When I was about six, two collegians who were allergic to cats asked me to move a cat away from them. I tried but had difficulty, so I said: “The easiest thing would be for you to move. You could come back later and by then the cat will have moved.” The students later told my dad they could tell I was his son. People still recognize my parents in how I speak, listen, and serve. How we live communicates our community, to whom we are connected.
This year, we Brothers are praying, preaching, and teaching around the five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Church. These five points are one way to summarize who God is and what it looks like for us to be known as God’s beloved daughters and sons. They communicate that we are connected to and being converted by Christ. The five marks may be summarized: tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure.
Tell: We’ve received good news. Repentance is a gracious invitation to change and grow. In response to such love, how can we keep from singing?
Teach: Always children of God, we keep learning how to live resurrection.We strive for selfless serving rather than scrambling for security, for forgiving rather than retaliating, and honoring rather than hating.
Tend: Flowing from our relationship with Jesus, we serve others with loving kindness in many ordinary ways. We listen deeply to each person, respecting Christ already present and at work. We stand in loving solidarity with generous intercession and prayerful action.
Transform: Everything is being renewed and restored. Paying attention to something local allows us to participate in a small part of God’s great work of transformation.
Treasure: All of creation is a gift to be cherished. We are in an ecological crisis. Let’s do something together, even with a small patch of earth at our doorstep.
Tell, teach, tend, transform, treasure: these five actions signify that Jesus’ love is making its mark on us.
God came down to us in flesh. The good news of Jesus is thoroughly personal. In the Gospel according to John, we hear Jesus praying for us, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17:20-26). As God and Jesus are intimately related, so Jesus asks that we may be one with him. Why? “So that the world may know that you have sent me.” God’s Mission is to restore and renew all of creation in a loving embrace. Jesus intercedes and invites our participation.
When we relate personally to God and to others, we open ourselves to being shaped and converted by them. Facts don’t change our behavior, relationships do; both with people and all of creation. We relate and connect both to individuals and the precious world around us by spending time with them, by stopping to look, listen, and tend. There’s a Native-American saying: “Live so that a piece of earth mourns when you die.”
The fifth Mark of Mission is unique; it was added after the others. This is a sign of our Church responding to the changing needs of our world, literally. As our friend, the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says: “It’s important not only to save the earth itself, but also to save a way of seeing the earth as beloved, as possessing its own life and energy, as worth preserving.”
Here’s one way Bullitt-Jonas suggests to practice seeing the earth as beloved: Take a walk outdoors slowly and silently, to personally visit and encounter neighboring nature. Notice the sounds, smells, and colors. Stop when a particular place attracts you and pay closer attention to it. First notice what happens to your sense of self and your sense of God when viewing creation as an object. Then notice what happens when viewing creation personally, as an equal, possessing its life and energy. Listen, look, respect, receive. Imparting great value and worth, we “treasure” by investing in relationships, continuing to walk, reflect, wonder, and tend our neighboring creation.
What we treasure is telling. How we tend it teaches others and transforms us. The five Marks of Mission all go together, communicating our common connection to Christ, for we are marked as God’s daughters and sons, beloved brothers and sisters. How do you tend what you treasure?