our culture today, or at least at odds with how popular culture is presented in our media and our on televisions. Most of the stories on television, well at least those that are “reality” based, tell a story of individual excellence. They are stories in which people must be the best they can be; they must rely on their individual strengths, whether that is physical or intellectual. They are stories in which it really is all about them, it is about their self-absorption and often includes deception.

There’s one reality show though that is not like the others. The Amazing Race. People go out into the world two by two, all they have with them is what they can carry on their backs. And, they need to rely on the good will of the local people to get them where they are going. Not bad for reality entertainment. And similar to the story in Mark’s gospel today. Except, instead of winning the big money, Jesus’ disciples win….. well I don’t know that they win anything at all. But eventually the disciples realize that the story is not about winning, it is about the new life that comes through life in Christ.

The mission is a communal one. Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two. We are never to be about the mission alone. We are always to go out together. What does this mean for us? I think first and foremost this means that the challenge to follow Jesus is about being in relationship. In order to spread the Good News that God loves us we need to be first in relationship with God and we need to be in relationship with others. This Christian life is not to be attempted alone. At every turn we have the opportunity to walk this road together, and our commissioning as disciples assumes that we will walk it together. It is most obvious here on Sunday mornings, we gather together, hear God’s word, we pray, we give thanks, we eat, and we are sent out to spread the Good News. Together we are the body of Christ, and we participate in that not only with this assembly but with the worldwide assembly as it gathers together. We pray daily, and when we pray the rhythm of daily prayer we pray with people worldwide.

Travel light. What does this mean for us? Maybe we are being called to simplify our lives and to trust God completely. I learned to travel light years ago. The first big trip I ever took, an extended excursion in Europe when I was just graduated from college, I put everything I needed for six months in a backpack. One of the reasons I took that trip was to see if I could do it, I was very conscious of relying on God and others. However, I prepared. I knew my stuff. I knew what I could and couldn’t do, I knew where I could and couldn’t go. I knew as a young single woman there were just some things I needed to do to stay safe. Traveling light doesn’t mean not being prepared. What sort of baggage do we need to leave behind, and what do we need to bring with us? How do we need to be prepared for this mission God sends us on.

We need to bring our story with us; the story that each of us have of our relationship with God. This is the story that tells of our blessed creation, it is the story that tells about turning away from God. It is the story about how we have been seduced by power or greed; how we have been seduced by our own self-importance; how we have been seduced by conspicuous consumption, and how we turn from those seductions daily and ask for forgiveness, and how God forgives, and loves us no matter what. How when we die to the illusions of happiness in the world, we rise to new life and joy in Jesus Christ. This is the story we must tell, this is the story that we bring with us, this is the story that will heal and transform lives.

How are we prepared for this mission? We prepare by knowing the story of God in our lives, by knowing how God created all that is seen and unseen, how God promised the people to always be their God, how the people turned away from God and worshipped all manner of things that were not God, how God called them back into relationship and how God came into this world just like you and me to show us how we may live, and how God in Jesus died just like you and me, and how something absolutely new happened. We prepare by practicing the telling of our story and our place in God’s story so that others will see that they too are loved completely and absolutely by God, and that their lives may be healed and transformed.

Here at St. Andrew’s we have spent much time and resources on how we attract people to church, on how once they come we welcome them and treat them, and this is all good, it is part of our mission. But it is not the whole mission. We must get out of this building, go beyond these doors to the people who are out there just waiting for the Good News we have to tell them, just waiting for someone to say, “Hey, I know a way out of the trouble you’re in, Hey I know a way of love and respect that can help you, listen to my story.” And when you tell them, you invite them to church with you.

And how do we respond if they don’t accept our offer of new life in Christ? We are to shake the sand off our sandals, let go of the outcome. It’s God’s mission, it’s not about us. This is so hard for us. We want so much to control the outcome. We want so much to be able to say, if I do this right, if I say this right, if I am right, then everyone should be able to see that and come join us.

I have suggested to you today two concrete ways of preparing for the work of mission. One, daily prayer, two, practicing your story. There are many resources for your daily prayer. Open your prayer book to Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, or the daily devotions. Or, there are some very wonderful internet sites that post daily prayer for you. Just google daily prayer. Look for daily prayer from our Book of Common Prayer, you should also find Common Worship of the Church of England, Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church, use those resources, and know that you are praying with millions of people around the globe.

I have suggested that you practice telling your story. This is a way to help others connect their story with the work of God in their lives. Begin by creating your own time line. Trace the events of your life, and then ask yourself the question, did I experience God in this, or not. Identify the times you turned to God and did not turn to God, identify the times you felt loved and cared for by God, and you will begin to see the pattern of your life. You might even do this in the context of your daily prayer. And then, this is the hard part; say to someone, someone right here at St. Andrew’s, can I tell you my story of God’s work in my life. It’s an amazing thing to me, that we might encounter God in each other as we tell our faith stories.

The fact of the matter is that we’re not much good at mission. That’s not to say we haven’t had a history of mission, we have. We come from those in England who spread the Good News throughout Africa and the New World. The Episcopal Church has wonderful mission opportunities for young adults and for adults, but what we need to reclaim is the simple invitation.

You can say, Come and see what Jesus is doing in my life and in our church. And then let God do the rest. That’s all it takes.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: Come let us adore him.

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