The new St John’s Mission Statement


Sermon by Rev Allister Lane on 29 July 2018

Readings were John 6:1-15 and Ephesians 3:14-21; 4:1-6

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This morning, I want you to hold open the Mission Statement (see here) and, if you have a Bible within reach, I want you to hold open this passage we’ve heard from Ephesians. We are going to look at these together.

This letter of Ephesians – to the Christian Church in Ephesus – is one of the letters Paul wrote. Who knows what Paul’s circumstances were when he wrote this? [he was in prison]

But far from dejected and defeated, Paul is on a mission! Only some thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul has been working out the wonderful and exciting truth of what Jesus achieved. Paul already has a vision of a worldwide plan, extending to all people, of how it works in the lives of ordinary people and unites all people into one common community – one family of God.

In this letter of Paul’s, we have two halves. The first half is an extended prayer. What about the second half…? It is ethics.

The first half is a prayer expressing the faith of the Church. The second half is how to live out that faith in our lives.

And this passage read today marks the end of the first half and the start of the second half – where the chapters roll over (from chapter 3 into chapter 4). Through this passage I believe we can trace the essential content of our new Mission Statement.

Have a look at the Mission Statement. These four verbs – worship, grow, live, and share – have been identified as substantial elements of our Mission Statement.

So, if we look at verses 14, 15 and 16 of the third chapter of Ephesians, we have Paul expressing his worship to God. He is in a posture of prayer before God:

I bow my knees before the Father (v14)

Paul humbles himself in adoration and praise before God in prayer. In his worship of God, his prayer is what sustains his relationship with God. The same is true for us of course; prayer is the conversation we have in relationship with God.

Paul prays for the Church to know God in its worship:

that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (v17)

To pray ‘that Christ may dwell in their hearts’ expresses an understanding that to worship God is to be in a relationship of proximity and intimacy. This is the worship of the communal, worldwide family of God. God gathers us, all of us called to worship.As Christ dwells in our hearts, we praise God personally, but not on our own; my voice joins with your voice and we respond to God in the joy we share in knowing and worshipping God, our Father in Heaven.

God gathers us to worship. I wonder what this means for you now…and for where we are going together.

After worship, our new Mission Statement has the verb grow. Look at what Paul goes on to say in verse 17:

that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love

We grow in our faith as our spiritual roots extend down into the depth of God’s love. We grow in our faith as our spiritual roots penetrate the rich soil, nurturing us to flourish in God’s goodness, and strengthen us to stay firm in stormy times. As well as ‘growing in faith’ being expressed as rooted and grounded in love, Paul also expresses growing in faith as an expansive reality of the love of Christ.

It’s a reality of abundance:

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth (v18)   

Our faith grows in this expansive atmosphere. In this vast limitlessness of the love of Christ and, what Paul describes in the next verse as, “the fullness of God” (v19) our faith is extended into the full possibilities of the in-finite God we worship.[1]

So we see how this passage connects to the verbs of the Mission Statement: worship and grow.

God gathers us to worship and grow our faith. What does this means for you now…and for where we are going together?

As we move in chapter 4, Paul uses the crucial word ‘therefore’. This tells us that what he has said up to this point is the basis of what he says next. Having covered worship and faith that grows, let’s listen carefully to where he is going next.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (v1)

We can join the dots here with our Mission statement verb live. I can tell you, when we discussed the new Mission Statement at the congregational forum, it was recognised this word ‘live’ was a bit clumsy and not very sexy – but, nevertheless, was regarded as essential in expressing authenticity in what it is to be the Church.

You see, God calls us to live a certain way – to follow the true Lord.

[I] beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (v1)

It is a call of allegiance to the Lord; the call that summons loyalty from followers from our whole lives, for all our lives.

God gathers us to worship and grow our faith so we can live and share Christ’s hope for our world. What does this means for you now…and for where we are going together?

Every moment, every decision, we are called to live out our loyalty as followers of the living Lord. And I say ‘living Lord’ deliberately – picking up Paul’s use of ‘Lord’, and to make the link with the hope that is mentioned in our Mission Statement.

It is the living Lord who has conquered death, and this victory is known to those loyal to the Lord – and so the calling is one of …what…?    [hope]

The content of our hope in Christ is that the life (that comes through death) is ours to participate in. We live in this hope.

you were called to the one hope of your calling (v4)

And, as we live in this hope, we share Christ’s hope for our world.

God gathers us to worship and grow our faith so we can live and share Christ’s hope for our world. What does this means for you now…and for where we are going together?

We have traced the key verbs (worship, grow, live and share) of our Mission Statement in this passage of Ephesians. One final comment about this passage. Paul’s insists on a communal understanding of Christian faith. He writes to a community; a church, emphasising that they (we) need to make:

every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (v3)

We live as ONE body,
with ONE Spirit,
ONE hope,
ONE Lord,
ONE faith,
ONE baptism – and reaching a crescendo in verse 6: (what …?)

ONE God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

This is the God over and above all our little gods. Over our candles and torches, …this is the rising sun.

I’ve deliberately not spoken this morning about the more numerous notes under the Mission Statement. It is important that a Mission Statement allows us the freedom to continue to explore God’s calling together. We are not served by such a comprehensive articulation of what is true now that it prevents new possibilities for us. In a Mission Statement we need to say enough, without feeling we must say exhaustively all we might about ourselves as a church.

With that in mind, take another look at the Mission Statement and the notes underneath. And in some silence ask God to show you what in this Mission Statement of ours might be speaking to you. What opens up possibilities and new vision for your faith? Where are you encouraged? Where are you challenged?

To God be all the glory!

Amen

 

[1] In verses 20 and 21, the closing verses of the chapter (and the first half of the letter) we have another expression of worship.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (vv20-21)

Perhaps you have heard these verses used as a Benediction. And we can see why – in concluding worship we led to attribute glory to God; the one whom calls us, gathers us and whom we encounter. And, if it is Almighty God we have been worshipping, then we are aware of God’s glory AND …(what else…?) We are filled with a sense of new possibilities God opens up before us; we see new tasks and feel new energy to get moving.

And is that all…? No “but wait there’s more…” God is going to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. (v20)

 

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