Transform (March 31, 2019)
By now you will know that we’re using the 5 Marks of Mission to guide our Lenten journey this year. Developed about 20 years ago by the Anglican Communion, they are a tool to help the church live out God’s mission.
Lent is a good time to think about the mission God gives us. Mission is our identity. We are God’s mission people. That’s the only reason the church exists. In Christopher Duraisingh’s words, “A church which is not in mission is not the church.”
So here comes the weekly Lenten test—
The 1st Mark of Mission is…? (To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We Tell) Let me ask … Are you telling anyone?
And the 2nd? (To teach, baptise and nurture new believers. We Teach.) Are you nurturing anyone?
And the 3rd? (To respond to human need by loving service. We Tend.) Are you tending anyone?
Telling. Teaching. Tending. These are some of the ways in which we work with God for the healing of the world.
The 4th Mark of Mission is: “To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.” We Transform.
Transformation is at the very heart of the gospel. God transforms us in love. God makes us new, not just once, but day by day. God renews us each day so that we might live as God’s gracious, faithful and compassionate people in the world.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
But we’re not just transformed to be new people ourselves. Paul links our transformation with the ministry of reconciliation. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself … and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ…”
The church exists for mission. We are being transformed so we can be agents of reconciliation. In a world where might, violence and revenge are so prevalent, God invites us to be people of peace and reconciliation, of love and compassion.
Paul concludes, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” We are God’s mission–shaped people. We are made new — so that we might work with God to make the world new.
But holy cow! What a huge task! How can we possibly transform the unjust structures of society? We have no power. We have no influence. What can we do?
Well … I’m glad you asked!
Here are some ideas and some stories of people just like us who are doing just this. These are stories about people who have harnessed a passion and who are making a difference. Some of them are Christian, some are not. Even so, all are transforming the unjust structures of the world.
Let those who have eyes see, and those who have ears hear.
Have you heard about Greta Thunberg? She’s a 16–year–old Swedish girl with Asperger’s syndrome, which is part of the Autism Spectrum. She has just been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Why? She began a “school strike for climate change,” and has inspired young people around the globe to take action on climate change.
Greta is transforming the unjust structures of society. I’ll have more to say about her next week, when we think together about the 5th Mark of Mission.
Have you heard about Malala Yousafzai? Seven years ago, when she was 14, she was shot by a Taliban gunman because she dared to say that girls should be able to attend school. She received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 16 for her work and sparked a worldwide dialogue about education for children and girls. She launched the Malala Fund to champion every girl’s right to receive free, safe, quality education.
Malala is transforming the unjust structures of society. She’s challenging violence. She’s seeking peace and reconciliation.
Have you heard about Pink Shirt Day? It’s an anti–bullying campaign which was started by a group of Grade 9 students in Nova Scotia who wore pink to stand in solidarity with a boy who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The movement has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon.
I know what it’s like to be bullied. In school, I was 2 years younger than other students, because I’d skipped a grade. I never fit in. I was never accepted. I was scorned and mocked and bullied. It hurt.
It has gotten worse these days with cyber–bullying and texting. We’ve heard about the kids who were bullied until they couldn’t stand it anymore and they chose suicide over that kind of life.
When we stand up against bullying, we challenge violence.
Have you heard about our own Alternative Giving program here every Advent to raise money to help others? We’ve given money for goats in Rwanda … water purifiers and mosquito nets in Malawi … the homeless shelter … Street Angels … PWRDF ministries around the world … helping to feed children in Haiti, and other worthy causes.
This program begun by our Sunday School children actually meets two Marks of Mission. We are tending the world, which is the 3rd Mark of Mission. We are also challenging those structures which keep people in poverty. We are doing something in the name of God to make life more whole, more just, more compassionate. We participate with God to transform the world we live in.
Helder Camara was the Roman Catholic Archbishop in Brazil in the 1990’s. He was called “the Bishop of the slums” because he advocated tirelessly on behalf of the poor. He stood on their side. He challenged his church to stand with the poor and to oppose any person or organization which exploited the poor to line their own pockets. As a result, the Brazilian government declared him a ‘non–person’. If he had simply provided spiritual support for those who were suffering, everything would have been fine. But as he said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. But when I ask why so many people are poor, they call me a communist.”
For me, one of the most important tasks before us as the church in Canada is to engage in the work of reconciliation with Indigenous people.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 Calls to Action to help us begin the hard work of reconciliation. Senator Murray Sinclair, chair of the Commission, says, “We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing.”
So it’s important for us to acknowledge that we gather for worship on the traditional unceded territory of the Ktunaxa People. We live and work and play on land which was stolen. We may not have stolen it ourselves … but it was taken from the Ktunaxa people. They did not cede their right to the land in a treaty. We are grateful for the opportunity to work and worship in this territory.
This work is part of the 4th Mark of Mission, in which we seek to live together in justice and peace with our aboriginal neighbours who were in this land long before we ever came here.
I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but when we engage in this 4th Mark, it gets political. I don’t mean party politics. I mean political in the original sense of the word which has to do with how we live together.
Christian faith is never just a private affair. It’s not about “me and God”. The great commandment teaches us to love God and love our neighbour … and that’s what politics is about. It’s about how we live together in peace and justice. It’s about living together with mercy and generosity.
Finally, let me tell you about Robby Novak. This 8–year–old kid has put together a series of videos on the internet in which he calls himself “Kid President”. He’s cuter than fuzzy bunnies. He dresses in a navy suit, white shirt, red tie, and starts, “I think we all need a pep–talk.”
He quotes the Robert Frost poem, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by …” He pulls a face and says, “And it hurt man! Really bad … Rocks … Thorns … and Glass. Not cool, Robert Frost!”
He continues, “But if there really are two paths, I want to be on the path that leads to AWESOME! What will you create that will make the world awesome? Nothing if you keep sitting there! This is your time. This is my time. This is our time. We can make every day better for each other.
“We have work to do. We were made to be awesome. So let’s get out there and do it. Create something that will make the world awesome.”
The first time I saw it, I thought to myself, “Way to go Robbie. I hope others follow the example you set.” Then I learned that Kid President has a condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta. It causes extremely fragile bones. As Robbie puts it, “I break easy.”
But instead of being discouraged by his multiple breaks (over 70 so far), Robbie decided to make these videos for fun and to cheer others up. More importantly, these videos spread a dream and inspire people to make the world better.
We work with God for the healing of the world.
We challenge violence in every form.
We pursue peace and reconciliation.
How will you live? How will you make the world more awesome?
We Tell. We Teach. We Tend. We Transform.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
March 31, 2019 (4th Sunday in Lent)
2 Corinthians 5: 16–21
Luke 15: 1–3, 11–32
Joshua 5: 9–12