A Sermon for World Mission Sunday

A Sermon for World Mission Sunday

Last Sunday in Epiphany, Feb 11, 2018
January 2, 2018
By: 
The Rev. David Copley

World Mission Sunday is the last Sunday of Epiphany, and the readings for the day always include the transfiguration passage. In this reading, the disciples see the full glory of God that is present in Christ.

The same presence of God that was in Christ can be seen within all people, if we look closely enough, for we are all children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, when we see someone engaging in a meaningful relationship with another, this presence, this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is obvious for all to see. I am sure that we have all seen this glow, this presence of Christ, when we witness acts of great kindness and love for another. It is a glimpse of God, a sliver of light, beaming out of our being that lights up the space around us. Our challenge often is that we hold back from that light emerging from us, due to all the baggage of humanity that we carry around: the uncertainty, the ego, the fear, the lack of faith, and just our basic human frailty.

When we are part of a loving Christian community, our fears and concerns are held by the whole community, and hopefully this helps to free us from our fears and to open up the Christ that is living within each and every one of us. This enables us to reach out to others, to be in a loving and caring relationship with those who are different from us or those who are in need; those who come from a different social, cultural, or ethnic background; those who perhaps see the world in a different way from our own.

On World Mission Sunday, we are reminded that we are all called by God to live a life of reconciliation, reconciliation with God and with one another, and there has been no more urgent a time to participate in God’s mission than today.

Given the current state of the world, there has rarely been a more important time to remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are a global community and we are called by God to engage globally.

When we engage globally, we remind ourselves that our faith is one in which we strive to see one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, as children of God, no matter our skin color, nationality, or faith belief.

Our mandate for this ministry is from God and can be seen throughout the whole of scripture. We engage globally because we are our brother’s keeper[1], and we are called by God to love God and to love our neighbor, and Jesus was always clear about who that neighbor is.[2]

As Christians, we are called to build bridges and to reach out across borders, across walls, and across divides, and to always put family first, and our family is the whole of humanity. There is no “America First” in the Bible; there is only love, and love has no boundaries.

We are called to relate to those in the world around us, especially the poor and the needy. Not just because we are called to compassion, but because those in need are just as much our children, our sisters, our brothers, and our parents as our own flesh and blood.

When we are fully committed to being in relationship with one another, we begin to see the face of Christ within those whom we are reaching out to. When we seek to serve, to let go of our fears and uncertainties, our eyes are opened to see Christ in one another. This reconciling process enables us to grow in our understanding of God and one another as we recognize the transforming presence of Christ in those with whom we are relating.

The Episcopal Church is a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a network of 39 Provinces around the world with an estimated 85 million members. There is no shortage of opportunity within our own immediate church family to build relationships and bridges of unity around the world. Many of us do so on a number of levels, whether by praying for others, going on mission trips, hosting international visitors, or supporting programs.

Whatever our mode of engagement, as Christians, we should reflect on how both sides of these relationships are being transformed. The key marker in recognizing a successful international relationship is how we are growing in our understanding of God and of one another in a mutually supporting and enriching way.

Two of the priorities of The Episcopal Church are reconciliation and evangelism. When we build bridges with partners around the world, when we actively engage in the ministry of reconciliation, then we begin to see how Christ is working in others and in ourselves. When we see the face of Christ in the other, we engage in the process of mutual evangelization. We grow in our understanding of Christ when we learn to understand how our sisters and brothers around the world experience Christ in their own cultural context.

Building bridges across ethnic, cultural, social, and political divides is one of the most fundamental callings for Christians as we seek to understand fully the nature of God in the world. For so long in the “West,” we have talked about going out into the “mission field.” We do well to remember this quote from Max Warren: “Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on men’s dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was here before our arrival.”[3]

God has been in all parts of this world long before our arrival and will be here long after we have gone. We do well to remember this and, in our global mission engagement, to journey with open eyes and open minds to see how our wonderful, transformational God is living and breathing within our global family.

When we build bridges of unity we create a structure that enables us to go from where we are now to where God wants us to be.

 

[1] Genesis 4:9 – Cain speaking to God.

[2] Matthew 22:37-40 – “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Luke 10:29b-37 – The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

[3] Written by Max Warren, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society 1942-1963, in the preface to Kenneth Cragg’s Sandals at the Mosque: Christian Presence Amid Islam.