Mission to Seafarers

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Though Sea Sunday (July 10, 2016) has passed it is always the right time to reflect on the work others (like seafarers) do for the common good. Want to get an idea of how dependent we are on the sea, ships, and seafarers? Start with this article from Vox.com: This is an incredible visualization of the world’s shipping routes. The article features an interactive map that helps you visualize the extent of shipping traffic.

As a church we seek to minister to those who labor on ships and in ports throughout the world (including our own Port of San Diego). Here is more about the Mission to Seafarers (MtS):

Let’s talk about being called and having a calling

Professor Hanvik on “called” and “calling”

In the middle of yesterday’s (8/5/12) conversation about being called (to know Christ, to be holy as our God is holy) and calling (to be a wife, a husband, a father, a mother, a member of the choir, a member of the Altar Guild, an intercessor in prayer, a team member working in the food distribution ministry, a neighbor, a co-worker, a teacher and you get the idea) I read this from Professor Hanvik in his commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16

Quote . . .Paul pairs the words “called” and “callings” in two different places in the passage (4:1 and 4:4). The reader is reminded of the relationship between our being called by God and the subsequent assignment of a calling in the world. The language of calling links the church with the election of Israel. God has chosen for himself (1:4) a people and this election depends firmly on God’s decision. It is done “before the foundation of the world” (1:4) and it relies solely on God’s gracious initiative (2:8). And the result of being called is that the faithful now have callings where they lead lives marked by humility, love and patience (4:2).

It is easy to get confused about the dual nature of a call. It is worth underlining that being called and having a calling must be distinguished but never separated. Our relationship with God simultaneously involves a relationship with neighbor or community. And these callings are multiple as it is impossible for a Christian to not be in some type of calling at all times of life.

Just as God is active in every nook and cranny of creation so God uses his people to make sure people are fed, clothed, comforted, educated, protected, etc. Proclaimers would be wise to remind listeners that a calling should not be pared down to a job or occupation. This would mean wide stretches of human experience would be outside of God’s providence. God calls us not only to work but to friendship, family life, citizenship, etc. —WorkingPreacher.com for August 5, 2012

It was a terrific conversation. Thank you. I learned a lot. Please continue the conversation here using the Comment section which follows the post. Bless you, dear reader, bless you as you bless others by exercising the ministries to which you have been called.

…so I have sent YOU into the world

On Sunday, May 20th, we heard, “[Father] as you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” The speaker in each instance, of course, is Jesus. He is speaking to those who gather around him—in every age—to hear what he is saying. He is speaking to us. Today, WE are the ones sent into the world.

We prayed for each other and for all who listen for the Spirit this past Sunday: “We pray for the gifts of ministry.” Today I offer another prayer: A Litany of Women for the Church by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun living in Pennsylvania.

How are you responding to the Spirit as you go into the world as one sent by Jesus? How do you choose your way forward as one who is sent? I invite you to continue the conversation in the Comments section that follows.

The kingdom of heaven is like

On Sunday, July 24, 2011 Brian got us all thinking about the parables of Jesus in his sermon. We were invited to consider Jesus’ words more deeply, including the fact that his images may not be as neutral as one would think (or as you have been led to believe). While we wait for the podcast and posting of his sermon, here is another preacher, a Lutheran, raising the same issues for us in her own words:

… Today we heard Jesus say that The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that when it has grown becomes the greatest of all shrubs. Um, the greatest of all shrubs?  What kind of off-brand kingdom is this?   It’s like saying someone is the smartest of all the idiots or the mightiest of all baby dolls. Yet he says Heaven’s kingdom is like Shrubs, and nets and yeast  – and the yeast part might be the worst when you realize that yeast is considered impure – we’re not talking little packets of Flieshman’s we find at King Soopers – we’re talking big lumps of mold which contaminate….and that in fact, Jews were required to  rid their entire house of yeast before celebrating some Holy Days.

