Do some of you remember this process? If you could turn and talk with someone beside you in pairs, or threes, and reflect on this reading and consider three questions: Where did you stop or what words caused you to pause in the reading? What questions did the reading raise for you? What insights into God and God’s mission do you sense from the reading and where might God’s Spirit be sending us, sending you?
Some will recall, for others this will be new; this was a pattern for missional discussion that we began within our Synod and congregation about five years ago? It was focused on this reading from Luke, and repeatedly hearing it and reflecting on it, listening carefully and hearing insights that arose in conversation together by the encouragement of God’s Spirit to help shift our thinking and acting as communities and individuals in mission for and with others. It was a model for being sent out, rather than a church understanding its mission as attracting people to come in; meeting others where we are and joining in God’s purpose of sharing in the harvest of peace, caring and community together in the realm of God’s/Jesus’ love being near/here, as opposed to powers that work against God and the wellbeing of humanity and all creation. The purpose is renewal in God’s mission. The promise is a new/renewed energy and joy in that mission with others and congregations/ministries that are actively joining/taking part in the Spirit’s working/harvest in our neighbourhoods and world. So how are we doing?
There were frustrations with this process along the way. It doesn’t have a clear end. It is a process not a program. Its measures are based on reflections on missional experiments to gain insights and try again. It was intentional in encouraging a cultural shift, but that happens in steps and starts and restarting again so it’s not measurable in typical ways. How are we doing is a bit elusive, but the best measure may be, is there energy/joy in what the church is doing, what we are doing individually and together in mission, meaning in relationships with and alongside our neighbours in service of God’s good purpose in the world?
Another way of asking that question may be, where do we sense God/Jesus is sending us, sending you?
I started a list this week that reflects new or continuing experiments in this mission together:
- the Pride Parade; we started participating a few years ago and will again this year, joining with the Anglican community that have a float! Walking with others celebrating diversity and walking in solidarity with the LGBTQ2S+/queer community and making it clear and public we stand together, not separate and in judgement as we once did as a church, and as many in the Christian community continue to do publicly and hatefully still today. We will hand out RIC tattoos and stickers and carry a banner and join with others in this day of PRIDE in hope of every day being PRIDE day, celebrating diversity together.
- Summer Day Camp begins tomorrow; this year at St. George’s Anglican, with 50+ neighbourhood children and as many volunteers for a time of fun, caring, learning and community together. It’s a lot of work; it’s very much about partnerships; it is for the kids, for their fun and learning; and that makes it all worthwhile!? With a huge thank you to all those involved, for the caring and attention provided for children and their families.
- The picnic next Saturday at Island View beach with people from the Tsartlip and Tsawout first nations as part of our continuing work toward reconciliation as indigenous and nonindigenous people together. We began with conversations with Elder Fraser, the journey has included a number of dessert and dialogues, joining in community indigenous events, regular expression in our worship, and more. We keep experimenting, but building relationships is at the heart of this journey together.
- Our National Convention this week in Regina; the theme is “Called to Journey Together: The Ministry of Reconciliation, with a focus on each of the three days – reconciliation with creation; reconciliation as indigenous and nonindigenous people together; reconciliation with our multifaith neighbours. The convention will include panel and table conversations on each of these areas, specific actions on: single use plastics, on becoming carbon neutral, on greening faith communities; expressions of truth and reconciliation in worship, including confession, smudging, Indigenous Gospel based discipleship, and acknowledging elders and territory; welcome and listening to multifaith neighbours and learning from and working in partnership together against racism and prejudice. There will be motions on The Call to Journey Faithfully With Those Who Are Dying, our church’s thoughtful, open and gracious response to Medical Assistance in Dying, (that involved Jeanie and Jan from this congregation); on Reimaging the Church: Public Ministry in the ELCIC, that proposes a renewed emphasis on the ministry of all! God’s people - not just the ordained, but the priesthood/ministry of all believers, as “diaconia,” people of service to God’s mission of loving the world, and strengthening that ministry with support from Diaconal Ministers, Pastors and Bishops, functioning in these public roles out of a single ordination rite; As well as a resolution on Respect for LGBTQ2SIA+ persons, guests: Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the ELCA; - and re-election/election of our National Bishop, and significant times of worship together (for which I have some responsibility); all of it intending to move our church in all its expressions further along the way of living and working and journeying together in mission for others, in a ministry of reconciliation to which we are called, for which we are sent by God, by Jesus, for the harvest.
- And there’s more we could name to which we are sent that has happened: An Open House for the Intergenerational Affordable Housing project with Luther Court, a work in partnership with so many others, the development consultant, M’akola; our architect and other consultants; BC Housing; The District of Saanich; Community Associations; neighbours; residents and families;
- visits in care homes and hospitals, at weddings and funerals; friends and family gatherings; vacations; conversations – like with our landscaper who cuts the lawn at the church, checking in on how his now two year old daughter is doing, he says, “I cut lawns and she grows like a weed, and I love it,” or with our custodians, thanking them for their careful work cleaning this facility and their response, “It is a privilege in a house of God;”
And so many more stories that you could tell, ways you are sent by God and what you see happen as we share love, compassion, concern, caring, for and with others, one another, any we meet on the way, often hurting and struggling too.
God/Jesus sends us, to join in the Spirit’s work of meeting, offering peace, joining with others and depending on their care and hospitality, for the harvest of God’s loving the world. The measure of fulfillment is returning in joy, as the seventy and so many others have before us. Joy in God’s mission realized in this love of God being experienced as near, close by for everyone. And seeing the forces that defy that love of God, falling from power, falling away. It is full of God’s spirit of joy! It begins in being sent out in service, and going!
Indian philosopher and poet, Rabindranath Tagore, wrote,
“I slept and dreamt life was joy. I awoke and saw life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
Let it be so. In us and all our relations. Amen.