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.
Today we conclude a ten-part sermon series on the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. These 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. These communicate we are connected to and being converted by Christ.The five marks may be summarized: tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure. Let’s review.
This is the ninth installation in a sermon series on the five marks of mission of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The five marks of mission are: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptize, and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society; and finally this evening, the first of two sermons on the fifth mark of mission: to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
There are any number of eloquent theological statements about our Christian responsibility to care for the earth and its creatures. Doubtless, one of the most eloquent and compelling is the recent encyclical letter of His Holiness, Pope Francis, Laudato ‘si. If you haven’t read I highly commend it to you. Not only is it eloquent but it’s also courageous. Pope Francis does not shrink or mince words in pointing out the culpability of capitalist society and its exploitation of the environment resulting in devastating consequences for many powerless and exploited poor people.
Marks of Mission IV
One of the most radical things I have done in the past few years was to grow radishes in the vegetable garden at Emery House. Now I know that doesn’t sound very radical. After all you can buy perfectly good radishes at the grocery store. Or can you?
I built a number of raised beds and in one of them I planted radishes. Radishes are fun to grow. First of all, I am quite fond of them. Secondly you can plant them quite early in the spring. And finally it’s only about 21 days between planting and eating. If you want to discover the joys of vegetable gardening, radishes are a great way to begin. They are one of the closest things to instant gratification in the vegetable world.
Transforming Unjust Structures: The Fourth Mark of Mission
For the past several weeks we have been considering the Mission of God in the world by looking at the Anglican Communion’s “Five Marks of Mission.” We have been asking ourselves, “What is it that God is doing, in our lives and in the world? What is God’s mission and purpose? What does God care about most passionately?” This evening we examine the Fourth Mark of Mission, which is “to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”
Throughout Lent and Easter tide this year, I’ve been praying with literature devoted to the Five Wounds of Christ. The meditative remembrance of Christ’s Passion was a profoundly meaningful practice in the spiritual lives of Medieval Christians, especially in England, and by the fourteenth century the visions and writings of saints steeped in such meditation concentrated with special intensity on the Five Wounds inflicted upon Christ’s Body: the nail holes in his right and left wrists, both of his feet, and the spear-wound in his side. These holy men and women saw the wounds of Jesus not as repugnant scars but as precious insignia testifying to the depths of God’s Love,as floodgates of Christ’s healing lifeblood, and as portals into the mysteries of Heaven. The seeds of such imagery are found in the Resurrection appearances in the gospels of Luke and John. When Jesus appears in the upper room, the disciple’s natural response is shock and fear, confusion and disbelief. Amid this rush of complex emotions, these distinctive marks clarify their vision and melt their hearts as they recognize the impossible: this is their Teacher, Friend, and Lord, crucified-and-risen.
Sometimes when I hear a confession or when I’m leading a retreat I ask people to do something that nearly always results in head-scratching—sometimes even some resistance. I suggest doing a kind of examen, that is, a review of conscience, or consciousness. When we do this in preparing for confession, what we usually do is make a list of our sins. That we sin is, of course, true. But it is only part of the truth about us. If we were to confess the whole truth we would have to say more. We would also need to acknowledge, or confess, the ways in which God’s love has indeed been active in and through us. So I will ask people to confess their goodness to others, their kindness and generosity, to confess the ways in which God’s love has been manifest in and through them. It’s looking through the other end of the telescope.
Welcome to Church! Do you know why you’re here? Do you understand what we’re meant to beand to do when we gather to worship and then disperse into the world?
Let me see if I can describe it for you. Let’s start on the biggest possible scale: let’s think about GOD. God is at work in the world. God has a mission and a purpose. In the beginning God created the world, but the people whom God created to inhabit God’s world have spoiled it and now it doesn’t look much like the world God intended it to be. God is working on that. In fact, God is reclaiming the world, renewing the world, reconciling the world and its people. In the words of N.T. Wright, God is “putting the world back to rights.” God has in mind a world in which each person is honored and treated with dignity and respect, simply because he or she bears the image of God; a world in which there is no hatred, oppression or violence, no suffering or deprivation, where people live peaceably with one another, and with all the creatures that inhabit the earth. God has in mind a peaceable kingdom, where God reigns in love, and where all may share in the abundance of the Divine Life. This is the eschatological vision of God, the way things were meant to be and the way God intends them to be once more. This is God’s work, the missio Deior “mission of God”: to renew and restore the creation.
The long-time religion editor of Publisher’s Weekly, Phyllis Tickle, wrote in her book The Great Emergence that every five hundred years or so, the Christian faith holds a “rummage sale.” The church sifts and sorts through beliefs and practices that have grown old, decayed, or died, to make space for what wants to emerge. That’s every five hundred years. This sifting and sorting process occurred with the Great Collapse of the Roman Empire (around year 500 ce), the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches (around year 1000), and the Great Reformation (around year 1500). Now, she proposed, we are in the Great Emergence. What is emerging? This is a crucial question when it comes to our topic for this evening – Teaching, Baptizing, and Nurturing Believers – not only because it is “politic” to know our constituency; it is also a faithful response to the work of God’s Spirit, whom Jesus says will teach us everything and remind us of all that [Jesus] said to us.”[i] What are we being taught and reminded through God’s Spirit, and where do we look?
Luke 1:26-38, 29-56
For the next few weeks, we brothers are presenting a sermon series based on the “Five Marks of Mission” of the Anglican Communion. The Five Marks of Mission are:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
In this series you will actually hear two different brothers preach on each mark. My brother Nicholas (who preached on Tuesday evening) and I were given the first mark: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.