Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Matthew 16:21-28:
continue looking at the five practices of fruitful living, based on a book of
the same name by Bishop Robert Schnase.
We have already looked at passionate worship, radical hospitality, and
intentional faith development, and today we move on to risk-taking mission and
service. What are some of the ways we
practice mission and service? In the
passage we just heard from Matthew, Jesus says that if we want to become
followers, that it’s not based on what we say, it’s based on what we do. “If any want to become my followers, let them
deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” How often?
Trick question, in Matthew it doesn’t say, in Luke we are told that we
must do it daily, and I think that’s correct.
This is not something we do once in a while, but instead that we do it
continually, and what Bishop Schnase says is that when we do it we need to be a
risk taking mean? It means going beyond
ourselves, beyond our comfort level, going beyond the bounds of safety, not
necessarily things that actually are physical risks, but safety in the sense of
playing it safe. In some ways this is at
the heart of being a Christian, not only because we are told to pick up our
cross and follow, but also because it’s inherent to faith. Has anyone ever said that you need to take a
leap of safety? But you have heard
someone say to take a leap of faith.
That is to take some risk in what you are doing, and that is especially
true when we are talking about mission and service, because what we would like
to do is sit back, to do the things that feel comfortable, to do the things
that are safe, to do the things that pose no risk to us, again not necessarily
to our actual physical safety, but pose no risk to us in being changed in any
way, of being transformed by the experience, of doing things that transform
others, let alone our community and the world.
donations to the food pantry are fantastic, and I would never want to do away
with them. I like seeing the food piling
up at the front of the sanctuary each week because it’s important to what we do
and who we are, but it’s not risk-taking.
It’s important, but it’s really safe, other than perhaps missing a
really good sale, what risks do we take?
We never interact with those who we are helping, and one of the major
problems is in doing this we can begin to think that we are being generous in
giving, and those who are receiving are only receiving. It sets up hierarchical relationships. Even in our mobile food pantry, there is
still a difference that is kept between those who are serving, and this is not
unique to us. Rev. Joe Daniels said
about many programs being run by churches, “The problem is that if we ask the
people engaged in these serving ministries the names of those they are serving,
where they live, what’s going on in their lives, why they are hungry, and what
is the deeper need in order for them to reach God’s dream for their lives and
their community — the answer for most is “I don’t know.” We are often doing
ministry for people, but not with people. Many of us are doing “caring”
ministry, but are we engaged in “transformational” ministry?” Are we seeking to be in mission and service
to someone, or are we seeking to be in mission and service with someone? Although certainly not the only thing, that
is one of the differences between whether mission and service is risk-taking or
rather strange and simple to say that talking to someone about their life is
risk-taking, but it is because when we do so then we seek to see someone not
just as another statistic, someone we can help because they are helpless, and
instead begin to see them as individuals, people with names and stories of
their own, people who are also generous with their time and efforts, then we
stop doing mission to them and we start doing it with them. And when we do that we open ourselves up to
be transformed by the situation as we seek to transform the world. And when that happens then we begin to do
radical, passionate, intentional, risk-taking mission, not being doing it for
someone, but by doing it with them, and to talk about just one way that we can
do some risk-taking mission and service with people, I would like to introduce,
Debbie Welden, who is a member of Community United Methodist Church in Aspen,
Colorado to talk about a project that we helping to bring clean, running water
to schools in Kenya.