We're on a Mission from God audio (5MB)
Just like Jake and Elwood in the Blues Brother’s, we’re on a mission from God. Like theirs, ours is a holy mission. But our mission isn’t to raise money for an orphanage. Our mission is something a little more profound than that.
This morning we’re starting a new sermon series, looking at our mission at St. Thomas’. It’s an important summary of what we’re on about as a church. Guides us as we think about what’s important. Should shape all that we strive to do. When I started here, asked how does each ministry fit into this mission? Questions we should all be asking, how can we, how can I help carry out this mission. What part am I going to play in it?
So what is it? Who knows what our mission is? Who thinks they can remember it?
For those who can’t remember, it’s printed on your pew sheets:
Speak the Gospel
Teach the Bible
Build community that demonstrates God’s love.
For those who haven’t realized, it’s a handy acronym for our initials. St. Thomas’ Burwood!
Over the next three weeks we’re going to look at each of these in more detail. But this morning I want us to think about the mission itself. Where did it come from? Who is it for? How can we do it?
Where does this mission come from?
Like the missions in Mission Impossible, did it turn up on a self-destructing tape hidden in a pile of TMAs? Fun, as these options might be, no.
Came from a joint vestry meeting as St. Thomas’ was being birthed. Condensed version of number of sentiments that people where expressing, of what was important to us as a church. What we believed we should be on about.
But actually, the words might have come from the vestry, but the mission came from a much higher authority, if there is such a thing! No, our mission is from God. Not in exactly the words we’ve chosen to express it in, but nonetheless, it’s God who has given us this mission. We see that in the start of the passage from Matthew. Jesus starts his mission briefing by telling the disciples that he has all authority in heaven and earth. He’s the one in control. Because of this, we’re to go out.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19therefore go
And it’s not just that he’s given us this mission, this is his mission, and he calls us to join him in it. In the confirmation class last week we saw how God made the world perfect, blessed, but through our sin we’ve brought condemnation into the world. God’s plan is to restore, to bring back that blessed world. God’s on a rescue mission! The aim is to bring back people from the condemned world, into the blessed world. Or as Paul puts it in Colossians:
13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Only Jesus could rescue us, only Jesus could deliver us. It’s only through the Cross that God could rescue us. But part of the mission involves telling people this has happened. The mission isn’t clandestine, ultra-top-secret, I could tell you but I’d have to kill you, type stuff. No it’s to be proclaimed to everyone.
If we look back at the start of Matthew’s gospel, we see that immediately after his baptism, after the temptation in the dessert,
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus is very quick to enlist others in this mission, at least in this part of it. In Matthew 10, he gathers the disciples together and tells them to:
5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. (Matt. 10:5-8)
It’s clear that Jesus wants us to carry on his mission. In his final prayer for the disciples he asks the Father to be with us because:
18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)
Then when he appears to the disciples after his death and resurrection, John records him saying:
21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
Open your bibles back up to the end of Matthew. After his death and resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and he gives them this charge:
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus hands this mission on to us.
If the mission is from God, is for us, what is the mission?
The key verb in there is make disciples. That’s the key command. In a nutshell, that’s our mission. We do that as we go, we do that by teaching, baptizing, building people up. You could say that we do it by speaking the gospel. We’re to tell people the good news, that Jesus died for us, that he makes it possible for us to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness. We’re to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God has come near! We’re to call people to repent, to turn back to God. Baptism, is a sign of all this. To baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is to show that they’ve accepted the gospel for themselves. So they need to hear it.
But the mission doesn’t stop there. Because we are also to teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded. And how do we know what that is? How do we know how God wants us to live? We know it because God has told us! He’s revealed it in his word. So our mission is also to Teach the Bible.
And we’re to go to all the nations. This doesn’t mean that all of us have to get up and go. That only Missionaries are really fulfilling the mission. The word here is more, going. As you go. So we see in Acts that some, like Paul never stop moving. He gets home and then sets out on his next missionary journey. But others stay put. Some stay in Jerusalem, but they carry on the mission there! But they keep sharing the gospel, proclaiming the message where they are.
They too share the gospel with those around them. They carry on the mission. That means reaching across the dividing wall. They take the message to the Gentiles, to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. It’s just that some of them don’t have to leave home to do so!
The mission is to reach everyone. It’s to build a community that demonstrates God’s love, a community made up of all people, from all nations. It involves us deliberately moving outside our comfort zone in order to reach across the cultural and language barriers to care for our Christian brothers and sisters. That’s one of the great things that we do here at St. Thomas’. Our two, soon to be three language services. What we will be celebrating at the winter lunches. The community we seek to build, is God’s kingdom. Where we are joined together in Christ. Where we are one in Christ, as we heard in Ephesians. Where the dividing wall between us and God is broken, and so too is the dividing wall between us and each other.
Who is this mission for?
You might think this was just for the 11/12 disciples, the first apostles. We’re off the hook. But that’s not the case. Elsewhere Jesus gathered 72 followers and sent them out too. And in the second reading, which we had this morning, we see Jesus repeating it to all the disciples at the start of Acts.
The mission for all Christians, for everyone who follows after Jesus. It’s the mission for the whole church. There’s no choice in the matter, it’s for all of us. In the TV show, and the movies, Mission Impossible, the tape always starts with:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it.
It implies there’s a choice. He could choose if the mission was for him or not. Though of course he never said no. For us, there is no choice. This is what we must all do.
Good news is, God knows what we’re like. If we look back at that passage from the end of Matthew, we see that the disciples worshipped Jesus, but some of them also doubted. Probably all of them doubted in some measure. They were all probably wondering, could this really be Jesus? Is he really alive? Do you see what Jesus does though? He didn’t walk away from them. He didn’t go and look for some more super-disciples. He drew nearer to them. In their doubt he came closer. He didn’t say, go and get yourselves sorted out and then, when you’re ready you can take on this mission. God’s mission isn’t just for spiritual giants. It’s for everyone, for fishermen and tax-collectors who harboured some doubts. It’s for you and me.
Remember, Jesus has already told them that he has all authority and power. And, at the end of that passage, he tells us that he is with us always. He gives us comfort and strength. We’re not in this alone! He hasn’t just passed the mission over to us and is now relaxing somewhere. Did you notice that at the end of the passage in Matthew, that Jesus gives a final comfort to his disciples? He tells us that we’re not alone. He will be with us always, to the end of the age. We’re to go out to all the world, telling them all that Jesus has commanded, but he is with us all the days. Jesus is with us on the mission. He’s with us as we go.
How will you help fulfil the mission?
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at each of these aspects in more detail. But today, I want to think about what you can do to help fulfil it. How can you help to Speak the Gospel, Teach the Bible and Build community that demonstrates God’s love.
This is our mission at St. Thomas! We do this together!