Sunday, February 12, 2017

What it takes to be church - missionarl

Text of the Week: Fight the good fight of the faith, take hold of the eternal life, wo which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

The Gospels begin and end with a call to mission. No wonder it has been said that church exists for other people. So welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. As this year begins we are looking at what it takes to be church here at Highbury. We are called to be Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, Bible-based, Open to All, Worshipful and Prayerful. Today we look at the way we are called to be Missional. The Gospels begin with the call to mission Jesus shares in the synagogue in Nazareth. He drew inspiration from the last part of Isaiah: mission nvolved bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and letting the oppressed go free. A little further on Isaiah has a vision for a world where the youngest and the oldest are cared for, all have a home and somewhere to live, and enemies are reconciled. This is the mission we share. But it is not ‘our’ mission. It is not ‘the church’s mission. It is ‘God’s’ mission. And God is at work in his world to bring this mission about. Our task is to see where God is at work, come alongside and join in. The Gospels end with a call to mission as Jesus commissions his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” That too is the mission we share. And as we carry that mission out we are not alone for Jesus went on to say, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Welcome and Call to Worship
36 O God beyond all praising
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
In Praise – Psalm 98 – the Congregation

A Hy-Spirit Song

I’m not sure whether you can claim it’s the only organisation like it, but I am sure it’s true. The church exists for other people. I’ve been doing the reports for the Annual Meeting … and I’ve kept the deadline for next month’s Highbury News! We are now registered as a charity so that means our reports have to follow a set pattern.  In particular we have to demonstrate that what we do is of ‘public benefit’.

I’ve found that really helpful – because that’s the very nature of what it means to be church. We are here to make a difference. We are here to do good and to do good for people other than ourselves.

That’s what it is all about.

We’ve been looking at what it takes to be church here at Highbury. We are called to be Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, Rooted in the Bible, Inclusive and Open to All, Worshipful, Prayerful and today we are going to reflect on the way we are called to be missional.

We are called to be outward looking. We are called to make a difference to benefit people. If we don’t do that what’s the point?!

So, what does it mean to be missional.

It has been said that all good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

The story of Jesus is no exception.

If we want to find out what it means to be missional we need to look to the beginning, the middle and the end of the Gospel story of Jesus.

So, let’s begin at the beginning, a very good place to start.

It all starts in his own home town of Nazareth, in his own home synagogue where his custom was to gather together to sense the presence of God in the reading of the Scriptures, in prayer and in fellowship. And it begins with a place in the Bible that Jesus was so at home in, in the Prophet Isaiah and in chapter 61.

It’s as if Jesus uses these words as the basis for all that he is going to do. This is what it is all about.

Luke 4:16-21

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up,
he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.

He stood up to read, 
and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 

Then he began to say to them,

‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Good News to the Poor
Release to the captives
Recovery of sight to the blind
Freedom for the oppressed
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

This is what the people have been waiting for: this is it! It’s all going to happen now.

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the words of grace that came from his mouth.

But, as they settled down to hear what this Rabbi who spoke with authority was going to say their amazement quickly turned to rage.

They knew exactly who the poor were who needed Good News, they knew just who the captives were who needed release, they knew exactly who was blind and who needed to see, they knew exactly who the oppressed were, they knew exactly who needed to hear the proclaimation that this was a year of jubilee, the year when wrongs were righted, debts were cleared and everyone could begin all over again.

As far as those who were listening to jesus were concerned it was US, OUR poor, OUR captives, OUR blind, OUR oppressed – it was US who needed to hear that this was the year when everyone could begin all over again.

What Jesus said next came as something of a surprise. More than that, it shocked them to the core. It turned them from amazement at his words of grace to such rage that they got up, drove him out of the town and led him to the bnrow of the hill on which the town was built so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

But Jesus stood his ground. He knew exactly what he was about. He passed through the midst of them and went on his way. And his mission began.

Down from the mountains and Nazareth to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum and on into the towns and villages of the Galilee – he taught as one who had remarkable authority – Love God, love your neighbour, love your enemy too. He brought healing to people suffering in body and in mind.

And his mission had no bounds: it was for everyone: Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, women and men.

This was what it was all about.

And Jesus did not go it alone.  First it was the twelve he commissioned to share in the task, then it was the 72, then it was all his followers … and it’s been a call to every generation, and to us as well.

We shouldn’t be surprised if such a mission meets with rage as well as amazement.

We are called to side with the poor and the most vulnerable. Practical help as far as we are able.

Practical things – maybe we each can think of someone, some need that is great that we can do something about this week. Maybe in the context we find ourselves in.

What about rough sleepers, homelessness – massively on the increase - practical support in a co-ordinated way – I am drawn to respond with any request forfood, with support to the food bank, with support to the charities working with them – CCP we know, P3 as well in our town.

But the way things are organised too – we have to address. Very difficult, very hard: could there not be a willingness to accept an increase in tax to help meet the social care needs.

