Posted on Sat, Jun 2, 2012
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for May 20, 2012
“The Mission of God”
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
May 20, 2012
I grew up in a church where statements like that were frequently made. I remember at the beginning of many a Sunday evening or a Revival service where the preacher would give people an opportunity to give a testimony, or to tell about what God was doing in their lives. I’m going to start just like that this morning. What is God doing in your life this morning? What mission has God called you to fulfill? Who would love to share with us what you think of Jesus?
Would you pray with me?
The lesson that we read from the Gospel of Mark today is part of what we know as farewell discourses. I suppose that might be rather obvious as, right before the very eyes of his disciples, Jesus ascends immediately after telling us exactly what the Missio Dei or the Mission of God really is all about. In all seriousness, I think that is a very kind approach on behalf of Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Humankind, to simply spell it out for us to follow. AND, beware, in the world of Jesus what seems so simple can rarely be taken for granted. Let’s dig a little further.
Many of you will remember those, in my humble opinion, horrible works of fiction that we know as the Left Behind series. Well, it is true that this is a left behind story, and it is also true that we are not left behind because of our own failure, or because we are so bad or that we have to get it right this time. We are left behind for a purpose. Dr. David Lose says, “Being left behind is an honor, an invitation to participate in the glory of God, a commissioning, in fact, into the work of Jesus the Son of God. I don’t know about you, but I feel honored to be call a son or a daughter of God. I feel deeply honored when someone refers to me as a Man of God or a Child of God. It’s an honor and a privilege to be bought with a price, raised high and lifted up, not as a step-child, not as one that somebody needs to fix or straighten out, but as a Child of God, a man or a woman of God. Can I get a witness? And it’s an honor for us to be lifted up to such high position knowing that not one single solitary soul is excluded from experiencing that same honor, too. Glory, hallelujah, it’s an honor that includes rather than in excludes and it is an honor that is bestowed on each and every one of us by a most high God, YHWH, the one and only God above whom there is no other at whose name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the glory of God. Amen?
Now, with honor and privilege, responsibility always comes. Now this is where we get to the actual Mission of God. Let’s break it down. First it says, “GO.” It does not say, “Sit comfortably and put your money in the offering and wait for the preacher to GO.” It does not say, “It’s time for you to retire because you have done your time and it’s time for someone new to step up to the plate.” And it does not even say, “Put a lot of money in that 10 for 10 campaign and pay the bill so everyone else can do the work.” Jesus says, GO, and he means it. Now I know I’ve gone from preaching to meddling and just look out because I’m not finished yet. It means go to UF and do campus ministry. It says show up when there’s some important rally or March downtown. It means GO see someone when they’re in the hospital. It says DO IT when someone on the nominating committee asks you to do something around here. It says GO take some food to the poor. It says GO stand up for some homeless kid on the street. GO means God, it does not mean to wait for your pastor or someone else to go. It means YOU GO! Glory to God.
Secondly, it says ALL. “Go into ALL the world.” Jesus is saying, “Don’t leave anybody out.” Don’t leave black people out, because they are my children, too. Don’t leave out other people of color, because I created them, too. Don’t leave out people who look bad or smell bad or talk bad, or dress bad, on live in the wrong part of town, or whatever we might use to otherwise disqualify them. My sisters and brothers, when Jesus says ALL he means ALL. Don’t leave anybody out, but rather, bring all of them to Jesus.
What is the mission of God? The Mission of God is to GO to ALL. And there’s one final piece. It says Baptize them. I like to shift that just a little bit and suggest that baptism here represents an initiation rite, and it’s important. It is important to follow the footsteps of Jesus in any and every way we feel called to do, and maybe for today it is just as important that we really honestly, with all of our hearts and in all of our practices, really include people. Let’s include them in worship, let’s include them in leadership, let’s include them in service, let’s appoint the called and committed to the office of Deacon. Let’s ordain some clergy from this congregation – I’m happy to help you get on the path toward that. Let’s send some folk out into the highways and byways to represent us and let’s prepare them well for that role. Let’s make our mantra three simple words, “Include, include, include.” And when we fail at it, let’s just use it as an opportunity to start over and include and include and include some more.
The Mission of God – what is it? The mission of God is to GO into ALL the world and INCLUDE every person we encounter, GO to ALL and INCLUDE in our experience of the kindom of God. Isn’t that wonderful?
What about you? How are you doing in your walk with God today? What little dark place in your heart do you need God’s attention this morning? How are you doing with service? How are you doing with inclusion? How are you doing with “the least of these?”
Leaving is always difficult. We’ve all been there in places where we’ve had to leave people and cities and things we loved behind. That’s where Jesus is this morning. He loves these disciples with all his heart. He has shared love and grace, sorrow and joy, difficulty and great pleasure with them for a long time, and still, it is time for him to go. Sometimes, being left behind is even more difficult, if not downright scary. I think that’s where we find ourselves this morning. Left behind, called to a purpose, and slightly frightened about how we will measure up and about whether we are actually capable of fulfilling this mission to which we are called. Guess what, YOU ARE ABLE and YOU ARE WORTHY. You are able and worthy of your own calling to the mission of God. Hear it, believe it and embrace it.
In closing, let me share with you this little poem by Jan Richardson, called, Blessing
In the leaving
in the letting go
let there be this
to hold onto
at the last:
the enduring of love
the persisting of hope
the remembering of joy
the offering of gratitude
the receiving of grace
the blessing of peace.
Love, hope, joy, gratitude grace and peace to you as you embrace your Mission from God. AMEN.
The Wisdom of Bishop John Shelby Spong
This is what the bible means by the title ‘Christ’: living, eternal, God-given power breaking into human life. Why am I convinced? Because I have seen people resurrected by love. I have watched beauty transcend ugliness, love overcome hatred, faith transform fear, life overcome death. This is Christpower, and it is not alien or foreign to our world.
Mark 16.15-20 (NRSV)
15And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.