The message for Sunday, July 19, 2015 was based on: II Samuel 7:1-14a, Ephesians 2:11-22 and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. The title in the bulletin was “Fulfilling Christ’s Mission.” Below is the script I followed mostly.
This week as I pondered the term mission, I couldn’t help but remember how my mother sometimes poked fun of my father when we still lived on the farm. I can remember many times she would be standing in the living room at the picture window watching him stride across the farmyard, and she would comment that he must be on a mission again. It seems that when he was after something, and we always were glad that it wasn’t us or something we had done, when he was after something, he could go from the house to the barn in less than seven steps.
I realize now that the yard is a little shorter than it seemed when I was a child, but those seven steps were still a bit of an accomplishment. I can relate to being able to move a bit faster and more intently when I am on a mission, too, and I suspect my family makes fun of me about the same way my mother did of my father when I get into one of those moods. But it seems to be true that we often accomplish more when we have a real purpose.
Without a purpose, without a set task, without a mission, days sort of fade from one to another. Summer vacation always did that for me. Lately I have tried to put together some plans, set up some tasks that need to be accomplished to give myself a better focus. Fortunately or some days unfortunately the garden seems to be a focus. Weeding and watering are definitely tasks that keep me busy. I would actually be a little more interested in doing some picking, but with the radishes gone there isn’t much ready yet other than a few peas and lettuce. But, without a place to be and a time to be there and a task to perform, life at least for me seems to string out without a purpose, without a mission.
King David at the point we pick up the narrative in II Samuel is at such a time in his life. He has conquered the enemy, he has built up the country, he has restored the Ark of the Covenant and brought God back to the center of the lives of the people and he is looking around for something important to do. He is looking for a new mission, something to give his life purpose. So he decides that he is going to build a temple a great tabernacle for God, and he tells the prophet Nathan about his plans. At first Nathan agrees. He thinks it is a good idea until he hears the words of God that it is not David’s mission to build the temple.
Instead God turned it around and said, he will build a house from David. According to the commentator, Kathryn Matthews (Huey), it is almost like God has this strange sense of humor. Her words were: “We make plans and God laughs.” When David told the prophet about how he wanted to build a great temple for God, he was shot down and told that God would build up a house, a great family from his descendants and from his family the throne would go on forever.
At first we might read this to mean that the crown will never leave their family, but God’s real meaning is that Jesus the spiritual Prince of Peace will come from this line and that is how the lineage goes on forever. God, though, doesn’t totally turn down David’s idea about building a temple. Instead God says that it will be a task, a mission for David’s son. David’s mission was to restore the kingdom and to establish the family through which Christ will come to earth. It will be one of his sons who will build the temple.
As we move to the Epistle lesson we read about how David’s descendant, Jesus, comes to establish the kingdom for all people. In the scripture passage from Ephesians, Paul is trying to explain the Gentiles’ inclusion into the Grace of God. Prior to the time of Christ the people of Israel have an exclusive right to the love of God. Paul speaks of the physical mark of circumcision, but seems to consider it to be more of an inner marking by God. Before Jesus came to earth, the Jews were supposed to be careful to keep themselves apart from the Gentiles, from those who were not of their people. God had commanded the Israelites many times not to marry into or allow their children to marry the foreigners. This commandment was given in order to keep the people from worshiping idols or other Gods, but as we read over and over, it was not a commandment they always followed.
Paul is writing to say that when Christ came to earth to suffer and die and rise from the dead, it was for everyone. No longer can the Israelites say that Yahweh is only their God. No longer must they wipe the dust from their feet when they return from the land of the Gentiles. No, Paul tells us that we are all one. The spirit of God comes to all, not only the Jew, not only the Gentile, not only the chosen believers, not only the righteous. We are all given the opportunity to accept the grace that God offers to us through Christ, but the trick is that we must accept it. And when we do accept it, we are charged with being about the mission the work that Christ gives us in whatever form that may be both in our secular work and in our church work.
