Thursday, February 23, 2012

WORLD MISSION SUNDAY...... Sermon for Year B Last Epiphany

Go Ye Into All the World

Every year in the Episcopal Church
we celebrate World Mission Sunday.
It is always observed on the last Sunday of Epiphany.
The purpose of World Mission Sunday
is to increase our awareness
of the wider global mission of the Episcopal Church.

You may have noticed when you came in today
the print hanging in the narthex.
It is a drawing of what used to be the window over the altar
in the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary.

The chapel burned to the ground last year
and the window was destroyed.
But the message of that window was not destroyed.

The words written on the wall around that window are this:
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

Go ye into all the world.

Sometimes we grimace when we hear about WORLD mission--
after all, aren’t there enough needs right here in our own country,
in our own community.
Why do we have to do mission work overseas?

Because that’s what Jesus asks us to do.
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

For some of us, the “world” might be our neighborhood or our city
or wherever we find ourselves being called
to try to make a difference.
Jesus is always calling us to enlarge our vision.
He doesn’t want us to be limited to just wearing our reading glasses--
always focusing on what is right in front of us.
He wants us to simultaneously see with binoculars--
mission is both local AND global.
It is not an either/or proposition.
Jesus is always about the both/and.

Because the body of Christ is not limited.
The body of Christ does not have man-made boundaries.
The kingdom of heaven is very, very large.

It is so perfect
that we are dedicating new altar candlesticks this evening
because we as baptized Christians
have seen the Light of the World
and are always called to shine that light in every place.

It is so perfect
that we are dedicating new communion vessels this evening
because God is always asking us
to be vessels for communion
as we go about our daily lives in the world.

with the gospel reading about the transfiguration.
Everything changes.
The disciples begin to see Jesus and the world differently.

A good friend of mine from Seminary, David Copley,
is now the Mission Personnel Officer
for the national Episcopal Church.
David is the contact person for all our missionaries.
Yes, the Episcopal Church does have missionaries.

We have missionaries in 25 countries around the Anglican Communion.
Our missionaries are doctors, nurses, teachers,
accountants, farmers, computer technicians, administrators,
theologians and more.
Missionaries are young and old,
recent college graduates and people who have retired,
both lay people and ordained people.

David Copley says,
“Participating in God’s mission for the world
transforms us as individuals, communities and a Church.”

Participating in God’s mission for the world transforms us.

Whether we spend a year in Cuba as Mark Siler and his family did--
as you know Mark will be our preacher tomorrow morning--
or whether we go on a ten day mission trip to Panama or Honduras
or head to the Gulf Coast to help after Hurricane Katrina,
we cannot do any of this without being transformed.

Sometimes we don’t even have to leave home to be transformed.
A moment in our lives can open our hearts to the world.

When I was in seminary,
we had a number of international students,
most of them were already ordained and had been serving as priests
for quite a few years in their home countries.
They had come to the Seminary for more study
and many of them would go on to be consecrated as Bishops.

One day in the refectory--our dining hall--
i found Samwel, who was from Tanzania,
standing at the garbage can weeping

You see, when we finished eating lunch,
we took our trays to the window at the dishwashing station,
but first we scraped any food we did not eat into a garbage can.

Samwel stood at that garbage can weeping.
When I asked him what was wrong,
he pointed to the garbage and said to me,
“All this food--all this food that is being thrown away--
it could feed my entire village for a week.”

How often we fill our plates with food and then after a bite or two
decide we don’t really like it or we’re just not hungry
and so it goes into the garbage can.
We don’t really even think about it.
But suddenly, by getting to know someone like Samwel,
waste and hunger and need begin to wear the face
of a suffering Christ.
Mission is transforming.
Samwel was one of the missionaries God sent to transform me.

Jennifer McConnachie is a registerd nurse from our Diocese.
From St. James, Hendersonville.
She is serving in Umtata, South Africa. She runs a medical clinic there.
The clinic building has no electricity or running water.
She sees an average of 50 patients per day.

The community the clinic serves has over 300 families.
Their town is located at a garbage dump--literally.
Jenny and other volunteers, many from the community,
have established the clinic, a food distribution center, and a school.
None of these things existed
when Jenny McConnachie went to South Africa
with the Episcopal Church.

You and I might shake our heads and wonder,
how can she even make a dent in such an enormous problem?

But Jenny--and other mission-minded people---wake up each day
trying to think of ways
to make life better for one person.
One person at a time.

Lynn Coulthard is a member of St. Mary of the Hills in Blowing Rock.
She retired as a kindergarden teacher at Blowing Rock Elementary School.
She has an adorable little cottage style house in Blowing Rock.
What a charming, easy life she could have for the rest of her years.
But she had always wanted to be in the Peace Corps.
She applied, was accepted and went and served 2-1/2 years in Jordan.
Then she came back to Blowing Rock
and after about a year she met Bishop Dutta
from our companion diocese of Durgapur India
and she felt called again--
and went to India as a missionary from the Episcopal Church.

It’s why we have a Sunday designated as World Mission Sunday.
Perhaps God is calling you or someone you know.
And even if we cannot go to South Africa or India
or even to a disaster area here in our own country,
we can pray.
We can offer our financial support.
We can read and listen and try to understand
the deep meaning of those words,
Go Ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

Preaching with our lives, with our actions,
is far more powerful than any preaching done with words.

We too can wake up each day
trying to think of ways
to make life better for one person.
The truth is we are all mission personnel.
We are all called to participate in God’s mission.

Today is just one day hat helps us open our eyes and see
that God’s world is very, very big
and each one of us is needed.
Each one of us can make a difference--
to one person
and to the world.

No comments: