Sunday 18th August, 2019
Theme: Imagining Hope Week #2
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: 1 John 4:7-12,19
Last Sunday we pondered at our values and how they played out in what we thought about, where we spent our time and where we invested our money. I mentioned it the weekly email that I found it a personally challenging sermon as I realised that I am so busy that there is so little room in my life for God to work. So, the challenge at the end of the sermon last week was very poignant for me… what do I need to say no to in my life in order to be able to say yes to God.
Today … we are going to explore the “yes” side of that statement. What is God inviting us to be part of? What is it that God is asking us to say yes to?
God is inviting us to be part of the Missio Dei – the Mission of God. It is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 9:37 when he said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Or in Great Commission of Matthew 28 when Jesus invites us to continue his work of going into all the world making disciples … helping people know and follow Jesus.
This is the main priority of our church and what we are talking about today. But the question is … how? What does the Mission of God look like here – at Turramurra, in our local community, in our own lives?
For those of us who are doing the Imagining Hope Bible studies, how are you finding them? I really enjoyed the Nooma video this week … and there was a line in it that really impacted me. For those who have not seen the video let me give you the context… In the video, Rob Bell is reflecting on a bloke he saw on a street corner whom he calls “Bullhorn Guy”.
This is a person who is stand there with a megaphone and telling people that they are all going to Hell and they need to repent and accept Jesus.
Rob was watching this man and noticing that no-one stopped, no-one took one of his pamphlets, no-one heard his message. In the video, he reflects, “Bullhorn guy … it just isn’t working”. But then Rob goes on and says that while we might be nodding our heads in agreement, we might also say that screaming at people about hell is not the way to share Jesus … Rob then asks us a simple question, “If that is not the way, then what is?”
That question really hit me when I watched it. If I think that preaching on a street corner is not our way of doing God’s mission, of sharing Jesus with a world that desperately needs a saviour … then what is our way? And what I am doing about it? At least bullhorn man was out there doing something … what I am doing?
This is a huge question and probably too much to look at in a 12 minute sermon … so I have limited myself to a few punchy points that I want to make on the topic.
Firstly … I think we need to realise that the mission of God is not just what happens inside the walls of our church. A number of years ago I found a couple of wonderful cartoons that say it better than I ever could…
Sometimes we fall into the trap that God is only at work within the church … or that the church is this building … but God is everywhere and is already at work … and all we need to do is to find where God is at work and join in. (Or using the analogy that Night Church explored the other week, we don’t have to produce the waves, God is already making waves, we just need to work out how best to ride them).
This is important for us when we are exploring our place in the mission dei to start with a bigger picture of God’s misison.
Which lead me to the second point … sometimes we also need to expand our definition of what God’s mission is. For many of us who grew up last century … if you asked us back then what God’s mission was – most people would have answered, “It is to preach the good news of forgiveness of sins that comes through the cross of Jesus”
In our bible study, the writer Carolyn suggested that the mission of God can be seen in five broad ways:
The Five Marks of Mission
Carolyn goes on to say that this is not a check list to apply to all mission activity but rather, they are ways in which mission is lived out. Carolyn goes on to say that different churches will have different emphases and different followers of Jesus will have different passions.
I have two good friends James and Gabrielle who are passionate about proclaiming the good news and intentionally make friends so that they can share Jesus. I have other friends Jonathan and Sue who live out their faith in practical ways to renew and protect the environment. My friend Judy is all about social justice … that is what makes her faith come alive. Even within this church we have different expressions of this. Our youth leaders serve on a Friday night so that they can build relationships and nurture faith in young people, whereas other people on a Friday night feed the homeless through The Dish as an act of their faith in Jesus.
All of those are legitimate ways of way of participating in the Mission of God. If standing on the corner screaming at people with a megaphone isn’t working … then maybe this list opens up a whole lot of other ways which might. And the beauty of this is that you can find an area in which you are passionate about to participate in God’s mission.