The story in the gospel of Mark that we read today gives us an example of one type of mission. This story was really only the beginning and the ending of a longer story. The middle part which was left out by the lectionary was the story of the loaves and the fishes and how Jesus blessed them and all were fed. We didn’t read that part because today’s focus was on the healing work that Jesus did. It was more about how the people flocked to him for physical healing, for comfort from what ailed them. Once again we read that to be healed all they really needed to do was to touch the fringe of his clothing, his ability was so powerful. I suppose it is no wonder they flocked around him and crowed him like a group of paparazzi.
The people of his time didn’t understand the Jesus’ real mission. Jesus came to earth to bring the word, the story, the fact of salvation to them. Jesus’ real purpose on earth was to teach us how to get beyond our physical, earthly ailments. It was about the life of our soul, not the life of our body. People of the time of the early church didn’t understand that fact any more than some of us can today.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a former resident of Herreid. Lee was not born or raised in Herreid, but she married a man from there and lived and raised their family on their farm just outside of town. She was a registered nurse and worked at the local hospital until it became a care facility and then was its only registered nurse until she retired. She was, as Father Tom mentioned, a classy lady.
I can imagine that she, like those who have been health care providers in our midst, knew what it was like to minister to the needs of others when they were unable to help themselves. Doing that sort of work is something Jesus couldn’t stop himself from doing while on earth. It was part of his mission, but not his whole mission. If he would have come to earth only to provide for the physical well-being of those around him, he would have helped one generation, and lived out his life and died like many of the other prophets that we can study in so many religious texts. Yes, Jesus was a great, perhaps we need to say, THE great physician, but that wasn’t his only mission. He really was about so much more.
King David had his mission of defending the nation of Israel against the surrounding armies, and establishing the kingdom as well as returning the Ark of the Covenant to the tent of worship so that God could again be the center of the lives of the people. Paul fulfills his mission as he shares the good news about Christ with all that he meets and then writes of how Christianity and the Grace of God is open to everyone, the Gentiles as well as the people of Israel. Jesus has a mission of coming to earth to be the sacrifice for us, and while he was here he also healed the sick and ministered to all who came to him with their needs. Everywhere in the Bible you read of people and their missions, people and their purpose.
We too need to think about our purpose, our mission. We too need to reach out to others as well as we are able. It occurred to me as I sat at the funeral in a church so much different from our warm and comfortable and familiar walls. It occurred to me that we don’t need to change to be like the modern “up-beat” churches to attract members. We don’t need to become more liturgical to make those who like that sort of thing want to join us. We are who we are and we worship the way we do to fulfill the needs of those of us who are here. We do it this way because that is who we are. And we will continue to do missions in our way and perhaps just a little bit more than the past year or two, because we can and because we are able.
I don’t expect us to be building anything new at least not right away. I don’t expect us to be healing any of the sick in body, though we may just enjoy a laugh or two as we work together, and we might come away feeling better in spirit than when we walked in the door. What I am talking about is listed on the bulletin under up-coming events. I am inviting anyone who so desires to show up on the first Wednesday in August, but you can’t bring any children. This is only for those who are at home without youngsters around/Empty Nesters. We will share a story, sing a song or two, be subjected to some food, and asked to participate in the mission of packing some bags of school supplies for a few of the local youngsters who may not have a bag of their own when they start school this fall. You are welcome to bring a friend.
I don’t want this to be so very much that it is a burden, but we can, and we will be about a little bit of mission besides the offerings we send on to places beyond our doors. And as we do this, I will ask that we listen, listen closely to hear what God may be saying to us, how our mission might indeed be turned on ourselves as David’s thoughts were turned on him. Amen.
I don’t usually include the prayer we had afterwards, but today it seems to sum up the message, at least the first part of it, so I have included it below.
God of all; We come today hoping to hear you call to us. We don’t have Nathan the prophet or Paul the evangelist or even the disciples to tell us what you have in store for us or what you need from us. We have your word and we trust that you will speak to us through that, but sometimes we are afraid that our hearing is not quite as good as it once was, and maybe our strides are not quite as long as they once were. Help us, help us both to know and to do what it is you are asking. Be with us as we go about the things we believe you are calling us to do.