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The places where God is already at work (Mission and Outreach Sunday)

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 24, 2018

John 4:7-30 and Zechariah 9:9-10

Mission? Some people sneer at this very word. But Jesus, God’s Great Missionary, was and continues to be our example. Mission is the outreach of God’s caring for the whole world. This is what God is about. Indeed, this happens in every square inch of our existence. We might be surprised to know where God is already at work. Every opportunity that we seize to reach out – and help out – are ways in which we join in where God is already at work. Those people who engage in mission are called missionaries. I am addressing you as fellow missionaries. 

Before even thinking about the world out there it’s important to be reminded of the place where outreach starts. It starts right here within our own four walls, so to speak.

Our entire existence as a congregation is based on the fact that we are a mission. Through people, of course, the Lord God founded Dayspring as a mission. The budget of Dayspring is essentially a mission document. Everything we do and have and aspire to is one whole mission. Our mission continues and expands outwards when our kids are taught at Church School about the Good News of Jesus who came as the Son of God into our broken world—right into our own neighbourhood. When a child is filled with gratitude for all that this gospel means to them, the heart can’t help but want to say thank you and do this by sharing and reaching out. 

Here is an example of mission remembered in the Gospel of John: It seemed that there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans. But when Jesus met the woman at the well the situation changed, the outsiders became insiders and the Samaritans were recognised as part of the Family of God. He denied the tribal approach of ‘us and them’ or ‘you and them’. Are we prepared to let go of a tribal mentality? Acknowledging that God works through all followers of Jesus. This could help open up our eyes. Indeed, the message of Christ is one about reaching out to the wide world.

In Samaria, Jesus was resting at a well and in the heat of the day a woman went to the well to get water. High noon is hot in the Middle East and perhaps you remember that Noel Coward insisted that only “Mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun.” Not quite true as here we must include those who seek to avoid others. Going at high noon meant travelling alone, an indication that she was perhaps not the most popular person in town. How often don’t our paths also cross with folks whose backgrounds seem a bit dubious, at least from our perspective? Have you any idea of how often our own congregation has reached out to people like that Samaritan woman? It happens unofficially, and it happens indeed. 

Jesus, a man, talked to a woman in a public place. Jesus a Jew talks to a Samaritan. This was not common practice; this is not usual behaviour. It must have something to do with gospel, Good News to those who are despised and are seen or see themselves as outcasts. 

Jesus spoke to her. Oops! Not culturally acceptable! A man speaking to a woman who was not his wife, daughter, mother or sister. Surprised? The woman was surprised. Did this person have ulterior motives? The missionary may often be suspect. In Lebanon during the civil war missionaries there were initially suspect and a common question and accusation was: Why are you here? It must be because you are paid very well or because you are a spy. 

It would be easy to criticise Jesus of not being aware of the cultural taboos, or if He was aware, of not respecting them. Certainly there were lots of laws and traditions that He consciously set aside as unimportant. Very often our adherence to traditions, even laws, deny and undermine our commitment to God, our sisters and brothers, God’s children.

How can poverty be seen as okay in our very own city? This is why we give food to the homeless, reach out through the Food Bank and get involved in the End Poverty Initiative in Edmonton, to name only a few.

“Water, I’ve come for water” and Jesus, God’s Great Missionary entered into discussion about water as a symbol of life.

To that Samaritan woman, an outcast, an apparent outcast from her own society, that woman, someone normally ignored by an adult male, Jesus spoke and approached her for help. He was thirsty; He was willing to drink from her water container and in doing so ritually contaminated himself. How unusual. And so she was confused: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan for a drink?” 

Missionaries of our church have not been afraid to embrace those who are different. Five husbands and living common-law, yet our sister and beloved child of God? Yes! For sure! 

Again, mission can be dangerous. God’s Great Missionary said: follow Me but the government didn’t like that. The religious authorities did not like that. The empire did not like that and it struck back. Jesus joined the ranks of the many who were crucified, in his case because of Rome but on behalf of his brothers and sisters. And we are invited to follow Him down that same road, the road that leads us to God knows where. For our Presbyterian Church in Canada that road is by way of: India, Malawi, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Haiti, Japan, China and even difficult places in Canada. 

Our mission is to individuals and communities. It is to support health projects. It is to undertake educational tasks. It is to teach the joy of music and worship. It is to build and not tear down. It is to accept and not reject. It is to support the women and children of Afghanistan.

Dayspring is indeed truly committed to a wide range of mission activities, be it through our annual community carnival, our neighbourhood garden, Presbyterians Sharing or going to help build houses in Mexico. 

Mission. An exciting task whenever and wherever we are as we partner with Jesus, God’s Great Missionary in sharing God’s caring for the world. Amen

 

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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