Benediction Online

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

‘The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."’

I have a lot of sympathy for Legion. The amazing foreigner who came across the water and freed him from the trouble he’s been in most of his life is about to turn around and leave. Naturally, he wants to go too. But that isn't the ministry that God has in mind for him, it seems. Instead of heading out for some exciting adventure, the man is told to go home. “Go home and declare how much God has done for you.” His ministry is not going to be as one of  Jesus’ close disciples, but spreading the word of God’s abundant grace in his own town.

It seems that most of us fall into one of two camps; either we secretly hope that we won’t hear God calling us to do anything important because we don’t want our comfortable lives shaken up, or we hope that God will call us to something important and well-defined on her behalf. We imagine that maybe one day there will be a flash of lightening and a crash of thunder and we will hear God’s voice saying, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

According to the Prayer Book, the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ; and the Church carries out its mission through the ministry of its members. So our mission is already well-defined – to restore all people to unity with God and with each other. What that looks like is made very clear by the baptismal covenant we re-affirmed when Bishop Mary was here with us two weeks ago.

Ministry is how we translate mission into practice. Jesus told the man who had lived among the tombs that his ministry was to go home and declare how much God had done for him. Our ministries vary from each other, and they will change from time to time in our lives, but they will always include a declaration or a demonstration of God’s all-compassionate love. Ministries which are high profile are no more important than ministries which are behind the scenes. As far as God was concerned it was more important that Legion praised God and witnessed to what God had done for him than that he followed Jesus as a close disciple.

Each one of us has ministries which are important in bringing the reign of God on earth. Each one of us has more than one ministry, and all are important. There are seven areas in which we minister – not necessarily all at the same time – at home, at work, in the church, among our family, among our friends, in the community and in the wider world. It takes a great deal of volunteer effort to build and maintain a faith community, so we tend to recognize those who do a lot among us here at St Benedict’s and think that they are the ones who have an important ministry. They do, but church is not the only place where our ministries happen.

For the first few years that I was a member here, I had a difficult and complex job creating a new non-profit organization in San Luis Obispo. Although I longed to be part of the community of St. Ben’s, I had little time and energy to give. I needed the church to minister to me. And that is true for many of us today. We are juggling multiple ministries. We are called to declare and demonstrate God’s love to elderly parents and struggling children; to the neighbor across the street; to our friends on Facebook; to the church friend who we know is struggling; to those we serve at work – all at the same time as keeping up with the house and yard and paying our bills.

These are our ministries. Some of them are more obviously helping to forward God’s reign than others. It’s easier to see that we are doing God’s work when we are delivering meals on wheels, working in the Abundance Shop or serving at the altar than when we are cleaning the kitchen or watching the news. But our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ and we do this quietly and gently by infusing everything we do with the love of God, and surrounding our lives and the lives of those we know with prayer.

All around us people are living in chains among the tombs. We are in touch with the one whose love brings new life and hope. We are in touch with the one who comes with healing in his wings. Our ministry is to declare and demonstrate that love to all who need it which is, basically, everyone. It probably won’t be as dramatic as the demons coming out of Legion, entering the pigs and sending them plunging into the ocean. But healing happens. Each one of us here can tell some story of having been touched and healed by God’s love mediated through another human. We can each be that person, the one who brings God’s healing love.

Some of us have dramatic stories of God’s healing love entering our own lives, others have much less well-defined experiences, God has come to us quietly over time; God’s love has entered our lives at multiple points and we may not have identified it as God’s love even now. But I am quite sure that each one of us has experienced that gentle power and each one of us has the opportunity to share it with others. Even if I’m living alone and don’t see many people except in the supermarket, I can share God’s love by addressing the checker by name and for just those few moments of interaction seeing the Christ in her. If I spend much of my time watching television, I can still pray for the world situations I see and for the TV anchors and for the actors of my favorite soaps.

God does not call us to ministries that are beyond our abilities, and God does not necessarily call us to a ministry even though we have the ability to do it. It can be difficult to know what is ours to do when we live in a world of such need and such opportunity and when we are by our very nature finite and limited. So I encourage you to explore with God where your unique ministries are and how you can use those to declare and demonstrate God’s immeasurable love to those whose lives are closely linked with yours.

Let us take a few moments everyday to say “Today God, may I be where you would have me, doing what you would have me do, and with the words of love that you give me.” Amen.


Post a Comment

<< Home