The Readings are very helpful for many churches like St. Magloire’s that are facing the realities of downsizing and adapting to a new model of ministry. Before deciding on a new leadership model, churches need to develop a consensus on mission. “What are we here for?” Thriving churches have a clear and practical motivating vision. (‘survival’ is not a clear or practical motivating vision).
· Amos (7.7-17) reminds us that God measures us against a standard of straightness – just as a wall is measured by a plumb line.
· Jesus defines the Christian plumb line as demonstrating our love of God by having mercy on our neighbour
· Paul explains the process of growing in our love of God as we first hear then believe the Good News; and develop the hope and love in our hearts that is proclaimed in what we say and do in our lives
· Mission of the Church is to be the body of Christ in the world by teaching and modelling God’s grace, love, forgiveness and healing
1. The Good Samaritan is proclaiming God’s grace by his actions
The Parable gives us a stark contrast with the failure to love of the priest and Levite. What they lacked was love in the more specific form of grace. Grace is love that is undeserved, unearned, and unmerited.
- It is the opposite of our usual excuse that people who do foolish and destructive things (travel alone) deserve the consequences
- Grace is a free gift – it breaks our hearts and heals us
- We proclaim God’s grace in our relationships with people
2. The Church's Mission is to proclaim our love of God and God’s love by what we do
I have read and taught the Apostle Paul for over 20 years but when I stood where he stood in Pisdian Antioche, between the huge synagogue full of suspicious Jews at one end of the main street and facing the huge statue of the Roman god Jupiter on the hill at the other end I realized how much he loved Jesus. It would take courage to proclaim Jesus as Lord in this setting.
- Most of the churches Paul and his helpers established in Turkey have been swept away by more determined men proclaiming Islam
- My take-away was that we need to be stronger and less compromising in proclaiming God’s love in our time
- We forget love is an action word – more than a warm feeling
- God’s love is sometimes tough – warm friendly people do not get crucified
3. Mission is to proclaim God’s forgiveness by our forgiveness
We live in an environment where many people have listened to false prophets like Amaziah. Many churches have not proclaimed the good news of God’s forgiveness boldly. We have tried to avoid conflict with the values of our culture – to go along to get along. Having spent two weeks walking through the ruins of ancient Christian churches I know this is a failed strategy.
- Guilt and shame is a destructive force in many people’s lives
- They are unhappy because they know something is wrong
- They need someone – you and I to speak and be the Good News
- The Good News is that Jesus has paid for our sins and offers us an opportunity to repent and be forgiven
- Our forgiveness is conditional on faith in Jesus death for our sin
- Faith in Jesus includes the Lords’ Prayer – “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
- Un-forgiveness is a serious sin – can cripple our spiritual life
4. Mission is to boldly proclaim God’s healing over others
Our communities are full of spiritually and physical broken and wounded people. This is not a failure in creation. It does not prove the absence of God. Instead God is testing us by working with us in healing broken and wounded people. This is where God becomes real for most people – when they experience personal forgiveness and healing.
- Bible assumes a supernatural worldview that includes miraculous physical and spiritual healings
- This supernatural worldview has been replaced in the minds of many modern people by a ‘more scientific’ worldview that reduces God and Jesus to intellectual concepts of good behaviour- morality
- Many churches are failing because they lack courage in proclaiming in word and actions the Good News of God’s healing
· Paul gave us the model for Christian church growth:
- Proclaim boldly so people believe and have the hope and love they need to proclaim to others – by what they say and what they do
Church's mission is to boldly proclaim God’s grace, love, forgiveness and healing to all God’s children in Jesus name!