In the Imagining Hope bible studies for this week you can read Five stories from great historical figures from Charles Wesley to Mother Theresa to Desmond Tutu … on their understanding of God’s mission … all amazing and all different.
Are you starting to get the picture that the way that people connect and live out God’s mission in their lives differs from person to person?
That is why I really encourage you to do some personal reflecting of your own. How would you answer the question – “What is your understanding of God’s mission and how is that lived out in your life.”
Which leads me to my last point. If our definition of what God’s mission can be is so broad … does this sort of mean that anything goes when it comes to God’s mission? For example … I might enjoy watching TV, it is a passion of mine. I am good at it … therefore can I say that I understand that TV watching is part of God’s mission and I feel called to live out God’s mission by watching at least 6 hours of TV per day? How does this work?
One of my colleagues in ministry – Rev Geoff Stephenson – once told me a great analogy which fits really well in what we are talking about. Geoff in his spare time plays saxophone in a Jazz band and he was explaining to me to the beauty of Jazz.
The thing about Jazz music is that there is a huge breadth of Jazz styles but in every Jazz sound the fundamentals are the same. The beat, rhythm, the chord progression of a Jazz song is what is makes it Jazz. And if you get the fundamentals right, then the beauty of Jazz is that it allows a lot of room for improvisation on top of that. And Geoff did. As long he was in the right key, once he got into the rhythm and flow of the song, he would just let loose on the Sax and improvise … and it sounded awesome.
I think it is the same with God’s mission. There are some core fundamentals when it comes to God’s mission – mission is about participating in God’s purposes for the world, it is about sharing the good news of Jesus in our words or actions, it is about helping God establishing his Kingdom on earth … but I think I our bible reading for today made it even more simple … it is about love.
God mission is about sharing God’s love – as shown through Jesus – sharing that love with others. Love is the key of the song that we invited to joining in.
John says that God is love. That all that God thinks and does is driven by love. And God calls us to follow this example, to love God and to love one another … for God is love. We love because God first loved us! If love is the foundation of all we do then we know God because God is love.
Or in terms of Jazz… if God’s mission is a Jazz song, then God’s love is the key of the song, the example of Jesus is the rhythm and the chord progression. The way this love is expressed in the way that we do God’s mission is our improvisation.
This love can be expressed in telling people about Jesus, or caring for the environment, or advocating for social justice, or caring for those who are in need or whatever our passion leads us … as long as we have the foundation of God’s love right.
If we go back to my example of God’s mission as watching TV … that does not fit into the rhythm of sharing God’s love. Or if we go back to Bullhorn man – the problem was not the fact that he was telling people about Jesus or talking about sin … the problem was that he was not playing in the key of love … and the wrong key meant that it just didn’t work. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, if we play our part in God’s mission … but we don’t have love … it just comes across as a clanging gong or a clashing symbol. That’s what Bullhorn man’s problem was.
This morning we have been reminded that God is inviting us, that God is wanting us, to be part of God’s mission, to play our part in this amazing Jazz piece of sharing God’s love with the world.
So, let us get in tune with that love, let us feel the rhythm of God’s love in our hearts and in our souls, let us listen carefully to the chord progressions of God’s love as shown in the example of Jesus … and when that is resonating in our lives … let us pick up the instrument that we are passionate about … whether that is proclaiming the good news, or nurturing faith and discipleship; or responding to the human needs around us; or transforming unjust structures of society; or caring for and renewing the life of the earth; or whatever God is stirring within you … pick up that instrument and go for it. Experience the incredible, fulfilling, exciting experience of participating in God’s mission.
Now as we seamlessly shift into the third portion of our service … participation … I encourage you to reflect upon those two questions I asked earlier.
What is your understanding of God’s mission?
And how is that playing out in your life?
As we reflection upon that … we are also going to respond to God’s love shown to us in prayer, in song and in sharing communion together…