May 7, 2017 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
Proclaimer: Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Sermon: Living God’s Mission
Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 49:5-7;
Matthew 25:31-35, 28:16-20; Acts 2:44-47
WHY are you busy being good and doing so much good in the world?
What is motivating you? Are you hoping to contribute to Utopia?
The original Utopia was a land where no one needed to lock their doors.
Goods and resources were stored in warehouses and people used only what they needed.
Everyone worked six hours a day and enjoyed free hospitals and medical care.
In Utopia, sun-worshipers, monotheists and ancestor-worshipers affirmed one another.
Utopia was characterized by qualities approximating perfection; but it was an imagined place.
Utopia was a word created by Sir Thomas More 500 years ago in his 1516 book entitled, Utopia.
Utopia combines two Greek words, (ou)-NO or NOT and (topos)-PLACE.
Utopia means, ‘NO PLACE’ or ‘NOT A PLACE.’
Utopia cannot exist because sin and righteousness dwell within each person.
Even Jesus did not create Utopia by eliminating all the problems in his nation or world.
So, what answer can you offer to those who inquire why you live as a servant in the world?
Here is my answer for you:
Because you are in a relationship with The Sending God, you are living missionally!
The word ‘Mission’ stems from the Latin word, ‘mitterre,’ and means, ‘send.’
We base several English words on ‘mitterre’ shortening the word to mit:
Emit – ‘send forth;’ Remit – ‘send back;’ Transmit – ‘send across;’
Permit – ‘send through;’ Demit – ‘send down;’ and Submit – ‘send under.’
The suffix, ‘al’ placed on a word expresses characteristics.
Vocal expresses the voice; ecological describes ecology; goal names where you go.
Missional describes a person whose life has the character of being sent.
Although ‘mission’ means send, the word has been stretched out of shape.
We use the word, ‘mission’ as ‘objective’ or ‘purpose’ and develop ‘mission statements.’
In recent history, ‘mission’ has often been the worldwide spread of modern western civilization.
Jesus said to his followers:
“As the Father sent me, so I send you,” and then he showed them his hands and his side.
You are sent to continue the ministry of Jesus by revealing God’s nature; it leaves marks.
You are living God’s mission. You are living missionally.
The ways you love God, one another and others matter!
You do not choose to be a servant people merely to follow the St. John’s Church Covenant.
You are sent by Jesus to be disciples of Jesus as you nurture disciples of Jesus.
The biblical record begins to tell us about the missional God, the sending God, in Genesis 12.
God calls Abram and sends him to be a blessing to all people groups on Earth.
Abram is sent to bless others by not being controlled by the familiar; he must let go and commit.
Abram is called to trust God by living on journey to a land that will be revealed in the future.
Over the centuries, Abraham’s descendants redefine God’s sending.
They focus on being blessed by God and fail to remember that they are to be a blessing.
Isaiah and other prophets remind them that they are to be a light to the world.
Jesus teaches his followers to be a light in the world; a metaphor for being a blessing.
Jesus sends his followers to rely on his authority and follow his example of being servants.
The early Church emerged on the stage of history understanding themselves to be sent by God.
So, today, we are renewing ourselves to be God’s missional people; God’s SENT PEOPLE.
We are living the Mission of God realizing that every person is Jesus in our midst.
We are deciding that Charlotte and a few other places will be different because God sends us.
St. John’s offers you more than forty pathways of living missionally locally and globally:
Some of you are living God’s mission by serving the hungry;
Some of you are living God’s mission by serving through education;
Some of you are living God’s mission by serving children and their families;
Some of you are being called and sent to serve those needing shelter;
Some of you are being called and sent to serve through peacebuilding;
Some of you are being called and sent to serve those needing health care;
Some of you are living God’s mission in two or more of these areas; and
Each of you is called and sent to strengthen how St. John’s builds community.
A couple of weeks ago, following a breakfast uptown, a woman asked if I was from St. John’s. Three years ago, her sister was being abused. Her sister and two children lived with her for a few months. Then, her sister and her children lived in one of our apartments. She is now employed and in a new relationship. But, this woman expressed her gratitude. Beloved, you were missional church to her sister and those children. Their lives are healthier because you are living God’s mission. You are not merely being good and doing good; you are sent by Jesus Christ to invest your lives in the transformational love of God.
Pat Engle brought to me a poem entitled, ‘My Church.’
My Church has but one temple, My Church has no creed to bar,
Wide as the world is wide, A single woman or man,
Set with a million stars, But says, “Come and worship,”
Where a million hearts abide. To everyone who can.
You realize that St. John’s is not the focus of God’s Good News.
St. John’s is sent into the world to be a living witness of God’s Good News.
We gather as part of Christ’s Church to scatter into the world because God is a sending God.
And, we are a sent people; a missional people; living the mission of God. Amen and AMEN!