Tend (March 24, 2019)
This year, we’re using the 5 Marks of Mission to guide our Lenten journey. They were developed about 20 years ago by the Anglican Communion to help the church live out our identity as people who embody and live out God’s mission.
Mission—God’s mission—is our identity. We are God’s mission people. That’s why the church exists. In Christopher Duraisingh’s words, “A church which is not in mission is not the church.”
Here comes the test—do you remember the first 2 Marks of Mission? The 1st is …? (To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We Tell)
And the 2nd? (To teach, baptise and nurture new believers. We Teach.)
The important thing is that mission is a verb. Mission is something we do. We don’t just talk about it, or think about it on a Sunday morning. We live our mission out every day.
“Mission” comes from the Latin missio, which means “to send”. God sends us into the world to live as gospel people. We are God’s missives to the world. We follow Jesus into the world as God’s good news people, telling the good news story of God’s love, learning our faith, sharing our faith.
Now some people think this is kinda scary—living out of our identity as God’s people, telling about God’s love in our lives, showing God’s gospel values in our everyday, ordinary acts.
It is where the rubber hits the road in our faith, and it does take us out of our comfort zone.
But let me suggest that really it’s not so scary at all. This kind of mission behavior actually comes quite naturally to us. Here are a few examples.
A few years after I moved here, someone told me about Rotary. He had a passion for it; it has become his life. And he said to me, “Yme, you should try this. Why don’t you join me?”
Someone else is an artist. When I came here almost 15 years ago, she said, “Come see my art.”
Someone else in town keeps inviting me to try out for plays she is directing.
Other people talk about their passions all the time, and suggest we should try it here … whether it be fair trade or medical assistance in dying or doing more social events.
People invite me to sit on boards or committees, or to get involved with a community event. Someone even kept inviting me to go to Ice games.
Now if that’s not mission behavior, I don’t know what is. It is quite natural behavior. It happens all the time. We tell each other about what we love. We invite others to join us.
In every case, I could have said “No thanks, I’m not interested in Rotary.” I could have said, “No, I don’t like looking at paintings,” or “I don’t have the time to sit on that board.”
I did say, “I don’t enjoy hockey!”, but that didn’t stop her from inviting me … over and over again!
But even thought I could have said no, that didn’t stop these people from making the invitation.
It is quite a natural thing to do.
All I’m saying is let’s do the same thing with our faith. We can tell. We can invite. We can share what’s important in our lives. That’s mission.
Today—the 3rd Mark of Mission: To respond to human need by loving service. We Tend.
This is probably the one we do most easily. It’s been part of the church’s life from the very beginning.
Near the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable and ends it this way: “what you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me.” As we offer food to those who are hungry, as we visit those who are lonely, as we reach out to take care of one another, as we tend one another, we are tending Jesus.
Around the year 200, Tertullian described that outsiders of his day would look at Christians and say, “Look how they love one another … and how they are ready to die for each other.” (Apology, ch 39)
The early church was known as a place of hope and help for the homeless and the poor. In cities of the Roman Empire which were filled with newcomers and strangers, the church was a place of community. In cities filled with orphans and widows, the church provided a new and expanded sense of family. In a time when society was rigidly stratified, the church welcomed everyone—the poor, the different, the lowly. In cities which had to deal with epidemics, fires and earthquakes, the church offered effective nursing services.
The church was attractive because they engaged in concrete actions to give honour and dignity to every person. They acted as Jesus would act, embracing the outcasts and lifting up the poor and the powerless. They tended the world they lived in.
I think our Anglican churches live this 3rd Mark of Mission quite well. We do it here at Christ Church. How?
Some of us do it through our work—as care–givers, teachers, paramedics, fire–fighters, aid workers, counsellors, people who work with kids, or who work with the handicapped, as public servants, police officers, fire fighters.
Mission isn’t just what we do here in church. Mission is how we live in our everyday lives. We engage in mission every day. I think it makes a difference to see our work as part of the mission of God.
For some of us, it shows up in the care they exercise in their free time in their communities—as good neighbours, as volunteers, as people who work at suicide hotlines, mental health charities, delivering meals for students, canvassing for donations, working with hospice, mentoring teenagers, and so on.
For many, living this way is just part of who they are. They seem to know when someone needs a listening ear, or a gentle word, or a hug. They naturally call someone up to see how they’re doing. They are tending the people around them.
When the church exercises pastoral care in times of need or crisis or just through the changing phases of life, we live this Mark of Mission. We give a helping hand. We offer food and care for people who need it. We all participate in that through our offerings, through our desire to reach out to the city we live in.
We also tend the world, responding to human need by loving service, through our Prayer Chain and the Prayers of the People. We are blessed that Deb helps us live out our mission of visiting people who need that kind of loving care.
We do this for strangers as we participate in the work of the PWRDF, as we donate to Street Angels or projects to help the homeless. Witness the outpouring of compassion and love in the wake of the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, or how we all respond to natural disasters such as the cyclone in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi this past week. This kind of mission actually comes quite naturally to us.
And when we do it for the least of these, we do it for Jesus. This is our mission. This is what we are sent into the world to do. This is who we are sent into the world to be. The world needs our care, our tending, our love.
I love this word “tend”. It comes from the foot “attend”, which means “to stretch toward”. We stretch toward others. We reach out with our arms, our hands, our hearts.
We become tender.
And when we do that, we reflect the character of God. We participate in God’s mission in the world. We work with God to tend the world.
Let me end with a prayer from Mother Teresa and used by the Sisters of Charity as they care for the sick: “Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and whilst nursing them, minister unto you. Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say: ‘Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.’”
We tell. We proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom.
We teach. We teach, baptize, and nurture new believers.
We tend. We respond to human need by loving service.
Today, I have no homework for you, since we are working at this well … except to offer thanksgiving to God for all the opportunities placed in front of us to serve in love, all the chances to tend, all the moments given in which we can say, “Jesus, my love, how sweet it is to serve you.”
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
March 24, 2019 (3rd Sunday in Lent)
Isaiah 55: 1–9
1 Corinthians 10: 1–13
Luke 13: 1–9