Communion/BDLC Comm. 07/03/16—Highland—Meute
“The Sending of the Church”
Galatians 6: 1-16; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20
Pearl: Followers of Jesus Christ are sent to exhibit the reign of God.
Function: To refresh the worshippers with excitement about their overall Christian identity as people who are sent form within a discipling community to exhibit the reign of God in all of their spheres of involvement and influence.
What is the overall purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ?
1. I am excited about my topic today. It is one of those sermons which come up from time to time which reacquaints the Body of Christ of its overall framework of identity and of its calling.
2. Jesus’ commissioning of the 70 to go out and tell people that the kingdom of God was at hand provides the impetus for today’s message.
a. 2,000 years later Jesus’ followers are still being sent to fulfill the Great Commission.
3. The purpose of the church on down through the centuries to this very day is this: Followers of Jesus Christ are people who are sent out of their discipling community in order to exhibit the reign of God in all of their spheres of involvement and influence.
a. Did you know that you are sent?
b. Did you know that you are all on mission?
i. Today you will Commission the Dakota Mission Team but the truth of the matter is that each and every follower of Jesus Christ is on mission!
Jesus calls you, Jesus schools you, and Jesus sends you. There is no specific order in which these things occur but they are always in process of happening. That is the overall framework of our existence as the Church of Jesus Christ. Christ followers are always in some state of being called, schooled, and sent.
So if this is the purpose of the Church, how is this purpose carried out?
1. One immediate answer to this question has to do with basic Christian nurture or formation. The church needs to be a “discipling community.” It needs to be an incubator for Christ followers.
a. All of the activities that the church engages in should be helping people to mature in their understanding of Christ’s way and will.
i. Worship should do this.
ii. Sunday school should do this.
iii. Prayer groups should do this.
iv. Fellowship groups and service groups should do these things.
b. It is extremely apparent how important are the activities of the church which contribute to growth in the grace of God.
i. Simply worshipping once a week and hearing a 15 to 20 minute sermon will not provide the necessary amount of Christian formation for the mind and for the soul that is needed by the average Christ follower.
1. What are you reading? Are you reading the gospels of Jesus Christ? They are the place to spend most of your time when it comes to Bible reading and Bible meditation. This is how you will learn the will and ways of Christ. This is how you are most thoroughly exposed to Jesus Christ, the Lord and Head of the Church.
2. What spiritual practices or disciplines are you engaged in? These practices are necessary and are the way in which the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ are nurtured within people—fasting, service, worship, confession, simplicity, solitude, prayer, study, submission, and so on.
2. These kinds of activities are not enough on their own. These activities on their own do not fulfill the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ.
a. Those are the things which occur within the “incubator.” These activities which occur within the incubator form the people of God so that they can “go out” and influence the world.
3. The fact is that the people of Christ, followers of Jesus, are all sent into mission. It can be traced all the way back to Jesus’ Great Commission. This is the source of the notion of Christ’s people being “sent.” Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” So from the very beginning of Jesus’ intent, his people collectively were “sent.”
a. Christ’s people are a “missional” people. You are a “sent” people.
Jesus calls you, he schools you, and he sends you out on assignment!
Richard Halverson was a Chaplain in the United States Senate. He was known for a benediction which he used and which very well summarizes the Christian identity: “You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a purpose in your being there. Christ lives in you and has something he wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ.”
Does that alter your perspective? This makes life a more exciting adventure for the Christian. Your life and your identity in Jesus Christ is full of purpose and intent.
William Willimon tells a story from when he was a ten-year old sixth grader and was given a strange and unexpected assignment.
I was minding my business in Miss McDaniel’s sixth grade class, dutifully copying words off of the blackboard when I got the call: ‘Willimon, Mr. Harrelson says he wants to see you. Go to his office.’ Mr. Harrelson was our intimidating, ancient Principal.
Shaking with fear, I trudged toward the Principal’s Office. Passing an open door, a classmate would look out at me with pity, saying a prayer of thanksgiving that it was I summoned by the Principal and not he.
‘Listen clearly, I do not intend to repeat myself: You, go down Tindal two blocks and turn left, go two more blocks, number fifteen. I need a message delivered. You tell Jimmy Spain’s mother if he’s not in school by this afternoon I’m reporting her to the police for truancy.’
Oh, no. God help me. Jimmy Spain, the toughest thug in the school, a sixth grader who should have been in the eighth. And what’s ‘truancy?’
