Christ Episcopal Church is a community of Christ’s servants who seek to:
- Worship God with joy and wonder;
- Learn and Grow together; and
- Radiate God’s love to all.
As I sat in the Trustees and Council retreat this weekend, some in the group wondered if our attempt to craft a Diocesan Why or mission statement was worth the effort. “It’ll just get printed on letterhead and ignored like all the others,” one person worried aloud. Here at Christ Church, we run the opposite risk, as Shelley Carter wrote in her Senior Warden’s Report. Our mission statement, like any mission statement, is in danger of being heard so often that it loses all meaning. I imagine that most of you just tune out the first 20 seconds or so of the announcements each Sunday because you already know what is going to be said. If it isn’t lived out in our daily lives, if it doesn’t form the foundation of our planning, if it isn’t really at the heart of who we are, then whatever we might say we are about matters very little. What really matters is how we live, or as Shelley put it, there has to be “evidence that we are awake and actively living our mission.”
We aren’t the first Christian group that has sought to live into a mission statement. In fact, one could argue that every Christian mission statement is just some variation on the mission statements of Jesus. There are several versions of it. In one place Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Elsewhere, he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” At the Last Supper, he simply instructs the disciples that they should “love one another.” In our Gospel lesson this morning, we hear the earliest iteration of the Jesus Movement’s mission statement as he calls his first disciples.
After forty days of being tempted by Satan in the desert, Jesus likely found himself on an extended stay in Jerusalem. In order to carry the title, Rabbi, he would have had to study under a teacher, many of whom would have set up shop near the Temple. Things grew tense between the Roman Government, the Temple Leaders, and reformers like Jesus and John the Baptist, until it all came to a head (pardon the pun) with the arrest of John for speaking out against Herod’s marital indiscretions. Jesus knew that it wasn’t yet his time, so he took an 80-mile hike north to Capernaum where he honed his mission statement into one, seven-word Greek sentence, “metanoiete engidzon gar ha bassileia tone ouranon.” “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Turn your lives around, the reign of God is near.”
The first test of that mission statement comes almost immediately. While walking down the beach, Jesus came across two brothers, who we presume he already knew. Simon, the guy that Jesus renamed Peter in last week’s lesson, and Andrew a former disciple of John the Baptist who had returned to the family fishing business. The time had come for their shared mission to begin in earnest, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” was all they needed to drop their nets and go. Can you imagine their poor dad? Andrew was finally back from his last adventure with a strange religious leader, and already he was off again. Down the shore a bit, Jesus ran across two more brothers, James and John, who also quickly dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus on this mission to proclaim repentance and the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was now four-for-four in getting people to radically turn their lives around in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven. He would not continue to bat 1.000, but in this story, we learn something about how it is that the Christian mission is lived out successfully – Christian mission has to be built on relationships. While this story could be, and has often been, preached with the assumption that Jesus came across four random dudes and, in one sentence, convinced them to leave their families behind, I’m more apt to believe that Jesus, Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John already knew each other. Most days, you could probably see them at the coffee shop arguing theology. On the weekend, Jesus was on their boats, pulling in nets, and testing sermon ideas. This moment, the in-earnest beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in Matthew’s Gospel, is built upon the foundation of deep relationships and love for one another.
Which brings me back to our mission statement here at Christ Church. We have focused a lot of attention on the three missional foci – worship, learn and grow, and radiate God’s love, but I was reminded by our Gospel lesson this week that our mission statement, like the ministry of Jesus who we follow, is built on relationship. We are, as I have said repeatedly for more than two years now, “a community of Christ’s servants.” The extent to which we are successful in living out our ministry is dependent upon how well we work and play together. Or, as the church growth people might say, how are we at building community? As 2020 unfolds, I invite you to consider your role in the community of Christ Church. Are you called to help us play more together? Is your calling to bring us deeper in prayer? Is your work to heighten our sense of God’s grace? Are you supposed to help us be good stewards of our resources? Is God simply inviting you to show up more often? What is your role in building up the Body of Christ as it is lived out at Christ Church? How is God inviting you to change your life in some way to build up the Kingdom of Heaven? Where are you being called to work alongside your fellow servants of Christ for the glory of God?
You will, most likely, never be called to drop your nets, leave your family, and follow Jesus on a three-year journey through the Palestinian countryside, but there is no doubt that God has a mission statement for your life, a calling for you to live out, and gifts for you to utilize. In our prayer for this day, we asked God to give us grace that we might readily answer that call so that together, we might share the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ: salvation that comes each time one of us, or all of us together, decides to wake up and actively amend our lives to work toward bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Our mission remains resolute. There is still plenty of work to be done both out there and inside these walls as we seek to build relationships with one another and with a world that desperately needs to hear of God’s unfailing grace. I look forward to what 2020 will bring for this community of Christ’s servants called Christ Episcopal Church. Amen.