Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: annual meeting, Baptism, church vision, Jesus, John the baptist, missionaries, witness
Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ,
Last week, we heard from the Gospel of Matthew an account of Jesus’ baptism. Today, we hear the event from John’s perspective. As we reflected together on the Matthew account, we considered what it means that, through our own baptism, we are united with Jesus and his baptism. Through baptism, God grants us many gifts: a new beginning, a life freed from sin and completely forgiven, a new identity as a child of God, a new family with Jesus and all the baptized, and a powerful promise of life that sustains us even after death. In our baptisms, God acts. God comes to us and gifts us abundantly.
All of God’s promises and gifts are ours forever. Our standing before God has been made good by Jesus alone. If you think of our liturgy for baptism, or take a look at it, it begins on page 227, you’ll find that we focus on God’s action in baptism. You might hear this declaration: “God…gives us a new birth into a living hope… delivers us from sin and death and raises us to new life. We are united with all the baptized…anointed with the…Spirit…and joined in God’s mission for the life of the world.”
Did you catch that last part? God takes us and brings us into “God’s mission for the life of the world.” God turns us into missionary workers. Don’t feel quite qualified? Think about this: we say these words most often in this church to infants. And we trust that God is using them- and is using us- in carrying out God’s mission to the world.
I think it’s fair to say you all trust this— after all, you’ve chosen to reflect this promise as Cross’ mission statement. We are “joyfully doing God’s work.” Today, following worship, we gather for our annual meeting. For some, having meetings or even any type of board meeting this makes them feel like church is a business. The weight of that responsibility can be quite heavy. Driving questions become blurred into the business world, leaving us focused on worries such as: how can we grow and expand and claim more market space and keep our loyal customers happy and become more profitable?
It can become a challenge to wrestle ourselves away from earthly standards and remember we are here to join in God’s work and all we do is done for the sake of God’s mission in the world. The freedom we gain in this challenge is the peace that comes when we entrust all that might worry us into God’s hands. This is God’s church. It is God’s work that is done here. It is God’s promises that sustain us. While we celebrate the many years this church has served God, we also remember that it is not eternal, it only exists for the time God has use for it, while God and God’s life-giving mission will last forever.
In our annual meeting, we will hear of the ways in which God is using us to further God’s life-giving mission to the whole world. We have experienced the grace of God and learned more about God’s love for us through the work of various committees and through participation in events of this church. We have stepped out of this congregation to serve our neighbors locally and globally. Even our budget speaks of our mission priorities. Our money goes beyond the business needs of keeping lights on and staff paid. Our money goes to the places outside us, where God is working to feed, clothe, and share the good news.
It is my hope that our meeting is a celebration of the ways we have “joyfully joined in God’s work” in this past year. Through this congregation and in whatever spaces your daily life takes you, God needs your work as a missionary. I think of this as “living wet.” We’re called to “live wet”- to live fresh from the promises God has made to us and the gifts God has given us in baptism. We also take on promises at baptism. These promises are meant to help us grow in faith, connect with the community of believers, and join in God’s work. The close of those promises asks us to “proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”
John’s gospel is an example for us of what it might look like to “live wet” or to be a missionary. Consider the movement we see in the text this morning: first, proclamation- pointing to Jesus, exploring and discovering, then witnessing to what you have seen, then inviting others, and finally entering relationship more deeply or for the first time.
John the Baptist is out in the wilderness, waiting for God’s messiah and preparing others to welcome him. John encounters Jesus and recognizes that he is the one God has sent to be the messiah. John proclaims Jesus’ identity: he stands among other who do not know Jesus and points straight to Jesus as the one for whom they are waiting for.
Two of those listening to John go to explore and see for themselves who Jesus is. Then they invite others to come to Jesus, declaring what they have already experienced in part for themselves. The example we hear is of one brother inviting another. It’s helpful for us to realize that the disciple’s first witness wasn’t to large crowds or to strangers, but to ones they knew and loved best.
Finally is a stage of deepening relationship, where those who first explored the truth of John’s proclamation and those who met Jesus because of their invitation, come to spend more time with Jesus and join in his ministry.
This movement is a pattern you might find or cultivate in your own life as a baptized Christian. It shows an example of what it means to “live wet.” At the core is the continual pointing to Jesus and coming to Jesus. John points to Jesus and says, this is the guy! The first disciples point to Jesus and say, I also think this is the one! The lives of missionary discipleship they begin are going to be all about pointing to Jesus so that others would come to know him as well.
This is a movement that God carries. John fades out of focus; his is the initial preparation and pointing. Others take up the work of speaking about Jesus and inviting their friends and family. The growth of the discipleship community, the growth of the church, is not dependent on one person. God uses many different people, from all walks of life, to invite ever-widening circles of people into relationship with Jesus.
This is good news for those of us who know the joy of being in relationship with Jesus, and for those who do not yet know this joy. God needs us to be missionaries, and yet we are not the only ones sent into the world, or into our social groups and families. Those who find themselves more hesitant about developing a connection with God will be invited into relationship. God works in hearts and lives in ways we may never know.
God is blessing your lives with invitations to deeper relationship and greater responsibility as a missionary, joining God’s work. Wherever you find yourself this week, “live wet,” and take up the opportunity to point to Jesus through all you do. God has prepared you for this work by firmly claiming you as God’s own child, marking you with the cross of Christ forever, and filling you with the Holy Spirit.
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