Missio Dei: Building the Kingdom
Our Closest Relationships
First in a series of four
September 3, 2017
Genesis 12:1-3 // 1 John 5 // John 15:12-17
Dear Christian friends,
In the next four weeks, we explore the Missio Dei – the mission of God – and all that means for our lives and the lives of those whom we love. And that all starts with this acknowledgement from the whole counsel of the Scriptures: God is on a mission. More than that, the Missio Dei – the mission of God – is a mission stamped with the very essence of who God is. The Father sends the Son into the world. The Father and the Son send the Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit sends the Church to the ends of the earth.
So, we need to start our four-week journey by asking a fundamental question, “What is a mission?” Too often we relegate Christian missions to the deep dark jungles of Africa, or to the 2-week service projects – and mission does happen there – but to recall what Christian mission is, we first have to start out with what a mission is. It is the (purpose) that sends us in the (direction) of God's (goal).
Mission is the will, the intent in one’s heart, that drives a person to a point in the distance, and to make a path to get there.
Mission is everywhere, and every Christian is a missionary, on the Missio Dei. We are called to witness to everyone, in every action. We are sent into every interaction that we have. There is a purpose, an overriding purpose, that sends us in a direction, so that we can give glory to the God that sends us in that direction in the raising up of whoever happens to be around us.
To that end, in the next four weeks, we explore the Missio Dei, the mission of God, in the circles of our relationships. We look at our closest relationships, at our coworkers and friends, at our acquaintances, and at our public square, and we ask the question, “How am I sent to this place?” “How does love and truth look and act differently in these different circles?” “What aspects of God’s mission come forward here?”
Today, we look at the mission of God in the realm of our closest relationships.
The people around whom your life revolves. Who are they? It might be your spouse, or your children, or your parents. It might be your best friend. It might be your roommate. These are the relationships that exhibit the depth of God’s love. There are relationships that exhibit the width of God’s love – how we get to be an earthly picture of how far open our God’s arms are to embrace all those baptized into the Christian faith, how he holds out salvation to the whole world, so that we can call all Christians brothers and sisters in Christ, we can call all people fellow image-bearers, and we can feel kinship with all creation under the creator. We get to be a picture of the width of God’s love. But here, today, we talk on the relationships in which we are a picture of the depth of God’s love. We pour time and energy into these folks in a way that prevents us from doing so with anyone else. Who are they in your life? Write them down. Hold their faces in your mind as we move through this sermon.
Let’s go to the text! He called them (friends). The context of our text for today helps us to remember that John chapter 15 is on the night when Jesus was betrayed. These are part of his last words to His disciples as he is preparing in the upper room or in the Garden, to be betrayed, abandoned, set on trial, and crucified.
He says, I’ve poured time and love and care into you like I have for no others. I call you friends. Not disciples, not slaves, not servants, but friends. And with his friend before him, in his last hour, with only a few words left to say, we turn to what Jesus says, the command that he gives to his disciples… and we see that it’s no special piece of knowledge; it’s the same one that he shared with the rich young ruler who went away sad… it’s the same one that he shared publicly… it’s this: Love one another as I have loved you.
Today, meditate on how this command – to love – can be particularly hard to carry out among those that you love the most. Because, not too far away from here is a wife that’s wondering what she’s going to do about her husband. He’s let her down time and time again. He’s put her down more often than not. She doesn’t know how to help him. Not too far away from her is a middle-aged man whose needs to have “the talk” with his father: no more car keys, no more house. He cringes as he thinks about having to speak these hard to the man who raised him. Not too far away from him is a young woman can’t for the life of her convince her mom that she’s an adult. Every time she comes home, she feels like she’s 10 again.
I submit to you today that two Christian virtues that come to light, as we think on what love looks like in our closest relationships: patience and sincerity.
First, Patience – the Greek word is macrothymia, translated literally as (long-suffering). Love is to suffer long for those whom you love, to be patient with them. I was talking to a premarital counseling couple the other day when we started on the subject of patience, mainly in this point: When you’re tired, you will do what you’re good at and not do what you’re bad at. When you’re tired, when you’re at the end of your rope, you will do what you’re good at and not do what you’re bad at. That means, for me, that I will do a good job giving Laura compliments and washing the dishes and writing my sermons, but I And, as much as I want to change that – and it’s my task to work hard at it,-- as much as it is my task to do that, it’s the calling of Laura’s love to be patient with my flaws for the years, decades, and lifetime.
Second, Sincerity – the Greek word is Haplotatis, translated literally (single-hearted). Love is to be single-hearted, to be of one motive, to be clear with them. Love is to, as Laura and I have worked hard to do, to tell each other when you’re having a bad day, when you’re mad at the other. Love is to slow down when unclear communication happens, to recognize that there’s a time and a conversation when sarcasm need to be left behind.
Love one another as I have loved you. It’s only when we need to be patient with those who truly try our patience that we find how impatient we are. It’s only when we seek to be sincere that we discover how insincere our conversations can become. It’s only when we seek to love as Christ has loved that we understand anew how much he has done, how far he has gone, how patient he has been, how single-hearted he is in his pursuit of us. His love called us friends while we were still enemies of him. It is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. It is wide and deep and long, it is ours in his word, in baptism, and in his supper, and he calls us to love as he has loved us.
How does the Missio Dei, the mission of God, look in relation to our closest few? It looks like patience and long-suffering. It looks like single-hearted sincerity. That is the mission of God for those we hold closest. It’s our vocation to those whom we are bound closest. It is the calling of our God for us to witness to those with whom we are closest in patience and sincerity.
Amen and Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther