Who are we trying to serve?
What do we know about them?
What difference do we want to make for them?
November 5th, 2017, St. Augustine’s Anglican Church
Rev. Jonathan Crane
I really struggled whether this third mission sermon should land on All Saints day or not.
I am someone who thinks that when we have such a grand day to celebrate, we let it stand on its own.
But, on the other hand, is there any better day to talk about our mission than in the context of the thousands and millions who have gone before us and who presently cheer us on in faith through eternity? I mean not only the canonized saints who we think of – Francis, Teresa, Paul, but also all those known only to God through the quietness of their faith.
I have in mind always on All Saints day chapter 11 of the letter to the Hebrews.
The momentum builds all through that chapter
Repeating astonishingly how
By faith Abraham did
By faith Moses did
By faith Rahab did
By Faith Gideon did
By Faith, By faith, By faith
Until the focus is turned on the reader
Chapter 12 in Hebrews follows this repeating of faith by announcing a great “Therefore”
-you: throw off all that hinders
-you: follow in the way of Christ
-you: remember that you are a child of God
What better place to be remembering mission
Than with those Saints in light cheering us on to walk in freedom and Christlikeness.
Our sense of mission affects us every day, both as individuals, and as a church community.
And in this post-christendom world, a clear mission is so necessary for a church.
My goal in these sermons is not to give you answers, but to engage your creative and prayerful thought
And I want to hear some real discernment when we sit down together two Saturdays away on the 18th
I want to know how you think about our purpose and place – these three sermons are merely priming the pump
Today we reflect on mission
And I really like how Peter Drucker frames the question for us
-3 weeks ago we asked who we as a church serve, who our customer is (if you will), and you have some thoughts on that
-Two weeks ago we asked what they value, and we considered how we learn through asking and noticing. Perhaps you have made some observations.
-Well, this third question follows naturally to what inspires you in your quest.
>What is the difference you want to make for these people? For the world?
>what is the difference you seek to make?
This is such a great question because it gets to the heart of our passions and commitments. Mission gets to the very soul of why we exist and act.
I see passion in this church every day. Sometimes it is expressed quietly, in a look or expression, Sometimes in unspoken action, sometimes in persistence, sometimes in loving commitment, or in a heartfelt appeal. I see it in how you spend your time, and your resources for a particular work.
Mission is tied to passion
So what is the difference you want to make for people
What is the difference you want this church to make for people
But I’ll bet you feel the answers
And there is some response that wells up inside you.
I’ll tell you my story
I am passionate about seeing people move deeper into life with Christ.
I get so dismayed when people lose sight of Jesus for what seems to me bad teaching
-A word translation in the bible
-some bad image of God that was given to them
-or some teaching that was too glib, too cheap, too disconnected from our real experience of doubt and struggle
And while I don’t always get there I know, I hope my preaching and life give evidence to God’s love present in the ‘really’ real things in our life. I want faith to be real, I don’t want facades, I want to encourage honesty and grace in all things.
In a similar way I am interested in seeing our Christian theology put into action. I want to see the Incarnation expressed in how we exist in this particular neighborhood. I want to see the Trinity evident in the diversity of this small church community, I want to see the theology of God as Creator reclaimed and taken seriously to mean that all things are sacred, and that the non-human world is not merely an add-on, but the very womb by which we were born and through which we are sustained. I don’t want theology to be simply recited as dogma or talked about as if only for scholars, I want the whole thing bound together and integrated as one single thing which is the love of God in all things. And by all, I mean all.
And you have been hearing recently that I am also passionate about how church needs to be in this new age.
I think a lot, a lot, about how we hold onto the beauty of good traditions, delve back for things we forgot entirely, and embrace the new things that bring light, life, and joy in the midst of transition.
This thing about Christendom being over will mark my career as a priest, and I am ok with that. I view my work as a small part of a much larger story, and am conscious that I might never see the fullness of what I am hoping for. Many of the great theological and missional moves in the church took well over a century, so I feel my job/our job is to follow the Spirit and follow fearlessly the way we need to go.
In the church local and global some days I feel we are making great strides, some days it feels more like stumbling and all of us heading in different directions.
A short sketch then of the things that animate me, that catch my attention, that inspire what I do.
I love every moment when I get to hear your passions, and when they are shared in community. For me it is a chance to hear exactly what it is God is doing among us – not them over there – but us. God at work here, in these ways.
Passion changes us and moves us.
And so, how is it that we are moving together as a church? What is our common mission?
What are our abilities, circumstances, and opportunities that define the form of our mission practically?
How do our passions sum together and blend together into a great dance that makes real change?
I like these questions a lot. We will need to come to them over and over and let them lead us into action.
But there is a part of the story that we have not yet mentioned,
And it is the biggest one
And it is why we talk about mission on All Saints day.
What we really need to wrestle with
What we really need to name
It is this:
God’s mission to us
There is no way around it
We are here
As a Christian church
Because we feel, and hopefully know
That God has sought us out for love’s sake
It is the revelation of Christmas
That in such frailty – God came to us
It is the creation mystery of the Big Bang – that energy was given, or created, and we are still expanding
It is the touch of Jesus to the woman bent over
It is the raising of Jairus daughter
It is the healing of the centurian’s ear
It is reading all of the Bible,
With all the questions and inferences that our modern minds wrestle with
But nevertheless, hearing the voice of God that comes to us in our limitations
And nevertheless, encountering the reality of God through the love of others
And nevertheless, hearing the news that God’s love is stronger than death
The great theologies can be summed up by merely trying to put words around what God has first given to us. How do we talk about it? What we are to do with a God who comes to us and seems to have given himself to death somehow that we might live resurrected.
Perhaps the test of a saint is how well they have received. How deeply they acknowledge that God has given so much.
As we wrestle with the words and thoughts of a renewed mission of this congregation
May we too with the Saints, named and unnamed, known and unknown
May we with them live in such a way that our every action be an act of gratitude and thanksgiving before our God.
May it be so.