St Andrew, Glencairn
Glencairn Methodist Church
Identity, Vocation, Mission
Who am I? Why am I here? What must I do?
In answer to “Who am I?” I could say, “I’m Ken,I’m married with children and grandchildren” and that tells you something about me.
But is there not more than that?
Jesus asked himself the same questions, so let us try to answer these as Jesus answered them. Yes, his name was Jesus; he was the son of Joseph and Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, and he had some sisters.
But there is more that that.
As a boy he seemed to have an especially close relationship with God, and when he came to John the Baptist to be baptised, his relationship with God was confirmed. He heard God say, “You are my Son, my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus then realised that he was the much loved Son of God. THIS was his Identity. This Identity is rooted and grounded in God’s own loving of him, his sense that he is beloved. And this is before any sense of Vocation or Mission unfolds.
Immediately after baptism, Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness and there he discovered he had to give back to God this sense of being the Beloved of God, so that God can open to him his larger purposes, so that Jesus can enter more deeply into the Vocation God is calling him to, knowing that he has God’s blessing for this and that he is firmly enfolded in God’s love.
After his time in the wilderness Jesus went back to Nazareth and into the local synagogue on the Sabbath. He read to the congregation two verses from Isaiah, chapter 61 verses 1 and 2 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Jubilee.” Then he sat down and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
So now, Jesus with a deep sense of his Identity, sees his Vocation – to do whatever God’s will may be – and he see his Mission – to declare and demonstrate that God’s Kingdom is at hand and that all are invited to come in.
Jesus’ Mission is, essentially, to repair the world, to reorder disordered relationships, to overcome the disparities and injustices that exist. He sees himself as the one who will complete God’s work of reconciliation of binding up and making whole. And this is a message of Good News – it is Gospel. It is a message of compassion and healing.
BUT --- it is also a provocative message because it calls people to change. It causes divisions in society between those who are for him and those who are against. It calls people to reorder their lives, to look at the direction in which they are going. It actually calls them to a new sense of awareness, and it has been said that “unawareness is the root of all evil.” Yes, not the love of money but forgetfulness or just not seeing what is going on under our very noses. If we simply ignore, wilfully or through carelessness, the injustices around us and across the world, then we are encouraging evil and not promoting good. So part of Jesus’ Mission is to call people to wake up, to be aware, and to see that there are new choices to be made.
Jesus also saw that many of the religious patterns of his day were actually a means of protection against the deeper demands of God, a way of insulating ourselves from the hard calls of God’s righteousness, God’s desire to reorder all things in justice and peace. The same is true today. We get so caught up in the minutiae and structures of our own religious traditions that we lose the deeper invitation that is the heart of all authentic religion, namely to allow ourselves to be broken open by God’s grace in order to allow our own Identity and Vocation to be conjoined to such a sense of Mission that then joins us to the Mission of Christ, and makes us, with Christ, those who seek to repair the brokenness of the world.
Our Identity is found and rooted in our relationship with God through Christ. We too are the beloved children of God. Our Vocation is a calling to work with Christ in doing God’s will, whatever that may be in our own context and whatever is going on in our own lives. The reordering of our lives is not something abstract or remote and detached from our day-to-day experiences. The reordering of our lives involves the very circumstances we find ourselves in – in our homes, in our fellowship in the church, in the politics of our Province, and so on. But when we come up against the hard things, we tend to kick the ball into touch for a while and hope that the ball is lost and will not come bouncing back to upset our cosy lives.
This is what carrying our cross is about. We struggle. But it has been said that through struggling we grow, and we carry our cross in our struggling and our growth.
When Jesus said, “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning”, you can sense his passion and urgency, but also his disappointment and frustration. He must have asked of God, “Why isn’t it going right? Why are my disciples so slow to get the point? Why are so many people resistant and even hostile to this passionate message that I feel obliged to proclaim – this message of reconciliation and healing?” Every time he had to re-situate himself in his Identity as the Beloved one. He had to reclaim his Vocation to do God’s will, and he had to embrace freshly his Mission to proclaim the Good News to the world.
We are all “works in progress”. We give our lives to Christ, we accept our calling to do God’s will, but we often fail to deliver the goods through Mission, because the Old Adam in us turns us off the narrow road and onto an easy downhill path.
Through the Prophet Isaiah, as we heard earlier, God continually displayed his disappointment and frustration in his chosen people, the Israelites. So much so in fact that he turned his back on them. He let the Babylonians destroy their Temple and to carry them off into Exile. Instead of justice and righteousness within Jewish society he found oppression and violence. And this disobedience resulted in God leaving them to their own devices, for seventy long years, until they learnt afresh the Identity, Vocation and Mission God had given them in the first place.
We are just like them, are we not?
But take heart, Jesus doesn’t expect us to be heroic and to act solely out of our own energy. Instead he invites us to allow him through the agency of the Spirit, to live his courage and his response to do God’s will. Christ works in us to break down our internal walls of division; he restructures us to be like him; he repairs us so that we may become repairers of the world in union with him. He takes us up into his work, into his Mission, into God’s ongoing work of reconciling, binding wounds and making whole.
Can we let him do this work in us?
Ken (13 August 2016)
Note that this Message is inspired by a sermon published online by Frank T Griswold. I thank him for this inspiration. Internet link.
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm