given on Sunday, September 21, 2014
MISSION: Connecting to or via God?
When school started and I was looking at all the brand new supplies that were filling the store shelves, I felt that surge of excitement I have known my entire life. The store shelves are now filled with Halloween and the school supplies are moved to the clearance aisles, and yet the call for school supplies continues as the Festival of Sharing approaches, scheduled for October 18.
Attending the festival is not the key point, today; rather the point is mission. Mission, as a word, does not cause everybody to suddenly jump to attention and feel a call to become a missionary, but mission is a powerful word. Mission has a way of transforming an idea into an action or a movement that propels that idea to new levels of importance. Mission can connect individuals into an awesome force that grows beyond the initial expectations.
No business, no organization, not even an individual moves forward without a mission. For individuals a mission connects a goal, a lifestyle, and a purpose all together to define that person’s journey in life. In business, developing and refining the mission of the company creates a unified work force that keeps the business thriving and profitable. For organizations, mission defines the purpose but also unifies the members in the efforts support a cause, to spread ideas or to complete projects. Mission is vision, mission is action, and mission is key to Christianity, too.
God’s vision for this world was a garden filled with anything all living things, include the humans, could possibly need. The vision drives the decisions required to create and maintain the vision. God’s vision was challenged by the free will of his own creation. Humans placed themselves into a struggle to stay connected to God. A mission developed.
Does mission connect us to God or does mission connect us via God? What is a church’s mission? Wasn’t Jesus very explicit when he told the Apostles to go and make disciples? Haven’t we all agreed to accept that mission when we accepted Christ as savior and joined a church? Are we living our lives with a mission that connects our daily actions with God in one way or another?
The Festival of Sharing is one means of serving God. Participating is an option, not a requirement, that works to make sure that all the needs of people are met just when it seems impossible for them to manage. The Office of Creative Ministries has the mission identified and has worked for years hosting the Festival of Sharing for the Missouri Conference, but the Festival of Sharing is an ecumenical event. It brings together not only the efforts of United Methodists, but also other denominations as an internet search shows Presbyterians and Unitarians join in the efforts.
The outreach of missions such as the Festival of Sharing is vital for the well being of humans in crisis. The basic needs of food, clothing and shelter must be met before there is any way to move forward to even the next level of functioning. Look at the different Missouri packs:
- Baby Bundle Pack
- Family Food Pack
- Paper Products Pack
- Personal Hygiene Pack
- Reading & Writing Pack
- Student Dental Pack
- Backpacks of Love
- Youth Personal Care Pack
Just in Missouri, meeting a person or a family’s basic needs can be so overwhelming there is nothing left to manage any of the needs represented in these various packs. The struggle is overwhelming, so any effort made to meet the basic needs is serving as God’s hands.
The scripture from Matthew gives us the answer to what can we do:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
Each of the packs meets a need. Study what is included in those packs and you can see how they answer God’s request. Behind each of the packs, comes a need that cannot be met by that person due to the circumstances in which he/she may be found.
Even when the funds were totaled up from the fair sales, knowing that 30% was going into a specific community need fund, makes the efforts of preparing the meat, chopping onions, baking pies, serving the food, and even cleaning up after the last guest worth every moment. This is just one example of how a mission connects us to God—or does God use us to connect others to God via our mission efforts?
Every time a decision is made personally or as a church to do something to meet the needs of others is one more mission identified. If the Samaritan Center puts out a call for specific goods or for donations to meet the needs of the hungry, any decision the church makes to answer such a call is mission completed.
Mission is putting the vision into action. Jesus calls us to action over and over. Sometimes it is a friend calling with news of an unwanted diagnosis. Maybe an email pops up with a request for prayers. Even junk mail is full of calls for help in one way or another. Are these calls to be ignored or do you act? Each time you act, you are in mission. Each time you make a donation or step up to volunteer or you spend time listening and praying for someone’s need, you are in mission.
Does it feel like you have made a difference? Those listening as Jesus talked did not feel what they did was all that significant, but Jesus heard the people and he answered their question:
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[c] you were doing it to me!’
Sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? Others may notice what you do for others, but for you it is part of your nature, your Christian nature.
The Festival of Sharing is in one month; are you ready? What have you, or what have we done to answer the call to mission? During the next few Sundays, let’s work together and decide what to give. Maybe it is one specific kit like the school kit, or maybe you take a flier and put together your own choice of kits, or maybe you decide to make a cash donation either to the kits or to one of the special missions. Maybe as a church, you decide to make a donation. Maybe you choose to attend the festival and participate in making the bags of rice or bidding on the quilts or loading the trucks.
Mission is meeting the needs of others in one way or another. Mission is serving as God’s ambassador in as many ways as possible to share God with as many as possible whenever or wherever we can. Being in mission connects us to God, but it also connects others via God.
Dear God of all,
Help us hear the cry of those in need.
Help us find ways to serve others.
Give us the tools to serve.
Teach us to serve one another.
And, as we join together in mission,
Let us discover the joy of giving.
Let us connect with one another
Both here, in the state, and around the world.
Let our mission be your mission
Now and forever.