Missio Dei: Building the Kingdom in Our Social Relationships
September 16 and 17, 2017
Deuteronomy 10: 15-19 / Isaiah 2:2-5 / Matthew 28:16-20
Dear Christian Friends,
We are on the third of a four week journey through our annual theme, Missio Dei: Building the kingdom. The first week we began with understanding what a mission is- it is a purpose that orders and directs us toward a certain goal- and we acknowledged that the Missio Dei, or the mission of God, is essential to the very nature of our God. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and the Spirit dwells in us and sends us to do God’s will in each and every relationship that we have. In our closest of relationships, we focused on the virtues of patience and sincerity. Last week, we focused on our personal relationships, which includes the people with whom we live and work and share life – the virtue of listening to each other’s stories with an attentive ears.
This morning we explore the mission of God in our social relationships. Remember that in all four circles- intimate, personal, social, and public – we connect. Some connections take place spontaneously. Other connections fulfill a need at a specific time in our lives. In this sermon series, the Spirit of God would teach us to be committed to and to participate in all four circles, to see all four circles as arenas in which our God is active and working.
Our social circle includes the people with whom we share (snapshots) of life, but not the whole (album). Who are they? They are the folks with whom you share coffee and a cookie at the Welcome Center, they are your neighbors with whom you have an occasional conversation, they are the folks you talk to on an elevator, standing in line next to at the grocery store, seated next to you in an airplane. They are the bank tellers, the Dairy Queen workers, and the folks you sit next to at the local high school sporting even. Who are they in your life? Write them down. As Pastor Muther said it these past two Sundays, “hold their faces in your mind as we move through this sermon, as we explore all three lessons.”
To the text! Lesson #1 is that God builds His Kingdom as redeemed (sojourners) care for one another.
In Deuteronomy Moses is giving his farewell sermon, he is explaining the Ten Commandments for a second and final time to the obstinate and disobedient, but chosen and much loved people of God. In these verses, he is urging them to circumcise their hearts, which is another way of telling them to quit being so stubborn, so set in their ways. He gives them first of all a few snapshots of their God. A snapshot of the one true God who has rescued them from the slavery of Egypt and is about to hand them victory in Canaan. A snapshot of a God who makes sure there is justice for the orphans and the widows, a God who makes sure the sojourners have food and clothing.
So how is it that God makes sure there is justice for the orphans and widows? How is it that Jesus Christ cares for the homeless and those in prison? How is it that God gives shelter and supplies and money to those whose lives get disrupted by hurricanes and flooding? The answer is simple. He sends His Church near and far not only to be baptizing and teaching, but also to be loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. As often as God’s people make sure they are feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and in prison, as often as Christians band together to operate thrift stores and food shelves and hospitals and nursing homes, that often the teachings of Christianity actually make sense to people, that often folks start to listen to what we are preaching, that often God is able to bring life out of death, that often God is able to work through the worst of times to bring repentance and a growing faith, or to say it another way, that often God is able to build his kingdom.
Now we should make it clear that Christians don’t have a corner on the market of showing mercy. Christians don’t have a monopoly on reaching out with actions of kindness and justice. But we do have a monopoly on the highest motivation there is for loving others, which is the love of Jesus Christ compelling us to get out there and to love people until they ask why are you so full of love? At which time we have the opportunity to explain that God loved us first and therefore we love. Christ showed mercy first, and therefore we show mercy. Moses said it this way, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
Lesson #2 is closely related. God builds His kingdom as people are (attracted) to the Church. The prophet Isaiah describes the new Testament Church as the mountain of the house of the Lord, which shall be established as the highest of mountains. Higher even than Mt. Sinai would be Mt. Zion, which refers to the New Testament Church which is commissioned by our risen Savior to form our communities of faith around this one mission to make disciples of all nations. To make disciples by baptizing them and by teaching them all things commanded.
Isaiah predicts there will be a time when not only the Jews but also Gentiles will be attracted to the teachings and to the lifestyle of Christians. Jesus invited us to let our Gospel lights shine so that others would see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Just a couple of days ago, I was communing a group of folks at the Janesville Nursing Home. As I handed a little glass of wine to one dear lady, she held it in her hand and just looked at it. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to drink it, and so I persuaded her to just taste a little bit of it. She tasted a little, and then I asked her if she wanted to drink more of it. She looked at me as if she were weighing the pros and the cons, and then she said, “give me some more of that!”
