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Archive for June, 2014

The “M” Word

 

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I’ve escaped preaching on this piece of Scripture for 32 years.

I don’t like most of it. I don’t agree with how it’s usually interpreted. I would rather talk about the poetic qualities of the Psalms or the Parable of – well, anything.

This coming Sunday, that happy time of avoidance is coming to an end. The Gospel for the day is The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

And I’m the preacher.

The whole mission thing has always caused me trouble. I’ve generally understood it to mean “outreach” as in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, giving money to the poor, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with these things, but I never saw it as my calling in the church to lead these efforts. I was uncomfortable in soup kitchens, often depressed people I visited in nursing homes, never had a lot of money, and am an introvert by nature. I preferred the “ministry of the word.”

Growing up in the conservative Lutheran church, I thought missionaries were creepy. The women of the church were always making quilts for “foreign missions” (why quilts? Isn’t it really hot in some of these places?) Real-life missionaries who came to speak at church were usually older men who had beards and wives who looked longsuffering and were badly in need of some new clothes. I realized I was supposed to admire the heck out of these people but the fact they were saving souls for Christ (and giving them blankets) was hard to get my head around. I wondered if these foreign people didn’t need money and food more than church, arguments and threats of hell.

At least that’s how I saw it then.

The Episcopal Church in Minnesota has embraced “mission” as its all-encompassing purpose and ministry. It’s no longer about creepy missionaries, but about service and helping others. Everyone on the diocesan staff is called a “missioner” and there’s even a missioner for mission! This coming year’s theme is “Equipping God’s People for Mission in Haiti.”

I’ve come to see this week that The Great Commission is indeed about “mission” but also much more. There is no section of Scripture that has been so consistently used to coerce, dominate and threaten than Matt. 2:816-20, but this same section of scripture also shows us Jesus at his most insightful, most compassionate and most comforting.

Appropriately, we will also celebrate all of the volunteers of the parish, those who do mission and ministry in countless ways.

See you in church.

Barbara

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