Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Our text for this message is our First Reading, from Acts 2.  I would like to present a little paraphrase of that text.  But Pastor, standing before his family in Christ, raised his voice and addressed them, "People of Zion and all who live in Wellington, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  Let the entire region know with certainty that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, the one who was crucified on your behalf."

Now when they heard this, the people were cut to the heart and said to Pastor and to the other followers of Jesus, "Brothers and sisters, what should we do?"  Pastor said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."  And they testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."  So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and as a result the kingdom of God was both strengthened and extended.  Thus far our… mission?!

Let’s revisit Article II of our Constitution: Mission--  We are a grace-centered community of servants, a family in Christ gathered around Word and Sacrament and committed to expressing our gratitude and love for God through our loving service of one another, our community, and beyond, all for the purpose of strengthening and extending the Kingdom of God.

Are we in agreement that this is indeed our mission?  If not, we really need to address that sometime soon.  If we are not united in our agreement regarding our mission as this part of the Body of Christ, the family known as Zion Lutheran, then our future together is going to be filled with discord, and as a result our attempts at fulfilling our mission may prove to be futile.

The first thing that we need to consider is whether or not this mission clearly reflects the heart and mind of Christ, and fulfills both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission given to us by Jesus.  The Great Commandment: Jesus’ words from John 13:34-- I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  And the Great Commission: Jesus’ words from Matthew 28:18-21-- And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."    

Does Zion’s Mission Statement reflect the Commandment and Commission of Jesus?  You see, our mission and ministry is not a matter of personal opinions.  If it reflects the mind of Mark, or the mind of the Church Council at the time it was written, or the mind of our current church leaders, we could be in trouble.  As the Body of Christ, we are to seek together to follow the Head of the Church, and that is, of course, Jesus.

Our mission statement points to our motives being gratitude and love.  That must be at the very core of what we do.  It is not merely about doing the right things, but also about seeking to do the right things for the right reason.  The right reason is gratitude for the incredible gift of grace we receive from God.  We love because God first loved us.  We are blessed to be blessings.

The right thing that we are to do can be described as a two-sided coin.  It’s not one or the other, but both.  We are to seek to do things that strengthen the Kingdom of God, and things that extend the Kingdom of God.  The first involves in-reach—taking care of one another and seeking to grow as God’s children as we gather around Word and Sacrament; for worship and praise and prayer and learning and healing and growing in love and service.  Extending has to do with outreach—seeking to be the means through which the Holy Spirit of God works to connect more and more of God’s children with God and with one another in Christ.

Again, healthy churches focus on both.  If church leaders are so focused on the people who are not yet part of their church family that they neglect taking care of those who are already there, that leads to big problems.  At the same time, if the focus is simply on maintenance, on taking care of the current members at the exclusion of outreach, that is a recipe for disaster.

Our calling is to serve as the instruments through whom God works to BOTH strengthen AND extend His Kingdom. 

For this balance to be maintained, for both the in-reach and outreach to be effective, it takes a team effort.  St. Paul does not say that the Church is kind of like a body.  The Church IS THE body of Christ, and therefore, for the body to be both healthy and productive, it must be nourished and protected, and it must be active.  Each and every part of the Body has a distinct and vital contribution to make.

When it comes to our mission and ministry, we must be in this together.  We must individually and collectively be connected to God in a growing relationship; filled, inspired, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, dedicated to fulfilling our common mission.  Each of us must recognize how vital we are to the process, and be willing to ask “How can I help?”

Well over a year ago, the Church Council of Zion decided to form a “Long Range Planning Committee” which was charged with giving prayerful and careful consideration as to what the potential mission and ministry of Zion might look like.  Right from the start we have used Paul’s “Prayer for the Ephesians” as a guiding text and Paul starts by expressing his desire that his congregation “be strengthened in [their] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love… [and] have the power to comprehend... the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  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, forever and ever. Amen.

You see, it all starts and continues (and must eventually end) with experiencing the love of God at increasingly deeper levels.  And then, based on this love, we are called to trust that when God’s power is at work within us, in Him we are “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” 

Our little family in Christ, rooted and grounded in love, can serve as the means through which God’s Kingdom is both strengthened and extended.  My prayer is that each of us and all of us give increasingly careful and prayerful consideration as to how God might work among and through us in the present, and into the near and distant future.  It’s time to get fired up!  Amen.

   April 2019   
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