Sunday, December 04, 2011

Recommended Reading: "The Mission of the Church" (A Sermon by Bishop Mary Glasspool)

I mentioned in an earlier blog that Bishop Glasspool preached a quite-fabulous sermon at our just-completed diocesan convention. Entitled "The Mission of the Church" I was delighted to find that it's already up on the diocesan website. (Go, "Digital Diocese!")

The link to the PDF is here.

And here's a little bit to get you started:

The Mission of the Church [December 2, 2011 ~ Riverside CA ]

I am not a very good traveler. It takes very little, on any given trip, for my civility to go down, my anxiety to go up, and for me to lose what little patience I have to begin with. So perhaps you can imagine the general state of affairs last week on my way to New York, when, after a thorough body pat down by the Transportation Security Agent at LAX airport screening, the agent picked up my Prayer book/Bible, shook it slightly at me, and asked: "Is there anything in this that could set off an alarm?" I looked her straight in the eyes and replied, "Plenty!"

Abraham and Isaac would have never made it up Mt. Moriah had they gone through Security. John the Baptist would have been on the No Fly List and Jesus, Himself, ... but I digress.

The lessons you have just heard are the Propers For the Mission of the Church, and I wonder if any one of them has set off any alarms in this gathering? The lesson from Isaiah is that prophet's concrete announcement of salvation for the whole world. Salvation. All the nations. And the people will voluntarily turn their weapons into tools for harvesting food. The lesson from Ephesians was written at a time in the life of the early church when the first, significant controversy had been resolved - that is, Gentiles would be admitted to the church and enjoy equal status with Jews.

What? People who have done nothing, religiously speaking, all of their lives will now have equal status as those who have been religiously disciplined from the day of their birth? And the Gospel Lesson from Luke is the familiar, perhaps too familiar, story of Jesus sending out seventy others to go ahead of him to places he, himself, intended to visit, to do his mission and announce The kingdom of God has come near to you. Others. Mission.

Any alarm bells yet? Do we pay as much attention to these lessons as we do to any one of the resolutions coming before us at this convention? I hope so. Because in the context of this Convention, whose laudable theme is One Light, One Peace, One World, this sermon is about the Mission of the Church, what it is, how we pursue it, and who does it, with the concomitan challenge to all of us to test the depth, or lack thereof, of our commitment to it.
From The Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer:
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. (BCP, p. 855)
There are three key words in this statement of the mission of the Church: restore, unity, and Christ.

Restore indicates that at some point in the past, perhaps even primordially in the mind or essence of the Almighty, all people were in unity with God, and that part of our story is that at some point early on, we've fallen out of unity with God. Call it original sin. Call it the fall. Call it anything you want, but understand that the mission of the Church is to do everything we possibly can to make broken people whole again; to heal the divided, wounded places in our world; and to put aside our weapons of war and concentrate our efforts on making sure everyone on this planet has enough to eat.

Unity is not uniformity. It is simply a way of saying that every person in this world is a child of God and we are all related to one another whether we like it or not! That wonderful Collect in our Prayer Book entitled For the Human Family (BCP. p. 815) has the audacity to talk about the whole human family. Take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts we pray, break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love.

And then there's the word Christ or the words in Christ. Christ can certainly be a stumbling block instead of a cornerstone if we take those words to mean that every single person in this world ought to be a Christian, which is simply a loftier way of saying that every single person in this world ought to believe as I believe.

For me, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I can't get to God in any other way than through Jesus, whom I know as the Christ. Yet I observe that there are people of other faiths, of different origins, speaking numerous languages who also feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter and care to the homeless, free those who are oppressed, and do a whole lot of other things that I, with my limited vocabulary, would call Christian. How arrogant of me if I were to insist on that designation!

As Desmond Tutu says, provocatively, God Is Not a Christian [the title of his most recent book. Even so, my job, as a Christian, along with the rest of the Body of Christ in the world, which we call, the Church, is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.


Patricia Brush said...

She did answer the agent's question as posed. The answer the agent wanted would have been received by asking "Is there anything in this that could set off one of our security alarms?"

Precision of speach is important in many circumstances.

I used to run into this when I worked retail in my younger days. I got tired of guessing what information the customer really wanted from their ill-posed questions so I started answering the question as asked. Customers would always look a little startled, but then realize that the fault was theirs and reframe the question.

LGMarshall said...

So only Mary Glasspool has to come through Christ, and no one else? It doesn't make any sense. If all don't have to come to the Father through the Son, then Christ's cross is a folly.

Glasspool has such romantic notions about other 'faiths' ... but she is teaching a false doctrine. Because,

Islam denies the diety of Christ.
(God says: 'You blasphemer!')

Hinduism claims 'I AM GOD".
(God says: "You blasphemer!")

Buddha teaches 'There is no God'.
(God says: 'You blasphemer!")

Where is the Unity? Glasspool preaches there is Unity in good deeds. Allah is impressed by good deeds, Buddha is impressed by deeds, Shiva likes them too. But the God of the Bible, says our deeds are like filthy rags to him... He counts Faith as Righteousness, nothing else.

JCF said...

Thanks for the "Chick Tract Guide to World Religions (aka Hell-bound Heathenism!)", LGM.

For a more faithful to guide to the Truth that shall set you Free, may I suggest you put down the Chick Tract and LISTEN to Bishop Mary? Whose faith is grounded in Scripture, Tradition, and...


{what's that third one}

{Rick Perry Moment here}

...oh yeah, REASON!

uffda51 said...

"If all don't have to come to the Father through the Son, then Christ's cross is a folly."

And if were born a homosexual Iranian Muslim, LG, you would feel the same way? Or did you just happen to be born into God's favored group, heterosexual American Christians?

BTW, Jesus taught that God will reward even small works, such as giving a child a cup of water (Matt. 10:42). Jesus commands us to let our good deeds "shine before men," that they might glorify the Father (Matt. 5:16). Paul writes that we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10).

Is it possible that the text you cite is not intended to be universal and theological, but rather, specific and historical, i.e., that it refers to Israel's corporate guilt at that time, and not mankind in general?

Can our experiences of God really be reduced to "doctrine," based on one narrow interpretation of the Bible? Or could there be other avenues to the limits of human knowledge of God?

Great sermon by Mary, which is even better when you actually, to use JCF's term, LISTEN.