God’s mission

“The Church is part of God’s mission and work
but by no means the entirety.”

This is the “Word” given today by Brother Kevin Hackett, SSJE. It stopped me (first) and then awakened me to affirm that God has no boundaries, no constraints, in proclaiming everywhere, at all times, through agents of all kinds, the magnificence and wonder of Divine Love at work in all of the created order. Read Brother Hackett’s Word for Today: Brother, Give Us A Word | Subscribe to a Daily Meditation from the SSJE Brothers.

Here is an Index of the “Words” spoken: Brother Give Us A Word Index

Where do you see God at work accomplishing the mission of transforming the created order with Divine Love? Your comments are invited and welcome.

Have you ever heard of EYE?

Would you like to hear a “good” story about the generation of (Episcopal) Christians now finding their voice and their gifts? Read on, here is an excerpt and a link to the larger story.

EYE: the Episcopal Youth Event is a triennial gathering of youth and adults from every Province of the Episcopal Church. EYE 2011 took place June 22-26 in St. Paul, MN. I have been able to attend and participate in 2 of these events and can tell you the energy and enthusiasm is life-changing.

For three solid days — from early morning to late night — 730 Episcopal youth, supported by more than 300 adult advisors and 50 bishops, were immersed in a comprehensive program designed to enrich and empower the next generation of leaders in the Episcopal Church. More than 50 workshops shared knowledge, stories and skills on subjects such as prayer and spirituality, effective Bible study, youth ministry and mission trip planning. Presenters included church leaders like Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton; the Rev. Angela Ifill, Episcopal Church black ministries officer; the Rev. Winfred Vergara, Episcopal Church Asian American ministries officer; and the Rev. Bob Honeychurch, Episcopal Church officer for congregational vitality.

Two daily plenary sessions presented keynote speakers that included Sutton, Rodger Nishioka of Columbia Theological Seminary, Episcopal missionary Cameron Graham Vivanco and the Rev. Luke Fodor, Episcopal Relief & Development’s network coordinator.

Fodor challenged the participants to “reframe the way we think about mission and our role in it,” suggesting it “is not possible for us to do mission” but that rather “mission is something that God does through us. God is the missional agent in this world.”

“My brothers and sisters, fear not. We all fall short of the glory of God, but God always works through us. Mission is not about us, but is about God and the others we meet when God is using us to build the Reign of God,” he said. “When we begin to think about mission in this way, mission becomes less and less about us. As we shed our baggage of fear, anxiety and the silent lies that suggest we don’t matter, then mission becomes more and more about God and our fellow humans.”

What was said to these young leaders is equally true for us: “reframe the way we think about mission and our role in it, for it is not possible for us to do mission, rather mission is something that God does though us. God is the missional agent in this world.” In the closing service of Holy Communion participants (young and old) heard an exhortation which is as true for us as it was for them.

Explaining that lay persons, like bishops, priests and deacons, are “the ministers of the church” (Book of Common Prayer, page 855), Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, invited participants to “jump into the waters of baptism.” [A video of Anderson’s address is available here.]

“We are the baptized. And the true claim of baptism, as our courageous ancestor JennieWylie Kellerman said, ‘is to wade in the water and be immersed in our Lord’s perverse ethic of vulnerability and gain through loss.'”

“He was not passive. Jesus troubled the waters. That’s our job if we are to follow Jesus. Our job is to upset any status quo that stands in the way of peace and justice, to question and do something about anything that stands in the way of a reconciled world,” said Anderson. “That’s why we are committed to mission. It’s our job to turn this world upside down; to turn over the tables; to look outside ourselves with fresh eyes and then help others see the kingdom of God.”

Read the ENS article: Episcopal youth enriched and empowered for mission

View and listen to Bonnie Anderson’s Address here

Reflect further – leave a comment

  • What do you think about God working through you to build the “Reign of God?” Are you ready? Do you need to be ready? Do you need to trust God for the grace to accomplish things through you?
  • In what ways do you “upset any status quo that stands in the way of peace and justice?
  • In what ways have you invited God (Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier) into your life so that you may, word and example, benefit others?
  • What aspect of the Baptismal Covenant do you find challenging? comforting? easy? difficult?

Start a conversation, keep a conversation going, leave a comment.

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.