We mistakenly may think that the kingdom of God should follow our value system and also be powerful or impressive and shiny. But that’s not what Jesus brings.  He brings a kingdom ruled by the crucified one – populated by the unclean, and suffused with mercy rather than power. And it’s always found in the unexpected.… Read the whole sermon

Share your thoughts about Brian’s sermon  and Nadia’s sermon and the words of Jesus in Matthew 13. Keep the conversation going, leave a comment; two fine preachers have set us to thinking about the kingdom…

Surrendering to Rest

When I was growing up, I hated going to sleep. To me, there was just too much fun to be had and too many books to read. Why would I want to go to sleep and miss out on all of it? But, like most kids, I would eventually tire out, and when I did, I would be very clear with my mother. “I’m not sleeping,” I would insist. “I just need to rest my eyes for a minute.” The “minute” would, of course, generally turn into an afternoon or, I’m sure my parents hoped, an entire night. I wouldn’t mind it much, though, because I was resting, not sleeping. Resting came as a result of a full day, and it required surrender on my part. I had to admit that, loath as I was to go to sleep, I genuinely needed to rest if I wanted to have the energy to continue doing whatever I was doing.

There was, and still is, something about sleep that seems so permanent to me. Even now, I don’t like going to sleep, because I worry about whatever opportunities I’ll miss while sleeping. Rest, however, seems totally different. To me, rest implies, “I’ve been working hard. There’s still work to do. I’m gonna shut my eyes for about twenty minutes (or seven hours!), then I’m going to jump up and get back in the game.”

So when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, I feel like He’s speaking my language. Or, hopefully, I’m speaking His. He says,

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (NRSV, emphasis mine.)

In this context, “rest” isn’t just physical, and it isn’t just spiritual. There are several different levels to the meaning. Pastor Elisabeth Johnson writes,

To all those laboring under harsh religious and political systems, Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest.” Rest (anapausis) in the Septuagint can refer to Sabbath rest, the rest of death, or rest from war when Israel’s enemies have been subdued. Rest also functions as an image of salvation, of what will be when the world is finally ordered according to God’s purposes and enjoys its full and complete Sabbath. In promising “rest,” Jesus promises life under God’s reign in the new world that he is bringing into being. (Elisabeth Johnson, http://www.workingpreacher.org.)

Jesus understands what we often miss–that we need rest. And not just any rest; His rest. As “good Christians,” we often find ourselves whizzing about from volunteering to teaching Sunday School to baking cookies for the coffee hour to picking up the kids from school to making spaghetti for the youth group on Wednesday to barely remembering to read the text for Saturday’s Bible study and so on and so on and so on. We precariously balance church, work, family, and friendships, giving and giving until we feel there’s nothing left to give. We silently carry feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and the need to control every aspect of our lives so that there will be no surprises. We are “Marthas,” knowing all the while that we would probably be happier if we were “Marys.” We behave as I did when I was a child, unable to sit, unable to be at peace, unable to truly be at rest.

In the 1996 movie One Fine Day, Michelle Pfeiffer exemplifies this behavior as she portrays a single mom who is beyond stressed as she attempts to balance her commitments to her job and to her son. When asked why she won’t accept help from anyone, she replies,

“I’ve got all of these little balls up in the air. And if someone else caught one for me, I’d drop them all.”

We all have tons of “little balls” up in the air–obligations with which we’ve filled our lives, often in an attempt to do good. The beautiful news is this: not only is Jesus willing to catch the balls we’ve been juggling; He’s also willing to catch us. To take from us the heavy, overwhelming yoke of the world (and sometimes even of the church), and to give us His yoke–one of joy, laughter, hope, peace…and rest. Much like physical rest, spiritual rest requires our surrender. It requires an understanding that, “I’ve been working hard. There’s still work to do. But I know that, when I need to, I can retreat and take a break for a minute–without shame, guilt, or reservations–because Jesus said that He will give me rest.”

My hope is that we will come to trust that our Savior, who loves us all so completely and profoundly, is big enough to care for us at every point in our lives–whether at work or at rest.

Thinkin’ Questions

What are some other ways of interpreting Jesus’ meaning of “rest”?

Do you feel that you have a tendency to overcommit yourself, or do you strike a pretty good balance?

What are some ways that we could all practice “resting” in Jesus?

Are a restful spirit and a hectic schedule mutually exclusive?

Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me

Jesus said “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40

This verse is important because it explains the nature of the apostolic office on the legal principle governing a Jewish emissary: “A man’s agent is like himself.” It deepens the religious basis of the apostolate by deriving it ultimately from God himself in a cascading succession mediated by Jesus, who is himself the apostle of the Father.  New Jerome Biblical Commentary (NJBC)

In the Outline of the Faith in our Book of Common Prayer we tell the world and each other what we believe about ministry and ministers (and you will find the basis of these expressions in the scriptures we use, like the verses in the Gospel this Sunday):

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church

The Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 855

In the light of our Gospel reading today and what we say about ourselves:

  • • The mission of the church is presented in terms of relationship, not dogma; as a church we are to restore “all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
  • • This mission is pursued as a community, not as independent contractors;
  • • However, since the Church is composed of various individuals, “all its members” are responsible for ministry so that the Church can carry out its mission (of building and restoring relationships);
  • • Lay persons (by far the majority of members in the Church) are ministers (in fact, lay persons are the first-named ministers);
  • • “The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ….” Here, a further commentary on Matthew 10:40 may be quite instructive

Expanding on the notion that we are “to represent Christ,” (whether a lay person or ordained) each of us is not just an ambassador, but “like [Jesus] himself.”

“Whoever welcomes you,” Jesus said, “welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Mt. 10:40). The disciple, wherever she or he might be, actually “embodies” Jesus as a Kingdom-bearer.

Jesus was big on the concept of “agentry.” That is, he believed strongly that the disciple who went out in his name was not just a “representative,” but, in fact, an extension of his own being and authority. In other words, when the world encountered a disciple of Jesus, they were encountering Jesus himself.

To borrow from the well-known passage—and to amend it slightly—we, the agents of Christ, are “the way, the truth, and the life” to the world. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health … until death do us part. Jesus is judged through us, by how the faith flowers or fades in us.
“Postscript” in Synthesis, June 29, 2008

This raises some intriguing questions for us. Assuming that the statement about embodying Jesus wherever we might be is a true statement (and biblically sound), and accepting that we are ministers restoring all people to unity with God and each other:

  • What gifts of Christ do you “embody” as you minister? (Remember: lay persons “bear witness to [Christ] wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them,”)
  • Do you “feel” like “an extension of [Christ’s] own being and authority”?
  • How are you working to be a better “extension” of Christ’s being and authority?
  • When “the world” encounters you what do they learn about Jesus (since you “embody” and have been given the authority of Jesus as you go into the world)?

It is humbling to understand that we have been invited by God “maker of all that is, seen and unseen” to know Jesus Christ. It is exciting to understand that we have accepted this invitation. It is humbling to understand that Jesus, the Son of God, has chosen us and sent us out. It is a challenge to our creativity and discipline to live up to and into this ministry. It is necessary to come together often to confess that we have not lived up to our end of the covenant, ask forgiveness, receive forgiveness and be fed to go back into the world to be the disciple that Christ knows us to be.

Believe that God has indeed “gifted” you for this ministry.

Believe that God has “graced” you in ways known and yet to be discovered so that you may “embody” him (God’s love, the Good News) in the 21st century places you live and work and play in.

Believe that you make a difference as God’s beloved child.

A Message from the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church issued the following letter at the conclusion of its three-day meeting at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).

A Message to The Episcopal Church

from the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church,

meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, June 14-17, 2011

these widowed boats,
the men who loved them
gone to their graves.

By M. Kei (an award-winning poet who lives on Chesapeake Bay)

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Models, paintings and photographs of “widowed boats” line the halls of the Maritime Institute, some showing vessels caught in mid-explosion, others detailed in all their newly launched beauty and power. Scripture often uses the sea as a symbol of danger and chaos, and the boat or ship as a symbol of the safe place God creates for God’s people–a symbol for the church.

For the last three days the Executive Council has met among these powerful symbols to talk of hard financial issues and church decline and growth, to address elephants in the room, and to speak truth to one another in love.

The Presiding Bishop began her opening address by saying she was seeing a “significant rise in readiness for mission . . . for connection to needs beyond the local congregation.” The President of the House of Deputies spoke of the need for courageous change and called for a structure that “supports mission and ministry at the most appropriate level – congregation, diocese, province or church center.”

These have been reoccurring themes in the addresses of the Executive Council’s chair and vice chair this triennium as they have repeatedly urged the Council to be creative risk takers in addressing the challenges facing The Episcopal Church.

Read the entire Message: NewsLine.

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A question for youForum participants: do you know any of the elements of our St. Margaret’s Mission Statement? Would the Presiding Bishop see a “significant rise in readiness for mission…[and] connection to needs beyond [St. Margaret’s]” in you? in our congregation? These are questions for personal consideration as well as communal (Forum) consideration.

Begin the conversation now, leave a comment here.