Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

GATHERED AND SENT

To Serve the Lord and Help His People (Mark 6:1-13)

We are all gathered here, week by week. We come for different reasons – to see our friends, to relax in a spiritual environment after a week in a secular one, to hear the word of God, to sing his praise in the old hymns we love so well and the new ones we are just learning in this blended, blessed service of ours.

We come to be filled up. And then we come to be sent out, to fill up other people, help other people, talk of redemption to other people; to bring them back here, to the source; or to heal them with our own deeds of power as Christ has given us ability.

And he has given us ability. He blessed us as he blessed the first disciples with authority over unclean spirits, to deliver people from greed and hatred and selfishness and divisiveness and racism and sexism and homophobia, and hatred or suspicion of the poor. He came to save us from all these things and to give us power to be his agents so that we might deliver people from evil and make the world a better place.

That is the awesome power we are given – to make the world truly a better place, to bring heaven to earth, as the church believed for a thousand years before it decided to leave heaven in heaven and get used to an evil earth

No, Jesus came here to bring heaven to earth and to turn earth into heaven, beginning with his disciples and then, through them, to redeem and give new life to those they came into contact with, and then spread this new life to more and more people until, like a rock that is dropped into a lake and sends ripples all around, his rock of words dropped into our lake sends ripples all around us and then to everyone we touch. Then they come to church for the same power and go out to bring the same transformation to the community.

As it says in our Mission Statement,
Through words and actions
We share Christ’s message
With each other and the community,
because if we don’t share it with the community, it remains still born, stuck in Mary’s womb, never let out of the house. And the world is left to fester and die as we remain safe, locked away in our gated community of a church, imbibing all her refreshment and then going out again, with our guard up again, protecting ourselves or, worse yet, going back to our old predatory way of living until we come back here on Sunday again to fill up again and go out again and protect ourselves again.

No, it is not supposed to be like that. We are given power here. It is not all praise to God but God’s gift to us so that we can “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” And then we are sent out with that blessing and the blessing of the bread and wine made flesh and blood, and the blessing of the words of his message, and the blessing of this fellowship of love. We are sent out to bring all this love of God and humanity to those around us at work and on the street; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, be that person in school or at the office to whom everyone turns for help.
But if we don’t do that, if we don’t do that, we suffer from Christian constipation and our eyes get cloudy and we don’t see clearly the way things are, and we’re in a little bit of pain and constant discomfort.

But if we do give what we are given, our eyes clear up, we see the way things are and we walk around free and ready to be a blessing to all whom we may meet.

And that is God’s purpose. God has made us into leaven in the lump, yeast in the dough, and this church and its fellowship of love from God and other people is the sour dough starter. And here we are cleansed and filled up and transformed back into the life giving substance we are meant to be; and sent out to bring that life to others; and our lives and our Christianity are not complete until we do that.

And the job of any priest you call is to gather you in Christ’s name, feed you in Christ’s name, bless you in Christ’s name, and send you in Christ’s name. And his or her job is not done until he or she has done all that.

And his job is not properly done if he goes instead of you to do these jobs, and feeds the hungry instead of you doing it, and visits the sick instead of you, and clothes the naked instead of you. No. Her job is to train you and bless you with Christ’s abilities and send you out to deliver the world from the evil spirits of greed and racism and homophobia and sexism, and our addiction to power and money.

Now I have been with you for a little over a year now, and I feel God calling me forth on a different stage of my journey. And it’s an interfaith direction, bringing together people of different faiths to share their prayers and pray for the good of the world, to share their scriptures and study for the good of the world from different perspectives, and to share the goodness of different foods and different cultural arts, all for the good of the world and their own communities.

This is my calling and, I believe, the power Christ has given to me, and I better use it.

What is your calling, as individuals? With what power has Christ blessed you? Use that power, even if you’re not too sure of it. That’s why Christ has given it to you, for the redemption and healing of his world.

My last Sunday here will be August 5th and then we’ll be in and out for a few weeks, moving and taking vacation, until seminary starts on August 26th. It’s a new chapter in my life but one I’ve been dreaming of for 20 years, so I’ve decided finally to take God at his word.

So I say again, what is your mission as an individual? What has God been nurturing in your heart all these years? When will you start? Will you accomplish it with other people, or is it a solo mission?

The church is here to support you, to love you, to challenge you, to send you out in peace to love and serve the Lord. The church is here to call forth other disciples, to nurture, challenge, bless, and send them out.

This church has supported and loved me while I’ve gone through a hard time, so clearly that is one of your gifts, something the new priest will have to use, the gift of love and support as a church. It was also expressed in the dinners we had for via media. It is expressed in the unusual shepherding ministry. It is why we want to build a new kitchen – to be able to offer this culinary care to more people in the community.

It is all so we can love and be loved. But part of loving is to send, so we can love others still. Part of loving is strengthening. Part of loving and strengthening is sending and going, so that we can be more effective disciples in the world, loving and strengthening and healing other people and driving out the unclean spirits of society.

We are here because we have been gathered. We are here to be blessed. We are here to be challenged and sent. The Search Committee is making good progress in its work to call the person who will do all these things – of gathering and blessing and sending – so you can do all these things – of coming and being blessed and being sent, as Christ would have us be sent, which is why he came to us, to be with us, to begin with.