Sunday, March 3rd, is World Mission Sunday. In this space last week, we printed the bishop’s message calling all the churches in the diocese to mark this day. You will notice several special prayers in our liturgy this morning which are meant to commemorate mission. Mission is also a big part of this year’s Lenten Soup Group. Soup Group is an opportunity to gather on Wednesday evenings in Lent, eat some soup and bread, and have an interesting discussion together about Christian faith and practice. So, this year, we’ll discuss mission (and evangelism, and the Anglican Communion, and science fiction). All this talk of mission, though, begs the question. What is mission? Here’s a teaser for the Soup Group discussion:
Until the 1400s, mission (missio in Latin) was a word that was only applied to deity. It was a technical term for the ways that God reveals God’s self in the world. It was first used for human activity during the European conquest of South and Central America. At that time, the Church sent “missions,” groups of missionaries to bring Christianity to indigenous people. The outcome of these missions is, well, complicated. Not everything done by those and other missionaries was bad. However, I don’t have to tell anyone that there was and is a lot of terrible stuff that is done in the name of Jesus.
What can be done about the fact that missionary activity has very often gone awry in significant ways? The first step is to recover the original definition of mission. Mission is not something that we do. It is not something that we have. Contrary to how some might act, Christians don’t possess a mission. Mission belongs to God. Mission is the name that we give to the activity of God in the world. God missions, that is, God moves. God crosses boundaries. God shows up in unexpected places at unexpected times. God’s mission is most perfectly expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s mission to the world. Jesus crossed the boundary between divine and human in order to bring God’s love and forgiveness to humans. That’s mission. Jesus has invited us to participate in His life through baptism. In baptism we are called to participate in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Romans 6:4). In baptism we cross the boundary from death to life In baptism we become parts of Christ’s body, and therefore are invited to participate in God’s mission. BOOM!
If you want to hear more come to Soup Group, Wednesday nights in Lent, or just keep your ears open around here. I love this stuff and I am not likely to shut up about it anytime soon.