Monday, March 3, 2014

Missio Dei - The Mission of God

Last Epiphany / Mission Sunday
Mar 2, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart



Over a year ago I had opportunity to hear about a young man who works here in Denver as an officer with a group called Hope International. It took us several tries to put our schedules together but we finally met each other last fall for coffee and to get acquainted.  Much to my surprise last week, in my email, I get a post from Oak who sends an article about a new book that has just been released - boy that guy on the cover looks familiar.  I looked back through my schedule and sure enough, its the guy I met for coffee last fall, who has co-authored a book called Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches.

The article about the book starts out with the line from HARVARD University's 1636 Mission Statement, that its students "be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ."  Likewise the YMCA began, not as a song, but as "a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets."

We must acknowledge our tendency as people and organizations to "drift" from the mission that God intends for us to pursue with all our "heart, soul, mind and strength." We are easily distracted and our hearts are "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it!  Prone to leave the God I love!"

So this morning, on Mission Sunday, this last Sunday of Epiphany, before we enter the season of Lent - of penitence and prayer, I had in mind that we would look at the original documents again and see if we can discern the Mission of God that is the "WHY" for our existence here this morning - for all that we do on Sunday and every day, at REZ and in the Body of Christ and in Christ's Kingdom here on earth.  WHY?

Why has God done all this?  Why are we gathered here today and what is our purpose as we go from this place, this time?

IN THE BEGINNING

Like Harvard University, the secrets of the Missio Dei, the MISSION OF GOD are found in the opening lines of the historical documents - The Bible.  "In the beginning, God..."
Sometimes when we give our offerings we say it another way:  "All things come of thee O God, and of thine own have we given thee."

Not much drift would be possible if we could but remember this anchor!  God is the originator, the "Author and the Finisher," in whom we simply "live, move and have our being."  God is our source and supply, not we ourselves.  Jesus pointed to the birds and the flowers in teaching this principle.  He ended his discourse with the warning, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Not the other way around!  Our first and greatest danger is drifting from this knowledge that God is our only creator and sustainer, as David reminds us often, even this morning:

And now, you kings, be wise; *
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Submit to the LORD with fear, *
and with trembling bow before him;
Lest he be angry and you perish; *
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are they all *
who take refuge in him!

Our understanding of the Missio Dei begins with our understanding of who God is and of our position in his creation, in His scheme of things.  The secret of understanding the Missio Dei is in keeping in mind whose it is - the DEI part.  It is the Mission OF GOD.   Once we have that securely fixed then we can shift our eyes from Him to the mission, but only then.

MISSIO

God's mission is our mission friends.  His mission is our reason for existence and especially, in light of His call.  That is where we see it most clearly, is in God's call to His people, from Abraham onward, and down to us this morning.  You are the agent of God's Mission.

It's roots are in the call of Abraham and the promise to God's people, that they will be "blessed to be a blessing."  In the call of Moses, to "set my people free."  In the call of David, from whose line would come "a redeemer."  Called the branch of Jesse, this promised One would save His people and sit on the throne of David forever.

Friends the MISSIO DEI, the mission of God, has always been in place and always been active, as God's plan moves forward from beginning to end.  The "why" of Jesus coming into the world is the why of our existence and meeting here this morning - the why of our mission in the world.

And here we are this morning, on the last Sunday of Epiphany, the season of light - of revelation - the revelation of the Son of God - God's One and Only Son - to the world.

Some of us went last night to see the movie Son of God that has come out on the big screen.  The movie focuses on the life and the mission of Jesus the man, from Galilee.  And we see in a very poignant scene, his picking up the scroll in the synagogue of his home town, Nazareth - turning to the passage of Isaiah 61 and reading the opening verses.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 
He was sent to proclaim good news, to proclaim liberty/freedom to captives, recovery of sight to blind men,  once again... liberty for those who are oppressed - to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!  Those are pretty specific mission goals, don't you think?
Jesus was asked later in his ministry, by John's disciples, before he was beheaded - likely while he was in prison - "are you the messiah or are we to look for another?"
Jesus answer to the question was a similar reply, hearkening back to this statement from Isa 61 and Luke 4 - his "job description".  Jesus points around him to the work that has been going forth and says, "Go tell John what you see and hear.  The blind are receiving their sight, the lame walk, the dead are raised!  And the poor are hearing the good news."
This friends, is the mission of God.  
And we have been given the privilege of Co-mission with Him!  Jesus was crystal clear that the job is not done yet. It remains for us to be engaged in the same mission as Jesus was.  He is specific that we are sent, in the same way He was sent!  We are the extension of His hands, of His feet, of His love for the world.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  We all know Jn 3:16 but how many know the verse after that?
"For the son of man came not into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved, through him."
Jesus was always facing this mission, pressing forward, praying, healing, teaching, all the way to the cross. Last night we were again clearly reminded that Jesus came with a single purpose in mind, and that purpose was not complete until he said "IT IS FINISHED" from the Cross and then three days later, rose victorious over death, hell and the grave.

It was in the 40 days after that that Jesus made clear to His followers that this was not the end but the beginning.  Time after time he reminded them of what he had said and done and finally gave them this charge - this GREAT Commission:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And not only did he give them the commission but He promised the equipping:

"... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

And the equipping came on Pentecost!  Like a mighty wind and tongues of fire, God swept them up into the Missio Dei - the mission of God and of God's people.

Today we stand in that place still - asking God to clothe us with power from on high - power for the mission that God has sent us on.  We ask Him to fulfill His mission through us, day by day as we move out of this place and into the world as his ambassadors.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Our mission, friends, here at REZ is to connect people to that reality!  To be willing, and available, and obedient to that reality - every day, in every place we go and everything we do.  If we are faithful to that, moment by moment and day by day, we will not have to worry about the kind of "drift" that we see around us in the world.  Rather with Paul we cry, "This one thing I do, I press on!"  We press on toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus - a calling to be His ambassadors - His hands and feet and mouth in the world.  And we know that this mission is not easy or pretty.  The cross reminds us of the cost of the Missio Dei, and calls us onward and upward.  And we fix our eyes on Him, Jesus.  And we say the amen!

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