This morning I want to talk to you about mission. What do we understand about that word? We hear about the mission of the church, or God’s mission or missionaries don’t we, but do we actually know what mission is? I know when I was in college every other word was mission. In fact, the actual title of the degree I studied wasn’t simply theology, it was BA in Theology, Ministry and Mission. So, the church puts a lot of energy into the word mission, to the point that those now pursuing ordination have to study it as a distinct part of their degree. When we look at the word it comes from the Latin missio, to be sent. Mission in the church is to be sent to proclaim the gospel to people who do not know the good news. Mission is also a word that makes many of us within the church nervous. As soon as someone mentions the word mission, many may think Uhoh, the vicar has a new crazy scheme to get us doing something uncomfortable. Quick, heads down, lets avoid getting volunteered! Run for the refreshments before someone catches us!
We have heard the word mission but rarely do we like to go and get involved in one. This rarely makes sense to me because mission done well is so much fun. However, perhaps we have tried mission and felt we failed. Perhaps we are discouraged as we have stepped out of faith only for our project to fail, or perhaps we lack the bravery to attempt to speak to others about Jesus. Mission is scary, right? But mission is also vital, and in today’s gospel we hear Jesus giving instructions to the disciples to go on their first mission. I want to spend some time this morning exploring what it is to be sent out in mission.
In the first sentence today, we hear how Jesus instructed them to go out in twos. The disciples were not to go out alone – mission is done in community. Indeed, looking at the history of Christian mission, you would be hard pressed to point to any successful mission, even if they had a famous leader, who could claim to have done it alone. Mother Teresa, amazing mission to the destitute, served them alongside her sisters. Billy Graham, preacher to the masses enlisted many musicians, singers, entertainers, organisers and so forth to spread the good news – he was one among many. Look at St Paul, always travelling with a companion, be that Barnabas, Luke or Timothy. Christian mission is done in community because ultimately that is what Christianity is all about – an invitation to family to community not just with one another but with God. Its about relationship. Mission is done in community.
Next, we hear Jesus gave the disciples authority and they were to go out with barely any clothes or provisions. When we get scared of mission, we often forget that not only is mission not done in our own power, we are to rely on God to provide for it. It’s a leap of faith, yet we go out with the authority of Jesus and we rely on Him. So often when we set out in mission, we may have a clear call to do something, but yet we don’t go out because we feel with have not the resources or the capacity. But if it is God’s will He will provide. Let me give you an example. I remember going to help lead a mission in a small pit village in county Durham. This little church had a group of wonderfully faithful Christians and no resources, not two pennies to rub together. I was a poor student with no resources. We wanted to do a mission and for the first six months all we did was pray. We began planning activities which we couldn’t fund and we continued to pray. About a month before the start of the mission, worried about how we would fund our plans, out of the blue a cheque for £500 to fund the mission was handed to me anonymously from outside the church. I’ll tell you what I went skipping out of church that day. It was a wonderful mission and we saw God work. We go out in God’s power and with God’s provision. Mission is done in God’s power not our own.
Following this Jesus speaks about the kind of reception we might get as we engage with mission, in going out to spread the good news, especially warning His disciples about being rejected. My friends, some missions will fail. Jesus tells us so. But he doesn’t say therefore give up. I have been involved personally in missions that have gone well and ones that have fallen flat on their face. We often think of these missions that don’t go well as failures, but that just isn’t true. Jesus doesn’t say, if any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you you have failed don’t try again try again. No he says shake off the dust from your sandals. Move on. Your mission didn’t fail their ability to engage did. We are not called to be successful at each mission whatever we mean by success, we are asked to be faithful despite anything we face. If we look at the mission of the disciples after the ressurection, in modern terms we might feel that their mission was a disaster. According to tradition, nearly all the disciples died violent deaths and the one who didn’t was imprisoned on an island. That doesn’t sound very successful, does it? Yet they all stayed faithful, and even though they didn’t get to see the spread of their message to every corner of the globe. Quite simply, Christian mission isn’t measured in success but in faithfulness, because ultimately any growth in down to God. the disciples learnt this, that is why we so often hear of them singing hymns while locked in prison. Mission is simply the act of being sent – reaching out as the body of Christ to a broken world – it is central to our calling as Christians, to be Jesus to a hurting community. Sometimes that will involve injury or what we consider failure. Speaking His words, having healing hands, fighting against injustice and proclaiming the good news, we do all that and if it doesn’t go well we move on. Mission is never failure when we are faithful.
Jesus sent out the 12 to learn the craft to which they were called, the same one all of us as Christians are called to in different capacities. They were called to join in mission, to be sent, to be ambassadors of Christ. We too are called to that same mission. The idea of mission shouldn’t scare us – most of the time it is very life giving in my experience. Christian mission is done in community. Christian mission is done in God’s power, not our own. Christian mission is never a failure, we just need to stay faithful, God does the rest.
Mission is central to what it is to be a Christian. But as a church, as community we need to ask that question and we are already doing this in the PCC, what is God calling us to in St Andrews? What is the mission of our church to be? What mission, what sending out are we being asked to try? Honestly, I have no idea. But I am convinced, that if we ask faithfully in prayer not only will God let us know, but that He will provide. I have seen it too many times to seriously doubt otherwise. We are to take seriously the understanding that Jesus is the head of our church and will provide the way. Are you able to do that faithful thing of praying and ask God not only what is your personal mission, but praying for the church to ask honestly and openly of God, where and to who are you sending us? Lord what is ou mission here in Cleveleys?