January 14, 2007

Colossians 3:12-17
John 13:12-17
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Matthew 28:16-20

Children’s Sermon:
Start music (Mission Impossible Theme Song)

(from pulpit) Children of the church school, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to meet me at the front row of the church.

(Move to front where children are gathered) Did you recognize that music? It’s from the “Mission Impossible” movies. Do you know what a mission is? A mission is a purpose or goal. It’s something that you’re trying to do. It’s your reason for doing the things you do — because you’re trying to accomplish something.

Now, not many people’s lives are like the “Mission Impossible” movies, but most people do have a mission in life. Their mission might be to become rich and famous, or maybe to become the best in their field of work — whether they’re a doctor or a lawyer, or an artist, or an athlete. For some people, their mission is to raise a family, to teach their kids to be good or successful people. For some people their mission in life is to make a difference in the world — maybe through politics, or by teaching school, or by helping the poor. There are lots of different missions that people have in life.

Well, as Christians, we have a mission too. Do you know what that mission is?
– to follow Jesus
– to love God and neighbours
– to share the good news
It’s not like “Mission Impossible” for us Christians. We will definitely make some mistakes at times, but our mission is very do-able. It’s not impossible at all…partly because God made it very clear and straight-forward for us, and partly because God is helping us to accomplish our mission. It’s God’s mission too!

Here at St. Andrew’s, we have a special mission statement. It’s the same mission that all Christians have, but it’s put into words by the people of St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our church and in our community.

On Saturday, we are getting together to do some congregational visioning. We’re going to think and pray and discuss what God is calling us to do as a congregation — how God is calling us to work on our mission as a church. We hope that God will help us to set goals for the future and that God will help us to accomplish our mission. And I hope that you will come on Saturday with your families and help us by giving your ideas too.

When Annabelle decided to move to Edmonton and pursue a ministry in new church development, it meant that things were going to change for us at St. Andrew’s as well. Whether we like it or not, things have changed and they are going to continue to change over the coming months and years. Annabelle was an important part of the ministry team here — a leader who gave shape to our ministry together. She had that in common with the many ministers who have served at and through St. Andrew’s over the past 81 years.

Individuals have come and gone over the years at St. Andrew’s, both ministers and lay people. But no matter how much the faces in the congregation or the voices in the pulpit have changed, what has remained the same is the commitment of this congregation to carry out its mission — to minister to each other and to our community. A number of years ago, this congregation put its mission into words: St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our church and in our community.

I think it’s a good mission statement. It’s short and easy to remember. It’s clear and all-encompassing. It’s the kind of mission statement that can be passed from one generation to the next
— that can remind us why we continue to do the things we do
— that can call us back to our purpose as a Christian congregation if we should get off track
— that can inspire us to new and exciting ventures as we work to fulfil our mission.
St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our church and in our community.

But our mission statement is meaningless unless we remember it, unless we reflect on it, unless we keep it in mind as we create programs and develop projects and support missions as a congregation. When we gather as a congregation to do visioning on Saturday, we will keep our mission statement in mind. As we discuss the priorities and focus of our ministry as a congregation, we will keep going back to our mission statement. We will continually evaluate whether the things we want to do contribute towards fulfilling our mission — the mission to which God has called us.

And as Presbyterian and Reformed Christians, we always go back to the scriptures, as we seek to interpret and live out our mission as a congregation. I chose for today, four readings from scripture for us to reflect on. The first two, from Colossians and the Gospel of John, speak to our mission to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God within our church. The second two, from 2 Corinthians and Matthew’s Gospel, speak to our mission to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God within our community and more broadly. As you listen to these scripture passages being proclaimed, I invite you to think about the ways in which we are living out our mission, and the opportunities we may have to live out our mission more fully.

Colossians 3:12-17
In this letter to the church as Colossae, Paul gives words of advice and encouragement to one Christian congregation, which we can heed as well. As a Christian congregation, we have the mission to proclaim the Gospel to each other in both word and action. We need to keep our focus on the Word, on Christian education, and on joyful, grateful worship.

Paul acknowledges the fact that the Colossians were human, and that they were going to disagree with each other at times — as are we at St. Andrew’s. So we need to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We need to bear with one another. We need to forgive one another. Above all, we need to love one another… because this motley group of people — the old and the young, the long-time member and the person who showed up for the first time last week — this is our community — our congregation. In fact, we are the Body of Christ — one Body, with many members.

John 13:12-17
Jesus showed by example, a model for how we are to love and care for one another in Christian community. We share God’s love within our church when we do not act like some people are more important than others, when leaders lead by serving others, when humility is chosen over positions of honour.

At St. Andrew’s, God’s love is shared in our church in many ways. People offer their time and talents to serve within committees and groups. They volunteer to teach church school classes, to make coffee, to greet at the door, to shovel the snow, to clean out the closets, and to do so many other little and not-so-little tasks.

In formal and informal ways, folks in our church care for and serve each other… by visiting those in hospital or shut-in at home, by honouring each other’s accomplishments and milestones, by welcoming one another and noticing when someone is missing. In many ways, you support each other in love through good times and difficult times too.

But are there ways in which we could improve? Are there people who have been left out? Of course. As we think about our priorities as a congregation, we must remember the ways in which we love and care for each other. How will we move forward together? Will it be as a people who stoop to wash each other’s feet?

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
In this letter of Paul to the congregation at Corinth, he is encouraging this Christian congregation to give beyond themselves. The offerings they would cheerfully make would be collected to support wider church ministries at Jerusalem and those in the church who were in need.

With an active stewardship committee here at St. Andrew’s, the encouragement to give — both for the ministry here at home and in the wider community – is often before us. This congregation, and the individuals within it, are very generous. You support a significant budget for ministry here, as well as make a healthy contribution to Presbyterians Sharing — our National Church budget. On top of that, there are regular gifts to our church camp, to local missions in Saskatoon, to the Bible Society, and to Presbyterian World Service and Development. The Advent Appeal produced an amazing pile of gifts and donations to worthy causes this Christmas, because you made up your minds, and gave cheerfully and generously.

In this way, St. Andrew’s shares God’s love in our community. Will we continue to do so in the coming years? Or will we find new ways to give and share God’s love in Saskatoon and around the world?

Matthew 28:16-20
This famous passage from the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that our mission is not only to love through gifts, service, and pastoral care. Our mission is also to bring the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know him.

There is preaching that happens here week by week. There is bible study. There are programs for children, youth, and adults in which the Gospel message is proclaimed. God loves us. God has come to us in Jesus Christ. When we turn to God and to following Christ, God forgives our sins, heals us, and equips us to live in newness of life and purpose.

But the message of grace is not only for the regulars who come here to worship on Sunday mornings. Our mission is to proclaim the Gospel in our church and in our community. We need to invite our friends and family to church to hear the message. We need to share our faith with the people we meet at work or school or in the community. But it’s certainly more difficult to fulfil this part of our mission than some of the others.

How do we invite more people into our church? How do we invite more people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Our mission as Christians and as a congregation in the 21st century is not impossible, but it’s certainly not a piece of cake either.

May God inspire and equip us to live out our mission in new and innovative and faithful ways. And whatever we do, in word or deed, may we do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our church and in our community. Amen.