So what might mission mean for us? The options are endless. It might include something active and direct, like a role in church, helping at a night shelter, visiting the sick or the lonely, or volunteering at a food bank. But it might also be something less obvious, like some simple words of comfort to someone who is fearful.
Today we’ve jumped forward thirty years in a week and we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel, which we heard this morning, begins with the Baptism with very little preamble. In fact, all four Gospels mention this important event.
Our ideas of kingship are sometimes unhelpfully skewed because human power and authority can mislead us: If we think of world leaders today, presidents and politicians, we might think kingship is about ego; hiring people who agree with us and firing those who don’t; pushing our own agenda for our friends and having the freedom to say and do whatever we want. This is the opposite kind of leadership which Jesus has over our world. His Kingship is the upside-down logic of God: where all are welcome, the meek are blessed, the poor are fed and the homeless find home.
Many of us carry muddled and unhelpful images of God within us. Images from childhood perhaps of a God who looks for ways to punish the tiniest of slip-ups, or a God who is so distant and uncaring, that they created the world and then walked off letting us get on with it.
There is little intimacy in such images, little space for growth or delight. For others of us the pendulum has swung the other way. Jesus, God-with-us, is a gentle, kind friend – almost like a teddy bear, a comforter in times of desperation, who fits easily into our comfortable lifestyles all within our control.
I want to give you something to take with you as we go back into lockdown. It’s something I read in a small book on my desk.
I’ve been reading pages from it since the start of March. It’s called the Ninefold Path, by Mark Scandrette. Mark and his friends are musicians and theologians from around the world, who united themselves around a single project – to bring Jesus’ teachings of the beatitudes alive, afresh for a new generation; regarding them as – quote – “the world’s path to recovery”. They produced an album but also that little book I have sitting on my desk.
There is power in words.
There is power to change lives, like when you rehearse and rehearse what you’re going to say, and finally you get up the courage… You kneel down, and open your mouth and say, “I love you. Will you marry me?”
God knows the power of words. In the beginning God spoke into the darkness and said, “let there be light, and there was light.” God’s words always have an impact, and often, so do ours. Words can build people up, or tear them down. Words can bring peace to a troubled mind, and comfort to the dying and inspiration to those looking for direction.
Today the Church celebrates Luke, at first glance a rather unlikely figure to become such a key and enduring influence in the Church. We know from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians that Luke was a Gentile, and a physician. He wrote both the Gospel that bears his name, and also Acts.
There is hope. Don’t forget. There is hope.
Today is the 4th of October: It’s International Zookeeper Day, World Animal Day & St Francis’ Day.
So I want to begin by asking you a question: Who here has a pet? What pet do you have?
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
That is the challenge for us today. To live out what we speak about Sunday by Sunday. I want to encourage us to live out our faith with boldness and with strength.