June 7, 2020 Sermon
Micah 6:8 – Embrace Mission with Joy; Define Mission
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
After graduating from college and getting married, Reed and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. After about a year of transitioning to a new city, we purchased our first home. On most summer days, my neighbor would be tending to her beautiful backyard filled with flowers, bushes and trees. A fence divided our property which was the perfect height to lean on for conversations.
One afternoon, the fence drew my neighbor and I to its boundary. She asked me what I did for a living. I described my job as a mission director which involved planning, directing and serving with over fifty church mission groups a year in spreading God’s love in the city. I began to realize my job title came with an explanation. Unlike other professions, such as doctor, teacher or nurse, no explanation was required. And yet even when an explanation was given, many individuals had a hard time grasping the concept. I could see how this conversation with my neighbor was taking the explanation route.
Her response was different from the head nods I had received in the past. She asked, “Your mission groups do not knock on doors?”
Before I could tell her my thoughts, she followed her question by sharing that as a Jehovah’s Witness, knocking on doors and sharing the message is what they define as mission. She asked, “Is that not what you call mission?”
I began to describe how mission defined for me was meeting people where they were and sharing God’s love with them. This may be at a homeless shelter, food pantry, day care setting, or meal delivery. At each place, we share God’s love with them in our words and through our deeds. My neighbor said, “so no doors, huh?”
Her face then began to glow with excitement and started to share “You see, when my friend picks me up during the week, we go to the hall where there is a room set up full of doors. We practice going to a door together, knocking, and then sharing with the person on the other side the message.”
I was lost in my imagination as she was talking. A vivid image formed in my mind of a fellowship hall not filled with tables and chairs like the churches I had grown up in, but a room filled with doors at the hall. I thought to myself, “Well, no wonder they are so good at what they do, they not only knock on doors in the community on a regular basis, but they practice their mission every week!”
I shared my amazement with her of the diligence that both she and her friend puts forth to practice and live out mission each week. Then tried to show her my excitement of mission in sharing stories of eating with others around a table, playing games with kids, or handing a bag of food to a family. We go where there is a need, build relationships and pass on God’s love to others.
She tried to understand my definition of mission yet she could not wrap her mind around the idea that my definition of mission lacked the key element for her which was knocking on doors. We ended the conversation that afternoon by talking about her beautiful flowers and rose bushes.
Later that day, I saw her friend pull up to her house as she did every week. I watched from my kitchen window with a smile knowing she was going to practice and live out mission by knocking on doors. My joy continued knowing that tomorrow I would do the same by sharing God’s love through eating around the table with individuals at a rehab facility and sorting cans at a food bank.
Mission is defined in different ways. This does not make one definition right and one wrong, simply different for we are inclined to serve God in a variety of ways.
When reading through scripture we can hear this variety as well.
Ruth’s definition of mission can be heard in her response to Naomi when she replies,
“Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.” Ruth 1:16-18
Jesus’s definition of mission and ministry, can be heard as he stepped out of the wilderness and into the temple in his hometown as he proclaims the familiar words of Isaiah; “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
One of the best ways to define mission in my own life is to live Micah 6:8, backwards. When approaching a task, a person, or an opportunity, walking in steps of humility is required. The steps include a lot of letting go of control so that God can take the lead. Little by little as our grip of control is released, we embrace an open stance where God’s loving kindness moves in.
Kindness in Micah 6:8 is translated as the Hebrew word hesed and can be defined as mercy. Depending on which version of scripture you are reading, often additional words are found alongside kindness to help reflect its meaning such as; to embrace faithful love, to love mercy, and to love kindness.
God has required us to enter this kindness that is going to cost us, when or if we choose to embrace this faithful love. To love mercy, may cost us letting go of our pain in an act of forgiveness. To love kindness, may cost us letting go of our time, money or judgment.
The kindest of acts are shown to those who least deserve it, don’t expect it, and who may never return it. We see how this kindness is displayed in scripture.
King David noted to be a man after God’s own heart followed Saul. Most succeeding kings would have eliminated all heirs to the throne, but David invites them to the table. David chose to embrace faithful love by making a lifetime of provisions for Saul’s grandson who was lame, a person that society viewed least deserving and a grandson who expected evil at the table received grace instead.
One of the greatest images of heaven and kingdom living is when Jesus shares the parable of the banquet table, inviting those who could never return the favor, but are the ones we are to dine with now and for all eternity.
Abiding in this open stance of loving kindness we begin to watch the transforming power show up to uncover Micah’s last words of doing justice. In this passage, justice is translated from the Hebrew word, mishpat, which is defined as not only providing equality in punishment of wrongdoing but providing care and protection for those oppressed.
As we have seen this word show up on the news, in protests for racial equality, and revealed in our prayers. I spent time reading 140 scripture texts where justice appears. In our world, we emphasize the first definition of justice providing punishment for wrongdoing. Yet, more often justice is described in scripture using the later definition of providing care and protection for those who have been wronged by society by walking with, standing up and speaking out against the structures that limit an individual or a group access to food, education, healthcare, home ownership, safety, and opportunities for advancement in jobs.
