Sunday, June 21, 2009

That Mission From God Thing

Today's sermon was delivered by Mary Cat Young, and instead of taking her lead from today's Gospel reading, she tried to rescue the parable of the mustard seed from last week's confusion. She focused on the parallel between her most recent youth "mission" trip to Augusta. ECOOS managed to muster up 2 brave middle schoolers to join a larger group in Augusta. They cleaned, and painted, and put in the sweat equity part of that "loving your neighbor" bit. The tiny mustard seed indeed did grow into a larger something, and I commend them all for their labors. I know there must of have been some teaching, singing, and praying going on, but we adults did not hear anything about that. We were left with the vague impression that this Christianity thing is about this type of "mission." This is where I am afraid that "focus on mission" becomes "focus on good works," and how talking about good works helps us avoid those complicated religious things like talking about how we relate to Christ and He to us. How different we Episcopalians are from our friendly Mormon missionaries, or our local Jehovah's witnesses when we talk of "mission trips."

The Rev. Tim Fountain at Northern Plains Anglican got me to thinking about this last week with his post "We are a SMALL church" which started off with the interesting question:
"'We are a small church' was a rebuke given me for some of my criticisms of Episcopal Church (TEC) shrinkage.

It really has me thinking about my ministry gifts and how to use them. Is there room in TEC for people who like to help congregations grow, or is that for 'those other churches'?"

Yes there is room Tim, and we need more like you!

At the current rate of decline, the Episcopal Church (DIE-C) will need to generate scores of real, honest to God missionaries to bring in the wayward, to bring in the unchurched, and to answer to, instead of falling for, the growing secularism of the world. After all, it's all about spreading the good news that souls can be saved, and Jesus is the way...isn't it? I just don't think that the social activist approach is the way to the salvation of either souls or the Church.

In order for DIE-C to become a growing Episcopal Church, there would have to be a major revolution. This would require dramatic changes in training, education, and of course leadership. Will such a revolution ever occur? Currently, the outlook looks bleak. I pray that Fr. Tim and priests like him will be the mustard seeds that we so desperately need. Our job as pewsters is to be the fertile soil. Let us pray that through such a mission, that an amazing tree of shelter and shade comes forth. Things may look bleak, but there is always hope for a new harvest. I have to remember the Psalms that start with a woeful tone but end in hope.

Speaking of psalms, I present to you the verses that were omitted from Psalm 107 today by the curious lectionary writing process. I have highlighted the verses that Mary Cat might have used to describe how the Lord was present in the Augusta heat of her mission trip.
Psalm 107:4-22

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

So what is that mission from God thing? In a nutshell, it is both the labor, and the evangelism. It is not our Father's Day gift to Him. Rather, it is yet another of His gifts for us.

Sorry to cut it short today, but I have to type fast today because it is Father's Day and I have several other missions to attend to. Soooo......

"Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail me now."

And the good sister said what!?

"And don't come back until you have redeemed yourselves."

I think the writer hadn't studied his/her redemption theology.


  1. I seem to recall reading in the local rag (euphemistically called a newspaper) that a group of out-of-towners came here to clean up-fix up-paint up some of the less salubrious abodes in this town. This occurred at roughly the same time that our crowd went out of town on their mission trip. In the interest of efficiency and effectiveness, wouldn't it make sense for our crowd to stay here and work locally and for their crowd to do the same? Why spend the time, energy and money to travel to do what local people should be doing for themselves?

    The foregoing notwithstanding, I am in agreement with the Pewster about TEC becoming a school for social work to the utter disregard of the Great Commission. And our leaders can't figure out why ASA continues to drop like a rock.

  2. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Our youth missions have to leave town. (there is probably some rule somewhere. However this practice the families that are assisted to maintain their dignity locally and also avoids any conflicts of interests or local accusations of favortism etc. This is a standard practice with the majority of mission trips through out the US and across many denominations. This week the World Changers are staying at RHHS and helping several local families. All those kids are from out of town.

    As to your second comment - you are really out of touch aren't you - how can we, as Episcopalians and Christians spread the Good News unless we go out amoung those who may have lost their connection with God or never found it. You need to go back and read the Old Testament before you condemn the Episcopal Church for working with the less fortunate - isn't that exactly what Jesus did during his ministry? Gee - that means the TEC is following Jesus's example- that would be a novel concept for you Cato!

  3. Please reference the above comment about the continued precipitous drop in ASA. It would seem the "social work" model is not having the desired effect.

  4. Anonymous6:56 PM

    Anonymous Number 2

    Why don't we focus on God and Godly acts instead of picking at each other and those surrounding us. So stop commending MC for taking youth on Mission trips because that's part of her job at COOS and her job as a servant of our Lord. And stop being mean with each other because all external problems are shown internal unless we act put against the external issues. So be a good Christian and follow in Christ's footsteps by turning the other cheek and loving your neighbor as yourself. Please.

  5. Although this is a bit off topic, it does bear some relation to the current discussion:

    As you may recall, "youth and young adults" were articulated by GenCon2006 as one of our top priorities for the 2006-2009 triennium. However, the national budget for 2009-2012 triennium does not list "youth and young adults" as a mission priority. In fact, in the recent reorganization at 815, the position of Staff Officer for Youth and Young Adult Ministries was eliminated and the duties of that officer were re-distributed to other areas.

    It seems that the national church has thrown youth and young adult ministries under the proverbial bus.

    For verification, see
    See particularly pp.5-6 of the pdf document.

    H/T to SH

  6. John,

    It might be better for the next generation if 815 kept its mittens off our kittens.