Pondering these somber thoughts I journeyed down Tindal, bidding farewell to the safety of the schoolyard, turned left, and walked two more blocks, marveling that the world actually went on about its business while we were doing time in school. The last two blocks were the toughest, descending into a not at all nice part of town, what was left of a sad neighborhood hidden behind the school. Number 15 was a small house with peeling paint and a disordered yard—just the sort of house you’d expect Jimmy Spain to dwell in—tough-looking, small but sinister. There was a big blue Buick parked in front of the house, and as I approached the walk, a man emerged, letting the front door slam, stepped off the porch, and began adjusting his tie, putting on his coat.
I approached him with, ‘Are you, Mr.…Spain, Sir?’ Just then I remembered that everybody at school said Jimmy was so mean because he didn’t have a dad. The man looked down at me, pulled his tie on tight, and guffawed. ‘Mr. Spain? Haw, haw, haw.’ Laughing, he left me standing there, got into his car, and sped off. (I had to wait until I was in the eighth grade before someone whispered to me the dirty word for what Jimmy’s mother did for a living.)
I stepped up on the rotten porch and knocked on the soiled screen door. My heart sank when it was opened by none other than Jimmy Spain, whose eyes enlarged with surprise when he saw me. Before Jimmy could say anything, the door was pulled open more widely and a woman in a faded blue, terrycloth bathrobe looked down at me, over Jimmy’s shoulder.
‘What do you want?’ she asked in a cold, threatening tone.
‘Um, I’m from the school. The Principal sent me to…
‘The Principal! What does that old man want?’
‘Um, he sent me to say that we, uh, that is, that everybody at school misses Jimmy and wishes he were there today.’
‘What?’ she sneered, pulling Jimmy toward her just a bit.
‘It’s a special day today and everyone wants Jimmy there. I think that’s what he said.’
Jimmy the feared thug who could beat up any kid at Donaldson Elementary anytime he wanted, indeed had on multiple occasions, peered out at me in wonderment. Suddenly this tough hood, feared by all, looked small, clutched by his mother’s protective arm. His eyes were pleading, embarrassed, hanging on my every word.
‘Well, you tell that old man it’s none of his business what I do with James. James, do you want to go to that old school today or not?’
Jimmy looked at me and wordlessly nodded.
‘Well, go get your stuff. And take that dollar off the dresser to buy lunch. I ain’t got nothing here.’
In a flash he was away and back. His mother stood at the door, and after making the unimaginable gesture of giving Jimmy a peck on the cheek, stood staring at us as we walked off the porch, down the walk, and back toward Tindall Avenue. As we walked back toward the school, we said not a word to one another. I had previously lacked the courage to speak to Jimmy the Hood, and Jimmy had never had any reason, thank the Lord, to speak to me. Walking back to school that morning was certainly not the time to begin.
We walked up the steps to the school, took a right and wordlessly turned toward the Principal’s office. I led him in, handed him off to the Principal’s secretary who received my ward. For the first time he seemed not mean and threatening but very small. As the secretary led him toward the Principal’s office, Jimmy turned and looked at me with a look of, I don’t know, maybe regret, maybe embarrassment, but it could have also been gratitude.
That evening, when I told my mom the whole story, she said, ‘That is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard! Sending a young child out in the middle of the day to fetch a truant student. Mr. Harrelson ought to have his head examined. Don’t you ever allow anyone to put you in that position again. Sending a child!’
But I knew that my mother was wrong. That day was the best day of my whole time at Donaldson Elementary, and preparation for the rest of my life. It was my first experience of a God who thinks nothing of commandeering ordinary folk and giving them outrageous assignments. That day, walking down Tindal Avenue was dress rehearsal for many later days when in listening to a sermon, or minding my own business, it was as if God said to me, ‘You, go down Tindal two blocks and turn left, go two more blocks, number fifteen. I need a message delivered….’ (“Pulpit Resource,” V. 14, No. 3, September 2013).
Followers of Jesus Christ are “sent people.” You are sent from out of a discipling community. And you are sent in order to exhibit the reign of God to every context in which you live and move.
I love how young Will put the Principal’s message into his own words. “Everybody at school misses Jimmy and wishes he were there today.” It was a fulfillment of the scripture in Galatians 6:10: “If we have opportunity let us do well to all people.” What came out of young Will that day in the face of scary Jimmy and his equally scary mom, came from a character formed and nurtured in a church incubator so that when he was sent, he was servant of Jesus Christ.
Darrell Guder, recently retired Professor of Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote about the purpose of the church:
“As we move away from understandings of the church as places that meet our religious needs, toward a deeply rooted sense of our vocation as God’s missionary people, then our members will enter into their daily lives with an articulate sense of sentness” (Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, Witherspoon Press, Darrell Guder, p. 63).
Jesus calls you, Jesus schools you, Jesus sends you…into every place that you find yourself…so that you, individually and corporately, can exhibit the reign of God…in the grace and in the love and in the power of Jesus Christ.