We need to live this justice to bring healing to our nation. May we walk with, stand up and speak out against all the ways our world has places limits upon the lives of God’s children. May we listen and learn from others who has a different story than ours so we can see from a greater perspective to show forth God’s love together rather than apart.
Mission becomes tainted if we fail to live out Micah’s words. When we walk in with pride rather than humility, when we walk in trying to fix rather than listen, or when we walk requiring our ways rather than God’s way. Oh my, we will taste nothing of God’s goodness.
If we want to experience God’s transforming healing love in our lives, in our communities and in our world, we need to wrestle with the tensions of justice on our door step, have an open stance of love in our heart and let humility lead the way.
Choose any word you would like to define; justice, mission, and worship. The ways we define these words shape our life. Creating a definition can be difficult. You cannot use the word you are defining in the definition. The statements need to be clear and concise.
When defining words like mission, we identify the essentials, set boundaries and focus on particular qualities. As Christians, our identity is in Christ, and it is in this image we live and move and have our being. Through these defining ways, we can say no to those things that do not align and are not ours to do.
And we can say yes to the areas that we feel called to that align to the image of Christ. These statements are not long but they are deep as the unifying goal of pointing others to the goodness of our God.
Define mission in a way where you can experience the transforming love of God.
These words do not stay on a page; these words unfold in our life.
Once you have found a definition then usually the best way to live it out is through the gifts that God gave you in the areas of talent, time and treasure.
Look around your home. What, where, or who have you invested love in?
This investment of love shows up in our calendars, in our skills, in our bank account.
Is your investment of love found in a stack of books, hanging instruments, or photographs? These items represent how God’s love makes an impact on you and how you can make a loving impact upon others.
When we can define what we love with the God whose love is defined in us, this is when mission transformation begins.
For some of you it will look like roofing a house, playing an instrument, or preparing a meal. For others it will be tutoring civics, teaching budget skills, or showing how to grow the best tomato.
The possibilities are endless, and the growth is exciting when we expand these loves to others instead of keeping them to ourselves.
If you have lost your vision, excitement, or energy for cooking, drawing, or singing, then try incorporating these gifts shared with others not for a paycheck, trophy, or recognition.
Then watch how walking humbly with God unfolds loving kindness toward others in just ways. In ways that advance God’s kingdom in holy relationships together.
Once we have defined mission and found ways to live mission out the best in our lives, we next have to challenge ourselves to engage in this mission. We may start serving on an annual basis. Which can lead to serving every month, to then every week, to yes, every day! We engage in other tasks in these ways such as such as yearly vacations, monthly holidays, weekly rhythms of worship and daily habits, why not embrace mission in the same way?
We can choose to be intentional in engaging every day in mission. Also, we see how it’s not just about participating in our own definitions of missions that bring us joy, but participating in what brings joy to the way others define mission too.
Mission does not point to us. Mission is best lived out as Jesus displayed in scripture through coming alongside an individual in compassion, talking with them in truth and abiding with them in love. This begins in prayer, takes time on the calendar, and ends with a result where both the giver and receiver are transformed by God’s love.
In talking with people about mission it has been interesting to see how the way they define mission is the way they live it out. If a person defines mission by proclaiming the gospel through preaching and teaching God’s love, then mission is lived out in areas such as at work and in the community. If a person defines mission as sharing God’s love in relationships, then mission is lived out in this way with their family and on trips.
Dig deep, pray hard and love well all the ways God has designed you to live out mission in your life. Mission will be lived out in different ways by all of us and mission can unite us in serving in various ways together. I hope you have received the mission booklet that was mailed out to everyone on our mailing list. If you have not received a mission booklet you can download one from our website, or feel free to contact Katie at the church office and she can mail a booklet to you this week in the mail.
Read through the introduction to this worship series, and reflect on today’s page of defining mission. Read through the sample definitions such as; Mission is like a tour guide showing them the way, Mission is putting your faith into action or Mission is to serve love.
Take time this afternoon to re-write Micah 6:8 as a prayer or chose to write your mission definition as a prayer. Reflect on the questions in the booklet such as; When is the last time you knocked on someone’s door to share God’s love?
Share how others incorporate mission into their life. What aspects of their faith challenges you to share the love of Christ?
Once you have mission defined, sometime this week before next Sunday, June 14 when we talk about mission on a trip; grab your calendar, view your bank account, and invite your family around the table. Using the outline of this mission worship series, pray and talk about how to live out mission over the next 7 weeks; on a trip, with your family, at your work, as a volunteer, and as a lifestyle.
Each Friday morning visit the Westminster’s YouTube channel at 8 am in the morning, or later in the weekend as we dig a little deeper into each mission concept. I look forward to this summer as we learn together how to embrace mission with joy by doing justice, loving kindness, and taking a stroll with Jesus every day.