Missions Sunday--what does that mean to you? Contribution? Prayer? Reports? Future plans? Encouragement? Today it means all of those--except another contribution!
On this day the mission team reports on our recent effort. What impressed us about the trip?
My task in this sermon is to say something about missions, faith, religion, church, what we are here for, and why we do what we do.
The challenge of living out our faith daily
I fear that we often keep the faith in spite of religion rather than because of it. If that is true, how do we journey toward answers in the kind of world we live in today? Some days we may not be concerned enough about the problems of the world--the problems of poverty, disease, hunger, lack of housing. But more often I think we do not know how to turn our concern and good intentions into constructive action. We believe something should be done--we believe we should do something, but we don't know what or how. And our world--the world we live in, busyness, activities, technology, and 24/7 communication, constantly hooked up.... All of those are in reality shamefully trivial, "weapons of mass distraction."
How mission trips influence our understanding of and experience of faith
Here is what happens on mission trips--even short term mission trips.
The number of distractions decreases and we think about what really matters, especially for people who have so much less of this world's prosperity than we do.
With fewer distractions, we pray more, sing more, talk more, share more, and think more. We complain less, worry less.
We learn from people who get by with a lot less than we do-we learn how to improvise, we get big jobs done with really little or minimal tools. We drive 16 penny nails with household lightweight hammers. We try to imagine an entire family living in an out-of-square 14x16x15x17 house. We learn you can't put weight on the thinnest corrugated aluminum we have ever seen!
The good thing that happens is that almost without our recognizing it, the gospel of "avoiding eternal condemnation" turns into the gospel of "the kingdom of God", and we see that faith is bigger than we have ever imagined. We are not in avoidance mode or reverse gear-we are in builder mode and forward gear.
Along the way, God blesses us in ways we cannot anticipate. The first night we go to Los Pinos--we push the big club cab F250 diesel pickup uphill on a busy street, in the light rain. We learn that narrow two lane roads are really three lane roads. We travel washed out mountain side roads, but it is all worth it!
God blesses us to be at Talanga on Sunday--the time together begins with three baptisms, we buy food for everyone--yes, in Honduras you really can feed 80 people for $30. Even before the noon meal is served, we see more Bible studies in progress-the Baxter student assigned to Talanga is studying with visitors.
The impact of missions to change hearts and lives
We cannot adequately share all of our experiences. We want to say thank you for helping us go. Thank you for your financial help, for your prayers, for your interest. We can encourage more to consider going next year.
Above all, we can bring to the local church an awareness of a different world and a different way of looking at the world. First, the kingdom of God is about changing the world. The kingdom of God is not about escaping the world; the kingdom of God is not about retreating into our buildings. Second, the kingdom of God is about God doing his will in our individual lives, and in our corporate life, accomplishing his purpose in us and through us, even when things don't go all that well. Third, the kingdom of God is about letting God change us, because if Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is true, everything must change.
These three understandings are essential, because this church, this worship, this church experience, to which we are committed, where we have found God and purpose and meaning and truth, what we do inside these four walls can captivate us and ensnare us in a colossal distortion. We proclaim today that the Jesus story is powerful in many places--we have seen it firsthand, we have felt it in our own lives, we have returned as different people, and we want to capture the change for life here at home.
We need you to encourage us and join us in this endeavor. We as a church go forth into the world through missions. But this week we go forth only into our world, our city, our schools, our businesses, with a God-force that is a source of liberation and transformation.
God deliver us when we let it domesticate us, when we assign us to lives of resignation without belief that anything can be different. God deliver us when we become pacifists, isolationists in our building and homes. God deliver us from the world that is a great distraction.
Here is an invitation-will you join us as we commit to go forth into the world this week with the spirit of Jesus? Will you prayerfully seek Jesus' power in your life so that others might be touched? Perhaps there are needs for prayer, for restored faith, for a restored walk with God, desire to begin a spiritual walk through faith expressing itself in repentance and baptism.