A Sermon Text for the Fourth of July, based on a Sermon (but written after the preaching with adjustments) and celebrating Jesus’ call to mission. To hear the original http://www.sjcathedral.org/Sermons (the best way to hear it) , go to the Cathedral website and look up the audio sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2016 which was generously met with a spontaneous ovation from the congregation.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond
Patriotism was confusing to me as a young person. My mother was fiercely British, my father fiercely American. They would needle each other at dinner with guests. My mother would ask my father “How is your little experiment going?” referring to The United States. She felt that England’s 1,000 year history implied that the United Sates was still rather experimental. My father, in turn, would ask how her “little island was doing” referring to the reduced circumstances of the United Kingdom. Each comment lobbed playfully, landed with a small sting for each. Great Brittain had become, well, somewhat less great. The United Sates is indeed still an experiment after only 240 years of trial and error.
But both nations had a mission. Missions in fact. And today’s gospel is about mission. Jesus’ mission on this planet ad God incarnate is our church’s “why.” And Jesus’ mission was transformation. Jesus’ mission was not to create an institution led by men in cassocks. Jesus’ mission was to start a movement of change which liberated people from their chains – whatever those chains are.
In today’s gospel, we have Jesus laying out for us the ten things a missionary or Christian Activist, is supposed to keep in mind when going out on mission. Unlike our Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness brethren, we Anglicans are inherently anxious about evangelism. We will do just about anything not to speak to others about our faith. We consider it impolite, which Satan must absolutely LOVE! And which must make Jesus want to drink gin from a dog bowl with a tonic of tears.
And yet, we have, on the even of The fourth of July, this list of then ways of making mission. And the Independence of these United States was a mission by its founding Fathers and Mothers.
We are living signs of mission. So what is the mission of this church? We are soon to begin the work of finding a new Dean for this cathedral. With that Dean, if things go well, we will begin, for the first time in decades, actually design , together, as mission and a strategic plan for that mission. Clergy who do not form mission-focused plans with their churches are clergy who want to retain absolute power and control. But healthy clergy will gather the people, listen to them, and then, together, develop a plan which reflects the mission. You will know you have found a good potential Dean if this is what he or she wants to do.
So what is your mission? What is the mission of this nation?
Today, I am interested in what the people who founded and formed our nation have to say about mission and in particular, about the kind of mission as outlined by Jesus, in his own words. So I have, in this sermon, created a litany of sorts. I have woven the ten things Jesus said about mission into relevant statements about mission by great Americans speaking from their real, honest, earthy experience of life on this land we now call The United Sates. And I wonder if, by weaving these mission statements by Jesus and these mission statements by Americans, if we might see a pattern emerge.
“I was taught to think about mission and people. Mission. What are you trying to accomplish? Don’t do anything until you know what the mission is. Drilled into our hearts and into our heads.”
― Colin Powell
“Martin Luther King died. I don’t know how much money he made, but I know his motivation. He moved the world.”
– Eric Thomas
What is your mission?
These are the Ten things laid out as a guide for evangelism and mission in Luke’s commissioning of the seventy- models of missionary work. We, the church are the inheritors of this mission work whether we know it , do it or have courage for it or not. Each of the ten calls from Jesus to go out and tell people about Jesus’ mission are outlined here with a relative mission statement from an American from our nation’s past.
1. The need for mission: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
Rosa Parks said: “I had given up my seat before, but this day, I was especially tired. Tired from my work as a seamstress, and tired from the ache in my heart.”
2. Pray: therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Chief Joseph, a great native American Indian said: “I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.”
3. Active Participation: Go on your way.
Lodissa Frizzel, 1852, Frontier settler said:
“We are hardly half way . . . the heart has a thousand mis-givings, and the mind is tortured with anxiety, and often as I passed the fresh-made graves, I have glanced at the side boards of the wagons, not knowing how soon it would serve as a coffin for some one of us.”
4. There will be dangers, live simply, God will provide: “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals”
Maya Angelou said “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
5. Singularity of Purpose: greet no one on the road.
Jefferson discussing the fight over the establishment of one form of Christianity in the U.S. said “I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
6. Purpose of the Mission is Peace: Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you,
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
7. Humility: eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada said
“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” –
8. Sometimes you will fail: But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you,
A Japanese American graduating High School in an American internment camp for Japanese Americans in southern Colorado said
“Sometimes America failed and suffered…Sometimes she made mistakes, great mistakes…Her history is full of errors, but with each mistake she has learned….Can we the graduating class of Amache Senior High School believe that America still means freedom, equality, security, and justice? Do I believe this? Do my classmates believe this? Yes, with all our hearts, because in the faith, in that hope, is my future, and the world’s future.”
9. Keep going- persevere: go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.
Sojourner Truth said:
“And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? “
10. Claim God’s assurance and gifts of power: Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ And “The (all) seventy returned with joy”
And the quotation for this last one is yours and mine. You can find it in many books but it is best spoken by you and by me. You and I must go out those doors of this church and do mission. This church is not a retreat hall, a spa, or a concert hall. It is a gymnasium and a civic center where we work doing the work Jesus did. If you go to church week to week without working and giving to the mission Jesus began – healing, comforting, helping the poor and marginalized then you are not a Christian, you are simply a person who attends a church – for whatever reasons. A Christian is a person who finds a way to be part of a mission Jesus would actually recognize – and to return with JOY.
Night after night in living rooms over dinner I hear wonderful stories of courage and mission. This we must do: know our mission, live out our mission, find the joy in our mission. Then we must come back to church with the joy of our mission to share with each other. For God’s sake, literally, for God’s sake, do not come to this church for a pleasant experience of sanctity. Come to this church for mission – work, give, strive and return with joy.
That is the mission of this or any church. To return from mission with joy.