Grace Lutheran Church, Strasburg, IL
September 8th, 2013
“Another Missions Sermon”
Grace and peace to you... an honor to share the Word of God with you on this Sunday, your “Mission Festival”.
There’s a lot of talk about missions and being missional in the church today. Everyone seems to agree that missions are good. And everywhere I go people love to hear from a missionary, and learn about missions. It seems appropriate to have a missionary as a guest preacher on a Sunday highlighting missions, and so here we are, and here I am.
But I have to be honest with you. I don’t preach a lot of “missions” sermons. I don’t have one canned sermon that I repeat everywhere I go, using the same Scriptures, telling the same stories. I know some people told me that’s the way it should be done. But I don’t.
And I also have to admit that I don’t have any special expertise on “doing missions” that I can impart to you today. I don’t expect my visit will drastically change your congregation, what it does, or even how you all feel about “missions”.
What I will do, however, is proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And with the Gospel reading appointed for a “mission festival”, we can together give attention to Jesus’ teaching about missions. His mission. And the mission that he carries on through his apostles, and through his church. The mission that he continues even today, even here, through you.
A missionary is one who is “sent”, especially having to do with the activity of the church in the world. Or as Jesus puts it, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed... to all nations” And while usually we think of pastors, there are others who are sent in many capacities, all in support of this central goal. Usually we think of missionaries going to foreign countries, though some are sent right to our own back yard.
All pastors are missionaries, in a sense, sent to a particular corner of the world. Sent, or called (really two sides of the same coin), to a local congregation or context, and given the authority to preach and teach in that place. Sent and called to administer the sacraments and proclaim publicly the forgiveness of sins, exercising the keys of the kingdom on behalf of the congregation, in the stead and by the command of Christ. So may I introduce you to the missionary to Strasburg, Pastor Michael Mohr.
Perhaps the important part is not so much the people who are sent, or to which location they are sent. But why are they sent? In the case of Christian missionaries, it is the message that is most important - and that message is always the message of Christ.
The words of Christ - the whole counsel of God, that is. For we believe that the entirety of Holy Scripture is a testimony to Christ. These things written about him “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” which were fulfilled when he appeared in the flesh. The same things that are written of him in the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament. All Scripture which is profitable and trustworthy for the man of God to read, and learn, and understand.
There is a proclamation aspect, then, but also a teaching aspect of the message. There is the public, formal, announcement of the Gospel, but also the patient teaching, and the individualized instruction of those who would learn of Christ. As Christ opened the minds of his apostles, so do servants of the Gospel open the scriptures to his people today.
And these words, this message of Christ, is two-fold. There is a polarity. There is the preaching of repentance, but also the forgiveness of sins. There is law, and there is Gospel. We proclaim and teach both, for the scriptures do; for Christ does.
The law has been preached to you, that you are a sinner. Your faithful pastor reminds you regularly of your failure to fulfill God’s law. The liturgy of the church helps us all to frame our confession in scriptural and comprehensive terms: We have not loved God with our whole heart, nor our neighbor as ourselves. We sin in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and left undone. And therefore we deserve temporal and eternal punishment.
If the message of Christ was only about what we should do or must do, though we fail to do it - we would be in a sorry state, indeed. If all we heard from those who are sent to preach is the harangues and how to’s and the “practical” an moral encouragement, it would lead us either to false pride or despair. We’d either convince ourselves we are good enough for God, or we’d see clearly that we never can be.
But Christ’s word doesn’t stop with the law. The Gospel, the good news, is really the point. The message of forgiveness and salvation in Christ. The proclamation that your sins are not counted against you. They are washed away in the flood of your baptism. They are paid off by the blood of Christ shed at the cross, and his body there broken - and distributed to you from His altar.
This is what was written, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise again”, and this is what Jesus fulfilled.
He came not just to talk about salvation, nor even to simply promise it, but to accomplish it. This was his mission.
And so Christ himself is the greatest of all missionaries. Sent on a mission from God, to save the world. To live and die and rise for all the sinners that ever sinned, to pay for each and every one. His mission was and is for you. You are why he came, and did everything that he did.
And the Christ who was sent, also sends. “As the Father has sent me, so also I send you” he said to his apostles. The mission is his, the work is his, the praise and honor for anything good that he does through us - belongs only to him.
And one last major point - not all are sent, or called. At least not all are called or sent the same. Yes, all Christians are called to repentance and faith in Christ. But not all are missionaries - in the sense of public proclamation. Not all are prophets, apostles, evangelists or pastors. We understand that God gives us all various vocations, godly callings, in which we daily serve him. Some are parents, some are children. Some are workers, some employees. Some citizens, friends, teachers, students - some pastors, some hearers.
All are witnesses. All can give answer when asked for the hope within us, when opportunity arises. But not all are called to preach. Most of us probably wouldn’t want to anyway. But we thank God for the faithful proclamation of Christ we have heard, and we want all nations to share this treasure with us.
And this, friends, is why we do missions, and why we support missions, and why we host missionary visits and have mission festivals. This is why Lutheran congregations do Lutheran missions, and why Lutheran missions lead to Lutheran congregations. That we may honor the mission of Christ, beginning where we are called, and even to all nations, to the ends of the earth.
Notice throughout this passage, Christ is driving the verbs. He speaks his words to them. He opens their minds. He suffers. He dies. He is proclaimed. He leads. He blesses.
And in joyful response, what do his disciples do? They worship him continually. They gather in his house. And the bless God, who has blessed them in Christ.
So when you hear the sermon next week, or next month, you are really hearing another mission sermon. When repentance of sins and forgiveness are preached here, week in and week out, his mission is advanced. Thus receiving the blessings of Christ, in the word and in his sacraments, there is great joy for all his disciples, and for you. In joyful response to his mission for us, and his message to us, we love God and serve our neighbor.
A blessed mission festival Sunday to you, and continual blessings in Christ our Lord. Amen.