And what about children in need? Social care needs of our local authorities. But then an emergency response to the refugee crisis and in particular the promise tha was made to bring 3000 lone children as refugees – now reduced to 350. That’s something we cannot stand by and simply let happen.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry there in Nazareth in the Synagogue in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah quickly led on to the central part of his mssion.

It was all about the Kingdom, the Kingdom of  God, the Kingdom of heaven. And it’s right there in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

What’s the kingdom like? It’s right there in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Two phrases that say the same thing.

God’s kingdom is where God’s will is done, God’s will for good, God’s will for love, God’s will for mercy, God’s will for justice. Read through the teaching of
Jesus, listen again to the stories he told, the parables he shared. This is what it’s all about.

The shape of the kingdom is spelled out in those last chapters of Isaiah. There’s a wonderful vision in Isaiah 65 of new heavens and a new earth.

Isaiah 65:18-

What’s this new heaven and new earth like – this is God’s will for good, for peace, for love, for justice

Distress is relieved
Infants are cared for
Elderly people are loved and given dignity
People have a home to live in and work to do
And reconciliation takes the place of division and hatred.

This is God’s way, this is God’s will – on earth as it is in heaven.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …

But those are principles we share with many people – people of different faiths, people of no faith.

There was one occasion towards the middle of Jesus’s ministry when one of Jesus’s closest friends, john, was deeply concerned. He and the other disciples had noticed someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus who was not one of them, not one of jesus’s followers. Do not stop him, said jesus, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Maybe there’s a reminder that it is God’s mission we are called to be involved in, not our mission. And God is at work in the world to alleviate distress, to care for children, to care for elderly people, to provide a home, to provide work to bring enemies together. And we should find common cause and join in with the work we see God already doing.

It’s God’s mission we are involved in and it is good to share.

It is appropriate to share with all who share those concerns.

This is God’s mission and we are all part of it. So we find common cause not just in work done by specifically Christian organisations but we join forces with people of all faiths and no faith In the work of the kingdom. And in doing that we are not doing God’s mission but sharing in the mission God is already doing.

Where can we be involved, what can we support, what can we do n the week that lies ahead.

328 Lord for the years

There is one more element to this work of mission.

It’s there right at the very beginning … and it’s even more plain right at the very end.

For that we need to turn to the last part of the Jesus story.

At the very beginning Jesus knows that to follow him involves changing the way you think, the way you live, the way you are … and that comes through commitment.

Mark 1:15

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; 
repent, and believe in the good news.’ 

That word ‘repent’ is the key and it means so much more than saying sorry. Some say it means turning things around, making a whole new start. Yes … but the word itself is even more interesting

Have a whole new way of thinking – about yourself, about the world, about life itself.

And believe in the Good News.

So that makes the mission of the Church a mission that involves offering people a whole new way of thinking about themselves, about the world and about life itself.

What you believe in counts – and the thing to believe in is this very Good News of the way life itself can be transformed and turned around.

The very end of Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 28:19-20.

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

This is adding something more into the equation, another dimension to the mission we are called to be part in church.

Our task is ‘to make disciples of all nations’.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus makes a difference in people’s lives. It actually makes a difference to people.

Some people say that what counts is having some kind of faith.

I don’t go along with that. I have respect for people of other faiths. I want to honour the great faiths of the world.

But at the same time I believe there is something unique about Jesus that transforms us deep within – he draws us to God in the most intimate of ways so that we can know God to be the God who is love, the God who is ‘our Father’. Jesus does map out a very particular way of life that has within it its own fulfilment – it makes for healing and wholeness, for transformation, renewal and change. And then comes the clinching thing – there’s a  strength from beyond ourselves that we can draw on that makes all the difference

In those final words of Jesus there is one more thing that’a all important – a promise he gives for us all to take to heart. I will be with you to the end of the age.

How can we make such a promise a reality?

As I write these words as these notes come towards an end I find myself on my knees. Literally on my knees. I had a meeting to go to on Friday and caught an early train home. It was packed. I didn;’t have a reserved seat. I got to thhiw wie3 or BIRMINGHMAM typing these notes when someone claimed the seaqt I was in.

I stood for a while and then thought I could just finish these notes off on the floor. As I was got to my knees the guy opposige said, say one for me.  I was quick to explain who I was and what is was doing and asketd for his name. It was Peter and his fellow traveller was Christine.

How appropriate.

We cannot reqach today and the call to be a missional church without being a praying church. And that’s what we are going to do next.

After our hymn we are going to share prayers that are on our prayer stations. I have checked. Not the ones that are too personal – but others. As I do in those times of prayer at the Minster that ;happen at 12-30 each day.           

Reading: 2 Timothy 1:3-10

521 Tell all the world of Jesus
Prayers of Concern 0 using prayer requewts

520 You servants of God
A time to share and Prayer
A  Hy-Spirit Song
Words of Blessing

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