Series: The Heartbeat of Us
Title: A Heart for Mission
Date: Preached 16th May, 2021.
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Acts 1:1-11
In the last of our series at looking at the heartbeat of our church we will be exploring why it supporting, resourcing and participating in mission has been (and continues to be) so important to our church. We will be getting an update from our missionaries and we will be exploring what our place in God’s mission might be.
Let me start with a story about a crazy thing I did with my mum one time. I was 19 and still living with my parents at Coolamon… I was walking home from the shops up a back alley. The houses that came off this back alley were the poorer end of town and I noticed that on one of the clothes lines was a very old tatted flannelette sheet. I was imagining some poor kid having to put this on their bed so I went home and went up to my mum and said, “mum I have a crazy idea”. She was quite used to my crazy ideas. I said, “I have this crazy idea. Can I have a set of our flannelette sheets and I’ll somehow secretly give it to this family.” “Sure, she said” we both got excited as we found a good set of sheets and put it in a bag. I went back to the home and took a huge risk by sneaking into the back yard and pegged it to the clothes line. Seriously … I am not making this up.
We told my Dad the story later that night and he said, “It was probably just the dogs blanket”. However a few week later I saw the sheet that I gave them on the line. Now the best part of this story is that the next day after all this happened when I was at uni, I was having lunch with some of my old yr12 friends and was asked, “So what did you do on the weekend”, so I told the story about the sheet. There was one girl there, who was not a Christian, and she could not believe that I did something like that. She was just stunned. About 8 years later I saw this girl again and the first thing she said to me was, “I still think about what you did with that sheet”. There is something very impacting about taking a risk to serve or reach other to others.
In the lead up to Easter we have been looking at a few of the key values or characteristics of our church that make us who we are … and shapes our decision making.
So far we have looked at how we as a church have a heart for worship, for serving, for caring and today I want to explore that we have a heart for mission. That over the 120 years that we have been a faith community we have worked to share God’s love in words and actions with those around us and want to make a difference in the world.
Jesus in our Bible reading is at the very end of his earthly ministry and he turned to his disciples, his followers and said, “All the work that I have been doing – to love, care, and bring people back to God – well that your mission now. Its over to you and the followers that come after you.” This is the mission of God – and as a church, we have a heart, a passion to be part of God’s mission.
Robert Schnase (the Methodist Bishop who put together the 5 practices of fruitful congregations that we looked at a couple of years ago) in his book says that when churches maintain primarily an inward focus, or “turn inward, using all resources for their own survival and caring only for their own people, then spiritual vitality wanes”.
Conversely, he asserts that when the church works to make a positive difference in the lives of others outside the church, that looks beyond themselves, then lives inside and outside the church are changed. There is something life-giving when a faith community reaches out beyond itself and supports, resources and participates in mission.
And this can happen on a number of different levels – as Jesus affirmed in our Bible reading – Mission occurs locally (Jerusalem); regionally (Judea) and to the ends of the earth.
As a church, TUC has always had a history in supporting missionaries – overseas missionaries and regional missionaries. When I was at Bible college I remember hearing stories about Turramurra. We were told that TUC gave over $100,000 a year to missionaries and other mission endeavours beyond itself. Was that true? Actually – in 2019 if you include the flea market money that we give away, we would have been close to $100,000 then. It truly is amazing and you can see how this heart for mission has and still beats strongly here.
Over the past 3 years we have been supporting three different missionaries although in the last 12 months David and Kathryn Richards (who had been working with WEC in Western Sydney) have finished up. I apologise that I didn’t really acknowledge that when it happened but it with COVID and everything it sort of got a bit lost. We do give thanks for their ministry and we are continuing to support the Bickertons in Melbourne with their uni ministry and the Blairs who are working with LOGOS. I asked them both to give us a brief update on what they are doing … and here it is:
It has been and will continue to be important as a church to resource and support those who are serving in mission like the Bickerton’s and Blair’s. But Jesus in our reading was quite clear that mission is something that we all are called to participate in through big or small ways. Jesus passes the baton onto us by saying that “We will be his witnesses …”
The Greek word used in Acts 1:8 for witness is “mar-toos” which means both a witness in a legal scene – as in someone who has seen something – but it also means someone who follows the example of. We will be Jesus’ witness by doing what Jesus did – but continuing his ministry of love and reconciliation
I am going to invite Marg Irwin up to share a little about something that she and Marg Williams have been / are doing as their contribution to the mission of God.
I love hearing the stories of how God has invited them to work alongside others in the mission. We are all called to be part of the mission. As a church I want us to be inspired by these stories and look for opportunities to be involved. As a lighthouse church we need to be constantly looking beyond ourselves to see where we can provide for other others. Having a heart for mission should shape our budgets and direct our programs and activities.
Bishop Schnase (who I quoted earlier) in his book asks a confronting question: “What have we done in the last six months to make a positive difference in the lives of others that we would not have done if it were not for our relationship to Christ?” I might ask the question … how is God calling on you to step out and share God’s love or to serve others. What does the high calling of God look like for you? Who and how and where is God calling you to be Jesus’ witness?
What I love about the Acts 1 reading is that Jesus doesn’t just dump this challenge on us and leaves. He also gives us a promise. He says to the disciples in Acts 1:4-5, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
As we are going to see next week in our Pentecost service – the Holy Spirit is one of the ways that God helps us to live faithfully to the high calling of God. The Holy Spirit empowers, guides, strengthens and gifts us to fulfil the call.
And that is a good springboard for Pentecost next week. Let us strive to always look beyond ourselves and with the Holy Spirit help, participate in God’s mission by sharing the love of Jesus in words and actions in whatever way God is calling you to do.