Living our Mission
As we move through this season of Epiphany we are spending a few weeks thinking and praying about Jesus as God’s light to the whole world and what that means for our mission and vision here at Good Shepherd. Of course it is God’s mission and God’s vision for us that we seek to hear and respond to… and we have spent two years in prayer and conversation bathed in the Holy Spirit to arrive at these simple but amazing words: we seek to be a church that welcomes as we have been welcomed, forgives as we have been forgiven and serves as we have been served all by the grace and mercy of God.
Last week we spent time thinking about what it means to be a church that extends and Holy Welcome to all people. Today we will linger in this idea of forgiveness… a word that it is easy to say but much harder to practice or receive. What does a church that encourages the practice of forgiveness look, sound or feel like?
What does forgiveness look like?
First, it is made up of a people who all show up here for a myriad of reasons, all of them probably wrong. What do I mean by that? I mean that some of us show up at church seeking the answers to life’s deepest questions, others of us come to sing only certain hymns but not others, some come for peace and quiet, some come for the fellowship but what you find here, I think, often goes against what brought you here in the first place.
When you come into the presence of Christ what you find is often one who gives you more questions rather than taking them away, and when we go to our Bibles we find ourselves left scratching our heads more often than not or even angry if we receive an answer we don’t like! And while we like to come to Church to find peace and comfort more often than not we encounter a Jesus who is here to wrestle with us, leave us in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar place and even a Holy Spirit who calls in people we don’t know, look like or even sound like! And don’t even get me started on the hymns. But at the base of it all we know that when we come to this place we will experience forgiveness in our confessing, absolving and receiving God’s word in the Bread and the Wine week after week. Our basis for existence is grace, mercy and freedom from Sin and Death.
A Clean Slate
Second, we are a church made up of a people whose rhymes and reasons Jesus has taken and formed them his own reasons and his own purpose. Rather than live for ourselves, for instance, or find an answer to our own life’s questions, we have discovered that maybe God has formed us into the answer for someone else’s question. And the only way God can do this with and for us is by wiping our slate clean… giving each of us a new birth and a new life to live as God’s instruments of peace and love on earth.
Close your eyes and imagine a person or a situation that is causing you great pain or sorrow. It can be deeply personal or maybe something that just irks you. Imagine God surrounding that situation, that person with the light of Jesus Christ telling you that God will handle it, to let go, to release that pain that anger or that sorrow. How does that feel?
My friends, God has done the same thing for you and for me.
May we always be found as a church made up of imperfect but forgiven saints and sinners. And may we hold each other and each person that walks through the doors of this church or our lives in that same feeling of grace, mercy and love. Even when it’s hard.