This Diocese Is All About Mission!

One of the things I have been most impressed with over these six months that I have served as Assisting Bishop in this diocese is that virtually every congregation I have visited so far is serious aboutMission! Our Prayer Book Catechism defines mission as “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” But, in recent years, we’ve begun to put some flesh on those bones by adopting something called “The Five Marks of Mission.”

 These marks were originally articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council from about 1984 to 1990, but they have since been adopted by the Lambeth Conference of Bishops and our own General Convention of The Episcopal Church. They are really a practical and easy-to-remember “check-list” of what it looks like to DO God’sMissionin the world. They are:

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

2. To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers

3. To respond to human need by loving service

4. To seek to transform the unjust structures of society

5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

    And it seems to me that, to one degree or another, you and I are about all those things today in this glorious service! We are here – perhaps before all else – to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, the Reign, the Sovereignty of God. To remind ourselves and the world that God is King and that we are not!

 That’s why we take some time out of our busy schedules each week to gather for worship and to do what our Baptismal Covenant  calls “continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” That’s what we do every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

 Certainly today, we are baptizing new believers! In fact, we are not only baptizing a new Christian we are confirming and receiving other Christians who are taking the next step in their lifelong journeys into Christ. Each of these sacramental moments have been preceded by the teaching of the Faith; and we will promise in a few moments to continue to nurture and support all these people in their new life in Christ. That’s what parishes and Christian communities are for! Your commitment to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Journey to Adulthood and ongoing adult education make it clear that you are committed to this nurturing role.

 The third mark of mission is to respond to human need by loving service. I don’t know all the ways you do this (and I’ll be interested to learn more as we talk together after the liturgy this morning), but the very welcoming and inclusive community you identify yourself to be is itself a response to human need. People are desperate for genuine community today (even if they are not aware of it on some level). And a church which really reaches out and welcomes “all sorts and conditions” of folks, a church which can sing “Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live” and MEAN IT, that church is itself responding to human need!

 If you do that, it won’t be long before you are led to the fourth mark of mission: “to seek to transform the unjust structures of society.” For, after you stand alongside the river bank long enough pulling our survivors of bigotry and hatred, pretty soon you decide to go upstream, find out who’s throwing them in, and make them stop! I know you’ve had some relationship with our wonderful Diocese of Haiti and you know that there are systemic issues as well as natural disasters that need to be responded to there.

 Not that it will always be easy. Jesus ran into conflict with the “powers that be” in today’s Gospel (Mark 3:20-35) and they even accused him of being in league with the devil, but Jesus had the same confidence as St. Paul who wrote, of his own conflicts twenty years later, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure…” (2 Corinthians 4). Yes, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. But also to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

 But it goes beyond even that! For our fifth and final mark of mission challenges us to “safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Simple things like the Blessing of Animals (which The Episcopal Church has actually become quite famous for, over the years!) reminds us that we are called to go beyond the estrangement of human beings from the rest of creation which we heard about in the wonderful, ancient text about Adam and Eve this morning (Genesis 3) and to celebrate the Covenant with Noah which is all about the restoration of God’s Creation.

 A new heaven and a new earth where “the whole menagerie of birds and mammals and crawling creatures, all that brimming prodigality of life…can reproduce and flourish on the Earth.”

As we sang together this morning, “Praise for the earth who makes life to grow. The creatures you made to let your life show; The flowers and trees that help us to know…The heart of love.”

 And indeed, my friends, the ‘heart of love’ is what it’s all about. When we baptize Vanessa today in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, what we are really doing is baptizing her into a community of love. Love is the very nature of God. Love is what we see in action in the life of Jesus. And love is what is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. Remember that as we baptize Vanessa. Remember that as we confirm and receive these other adults today.

 Remember the five marks of mission. And remember that they are all intended to do what we sang today in our gathering hymn: “Let us build a house where love can dwell/ And all can safely live/ A place where saints and children tell/ How hearts learn to forgive/ Built of hopes and dreams and visions/ Rock of faith and vault of grace/… the love of all shall end divisions/

 All are welcome…all are welcome…all are welcome in this place!

























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