Imagine having a conversation with a stranger on the elevator or on the airplane and that person walking away saying, “I wish I could talk to that person again.” Imagine giving a snapshot of your life to an acquaintance at the Welcome Center and that person looking forward to a few more snapshots. Imagine first time visitors in our church walking away saying, “I’d like to have some more of that.” Imagine folks being served at our Thrift Store or our Food Shelf walking away wondering why those folks are so generous. Imagine children attending our day school or our Sunday School or our confirmation classes and telling their parents that night they really look forward to some more of that. Lesson #2 as we think about being on a mission in our social circles is that God builds His kingdom as people are (attracted) to the Church.
Two Christian virtues come to mind, as we think about every one of our days as a short term mission trip. Humility with respect to our own little part in God’s grand tapestry of salvation. And confidence with respect to Jesus Christ who is sitting at the right hand of his father, ruling all of heaven and earth with authority for the benefit of His Church. Humility and confidence.
Humility- You know it as well as I do. If there’s one thing that turns people away from Christianity, it’s when we Christians are full of ourselves. It’s when we come off as self righteous or self serving or hypocrital or arrogant or know it alls or all of the above. From beginning to end in Scripture, the Holy Spirit would teach us to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt us in due time.
The Griffin family has been humbled in the last few weeks in two ways: 1) Our daughter Michelle / Brandon’ unborn infant with a beating heart, but no amniotic fluid, no kidneys, no bladder, and medically speaking no chance of surviving outside of the womb. 2)Story of Hurricane Irma bearing down on the state of Florida where our two sons and family live, where Debi and I were vacationing. Story of Nate and me climbing ladders down in Bradenton, Florida, putting up shutters 20 feet high on a couple of houses down there. Realizing how terrible we both are on ladders. Realizing how unhandy we are. Realizing what cowards we are and how puny we are in the scheme of the bigger picture, which on those days, was preparing for an end of the world as we know it kind of a hurricane. Realizing that we were two little people getting ready for a disaster along with millions of others, and in those moments on the ladder, not being at all full of myself!) Humility, with respect to our own little part in God’s grand tapestry of salvation. Humility, with respect to God working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.
God works humility inside of us as we learn by trial and error, humility as we try hard and fall short on a regular basis. Humility, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who had this mindset willing to give up the riches of heaven for the poverty of this earth. A mindset willing to dwell in the flesh with mere mortals for a time. A mindset willing to suffer all that needed to be suffered, to be crucified until dead and buried. Knowing full well that His Father in heaven had everything under control. Which brings us to a second virtue.
Confidence. Confidence not so much in our own ability to survive the troubles of life, but confidence in God’s ability to use those troubles to grow inside of us a spirit of perseverance. Confidence not so much that our acts of helpfulness will solve difficult problems, but confidence that God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are deeper than our thoughts, His plan of salvation is already accomplished, His Word will be accomplishing all of that which He has sent it to accomplish.
(Story of Deanna and Nate and Ali and children hunkering down in their shuttered houses and riding out the storm in safety. Story of Noah and Jenna plywooding their house, evacuating to Minnesota and riding out the storm in safety. Story of them returning and beginning the cleanup, along with millions. Story of nursing home in Hollywood, Florida with five found dead and many others suffering from heat. A story that includes loss of life, loss of possessions, people getting stripped of so much they held dear, and in the midst of all of that cleanup, all of that loss, what do we have left?
In answer to that question, let me quote Dr. Dale Meyer, “I once visited a little church in the Hartz Mountains of Germany. The railing leading up to the high pulpit was decorated with the wood-carving of a naked man. “What’s that about?” I asked. Answer: “We brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7). From the pulpit comes the Word of God that the Good News of Jesus is all we finally have. The things you and I hold dear are gifts of God, not to be despised, but in the progress of life, aging, He takes them away so that more and more we come to see that Jesus is all we have.
The mission of God for those in our social circle. The kingdom of God is a large congregation in a small town full of folks who see every day as a short term mission trip. Week by week, they are gathered into God’s house and enlightened with his gifts. More and more they go looking for the opportunity to give others just a few snapshots of how God has been blessing and guiding. Not the whole album, mind you, just a few snapshots. God has worked in them a desire to season their conversations with grace – not just with their family members, not just with the people with whom they work and share life, but also with acquaintances they may never see again. Less and less do they see people in need and say “I’ll pray for you” and then leave it at that. More and more they think about what it means to be the hands, the feet, the ears, and the voice of Jesus Christ. Less and less do they view small talk as meaningless and superficial. More and more they see every encounter as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be drawing folks of all stripes and sizes into the fellowship of the Church.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther