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Monday, September 26, 2011

Exiles for the World (Jeremiah 29.1-11)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 25, 2011

Exiles for the World
Text: Jeremiah 29:1-11

Today I want to look with you at a passage we studied about a year and a half ago. It was also the Bible study for the officer and staff retreat we had at Good Shepherd and the end of August this year. I’d like to not only walk you back through this passage, but then share with you some of the content of that retreat, particularly as it bears on the life of our church. 

Exiles on a Mission of Blessing

While removed from us by several thousand years and many thousand miles, the context of this passage nonetheless has a number of points in common with us. It is written to the people of God who find themselves far from their historic and familiar home, in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar place, surrounded by people who do not share their traditional values and beliefs.

God’s people in Jeremiah have been conquered by a foreign power and driven from their home. Not only did they lose their homes, but also jobs, land, and the Temple and city of Jerusalem. And there was more. All those things represented the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises… the ones we talked about last week. God had indeed granted Abraham’s descendants blessing, numbers, and land. And now they seemed to be losing it all. So, too, can we as God’s people look back on the flourishing of the church one and two generations ago and compare it to the diminishing place of church in society. We can look at the culture all around us and feel like “exiles” trying to find our way in a new and foreign land. Not only have values changed, but language and worldview has changed – our children seem to have more in common with this new place than with where we came from.

The natural response to such displacement would be to get back to where we came from. That was true in Jeremiah’s day as well as in our own. The exiles longed for Jerusalem and what lay in ruins in the rear-view mirror. Likewise, there is a strong impulse in church and conservative society to wind the clock back and somehow transport back to what is in our own rear-view mirror. Given that impulse, God’s Word through Jeremiah is startling and uncomfortable. God’s charge is there in vv. 5-6:

Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.

Look at all those verbs: BUILD, LIFE, PLANT, EAT, MARRY (take wives), MULTIPLY. For a people concerned that they had lost the covenant promises, this is covenant language. The covenant with them was about land, children, and blessing, and God is telling them to make a home THERE – in exile, in the world – and don’t cease to be the covenant people of God! God is still calling them to a PLACE to be a PEOPLE… and the next verse (v. 7) is about blessing.

The blessing is unexpected as well, though, for it isn’t an immediate promise to bless God’s people in exile. Rather, it comes as another charge: they are to “seek the shalom of the city.” (v. 7) We’ve talked about that word before. It is translated in the pew Bible as ‘welfare.’ It is a rich Hebrew word meaning blessing, peace, salvation, well-being, welfare. It is the essence of being “blessed” by God. And God’s charge to them was to seek the blessing of their captors, the strange and foreign people all around them in exile. In doing THAT, God said, His people would find the blessing that they longed for.

What a challenge to us! In a day when traditional church is no longer at the center of society, when secular culture is not only all around us, but invading our homes through TV, computers, music, and other ways, God tells us not to retreat, not to hide out, not to work to wind the clock back, but to make a home and be His people right smack in the middle of it all! And further, to seek to be a blessing to the people all around us. That is what obeying God, worshiping God, loving God looks like.

That sounds like Jesus!

“Love the Lord your God… and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You are salt and light…”

“Be IN this world, though not OF this world… but do not remove yourself FROM the world.”

The punch-line I used last time I preached through this was this: the shalom (peace/blessing) that I long for – that I NEED – is not found in the place I came from, nor where I think I might go, but in obediently following the Lord to the place He leads. 

Exiles for the World

So, with that charge – recognizing that in many ways we are like the exiled people of God charged with making a home, providing a witness, and being a blessing IN this world – our elders, deacons, and ministry staff gathered to consider where we’ve been and what God may be calling us to now.

We spent some time looking at the past ten years, at how the Lord has built us up and equipped us around worship, witness, Biblical training, mercy ministry, mission outreach, and the lighthouse/searchlight vision. And in all of that, we have focused primarily on our own congregation and the immediate Old Providence neighborhoods, convicted that as we were faithful in these things, God would invite our faithfulness in larger ways in His timing.

This idea of being “exiles for the blessing of the world” is behind our going out on Wednesday nights, our involvement at Olde Providence Elementary and with the Swan’s Run group home. It’s also a significant part of why we have not reacted to denominational woes by withdrawing, hunkering down, or only hanging out with like-minded churches, but have plunged into conversations and engagement purposefully. I believe our taking seriously the charge to make our homes and raise our children where God has planted us is also why we have experienced such fruit and blessing internally as we continue worshiping, meeting, training, and equipping you for ministry and mission in your own personal mission fields.

So I walked the officers and staff through the past ten years with those things in mind. If you’d like to see some of that, I’d be glad to e-mail or print out a copy of the materials for you. What was really interesting is that as I began sharing some of the things God seems to be putting before us now, I realized (in the moment) that many of these were, in fact, beyond the immediate congregation or neighborhood, though all still consistent with this calling to be a distinct people sent into the world to bless others for God’s glory.

This morning, I’d like to share a few of those opportunities with you, recognizing that some are already unfolding, some are just ideas, and some may not happen if the Lord leads us in a different direction.

Creative Arts

I don’t know to what extent you realize it, but we have an extraordinary treasure of creative gifts at Good Shepherd. From music to drama to visual art to technological know-how, it would be surprising in a 1000 member church, much less a 250-member church. And increasingly, our performers and creative folks are being invited to share and teach and extend their ministries beyond our walls or even our neighborhood. Folks are being invited to play or sing or act – to teach about how we use these things for the Kingdom – and in some cases, to simply perform in a public and secular sphere. In fact, this afternoon, at the invitation of Providence Presbytery – the collection of churches in northeastern SC, including Rock Hill – Kathy, Joanie, and I are taking a creative team of youth to lead an afternoon retreat for 175 SC youth, including drama, prayer, music, and worship – and Karen Katibah is the conference preacher!

As I talked with the officers and staff about some of these opportunities, I confessed and we recognized the tension between keeping our treasures “in house” and the obedience of releasing them for wider ministry. I remember that same internal tension when Jason and Tiffany Hinton first shared a call to missions. After Cathy and me, they had been our first two musicians on the worship team and we didn’t know where we’d find anyone to step in. Well, the Lord obviously provided, and far more than we could have imagined.

So, likewise, is there a part of me that might not want to loan out our choir or worship team or singers on a Sunday morning? Sure there is… but I also recognize that the Kingdom of God is bigger than Good Shepherd or my personal worship experience. And according to God’s Word in Jeremiah, by seeking the blessing of others, I will discover God’s blessing in my own life.

Perhaps the biggest example of this in the creative arts area is with Kathy Larson. For several years now God has been laying on her heart to start a community theater company in the arts district of Charlotte. The realization of that is still a ways off, but I wanted to share with you the vision and dream of it – that she would take the kind of drama she’s written and shared within our walls, and more and more in our OP neighborhood, and share it more widely. If that’s something you’d like to hear more about, I’d encourage you to talk to her! 

Teaching Ministry

I have long recognized the priority that Good Shepherd has placed on the study of God’s Word. When I came, this was already a very Biblically literate congregation. I remember telling a friend that any member was probably qualified to teach Sunday school. And yet, I came to the realization several years in that we needed to be using that treasure more and more. A number of elders in the church have cultivated preaching skills. At the retreat, I floated the idea by the group of sending some of our in-house preachers out to churches needing fill-in preachers. We could even send a musician or two if they were needed. Often the churches needing supply preachers are small and struggling. Think of the potential impact in terms not only of teaching, but of networking for mission or ministry!

Increasingly, we have seminary students seeking us out as a place to study and learn how to do ministry. It seems like we have the opportunity to become a teaching church with wide impact. That includes new models of hosting student interns (http://bit.ly/IRC-rma);. I’m talking to two seminaries about intentionally housing groups of 3-4 students in the Swan’s Run apartments, to spend 3-4 years (rather than 1-2 semesters) engaged fully in the life of Good Shepherd. I wouldn’t be the only mentor to them; rather YOU would help teach and train and prepare them for ministry. And part of the model for living at Swan’s Run would be to engage in missional ministry in that context, in partnership with the church. 

Issues, the Church, and the World

A third area of expanded vision involves the denomination. What drives much of the modern tensions in and with the denomination are issues, particularly around sexuality. Good Shepherd has historically found itself on the conservative and evangelical end of the spectrum within our Presbyterian denomination, and that has not changed. And yet, we also have taken seriously this biblical charge of remaining engaged in the world, even while we seek to be a distinct people. That not only gives us reason to remain engaged in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but also in the issues within the church and in the world around us.

To that end, the Session is beginning a six month study entitled, “Turning Controversy into Ministry” – written by a Presbyterian pastor friend of mine and asking precisely this question: “How can Biblical Christians not turn their back on controversial issues, but seek the shalom of those all around us in faithful, obedient, and grace-filled ways?” It is a wonderful and thoughtful study, and one we hope to begin sharing with you in the spring. If you can’t wait to get started, I can point you toward his book now. And if you don’t want to get started, I can encourage you that this is something we can do together, even as God called His people together to make their home and seek others’ blessing in exile.

Well, there’s more that God is laying before us as a church, but that’s enough for one sermon! As our new elders and deacons come before us today for ordination and installation, I hope you sense the excitement before us in the ways God is opening doors of faithfulness for ALL of us. I believe that is a sign that we have indeed been faithful with what God has given us up to this point, and I am humbled and honored to pastor you as together we seek to be faithful with what God has in store for us. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blessing for the World (Genesis 12.1-3)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 18, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "The God of Abraham Praise" (Page)

Hymn of Praise: "The God of Abraham Praise" (LEONI)
Song of Praise: "Every Promise" (Getty/Townend)
The Word in Music: "Go Into the World" (Sleeth)
Song of God's Grace: "You Have Been Raised" (Altrogge/Kauflin/Boer)
Offering of Music (Valerie Putsey, piano): "Take My Life and Let it Be" (Malan)
Song of Sending: "As You Go" (Altrogge)
Postlude: "Toccata" (Boellmann)

Blessing for the World
Text: Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 22:23-28

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Testimony - by Yrjo Roovers

I grew up in Greenville, S.C., an unbeliever. Not an unbeliever in God, but an unbeliever in football. For whatever reason, we didn’t watch it, didn’t go see it, and didn’t have a team. But you can’t grow up in Greenville and be completely out of it. And here’s why…

Come game days, Greenville turns orange. People wear orange; cars have orange flags; streams of orange-covered people either flow through or out of town, depending on where the next game is. I’m talking about Clemson. Now there are a few Carolina Gamecocks in Greenville, but they are vastly outnumbered, at least anywhere I ever went.

And it didn’t really have to be a game day to see orange. It seemed like every third car had an IPTAY sticker on the back. People were marked and showed their colors. And even without football in my home, if you asked me by the time I was 10 years old who my team was, I would have said, “Clemson.”

Why do I mention this? Well, it’s because being a Clemson fan in Greenville, S.C., was something like what I believe the Lord intended for the children of Abraham. They weren’t supposed to hide away, but to bear a distinctive mark, show their colors, and even rub off on the people around them.

Today we are going to talk about the covenant… that is God’s purposeful relationship with a certain people for the sake of the whole world. 

Covenant Conversation

Genesis 12 records the first covenant conversations between God and Abram. Later in Genesis the covenant will be refined and formalized, and the rest of the Old Testament (which is another name for the “Old Covenant”) is commentary upon and the record of a people living out history in relation to that covenant.

Said another way, once you are married, that marriage covenant defines your life for the rest of your life. Marriage, children, life, death – even divorce – all relate in some way to that marriage covenant. Genesis 12 is like the marriage proposal from God to Abram. The covenantal relationship is formalized and sealed later in Genesis 15, but all that will follow will be shaped by and lived out in relationship to this covenant.

Even the New Testament is the record of the new covenant – really, the old one redefined – in the person of Jesus Christ. What happens here between God and Abram is so significant for understanding what will follow.

In this sermon series, which will take us through the end of October, we are studying “Christ for the World.” And that starts here with God’s initial covenant conversation with Abram, where we will see so clearly God’s heart for the world and how He pursues “all the families of the earth” through this covenant with one person, Abram, Father of the nation of Israel. 

Covenant with Abram

The study of covenants can get really involved quickly. I know both John Kreutzer and Kathy Larson have done some teaching here at Good Shepherd on covenants, and would enjoy talking to you more about them. I studied them extensively in seminary and would be glad to point you to some more material if you are interested. But today, I want to focus in on one feature of the covenant with Abram, and that is what I just mentioned, that in this covenant we see God’s heart for the world.

The Lord calls Abram from his home to go “to the land which I will show you.” Already this is God’s mission and God’s location. We talk a lot about what God is doing and how we can be a part, and this is precisely what God invited Abram into. And to this land, God will add children (a great nation) and blessing (a great name). I’ve mentioned those things – land, children, and blessing – before.

But look at what comes next: “…and so you shall be a blessing.” Then after a kind of protective statement about blessing and cursing those who bless and curse Abram, “…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

The covenant with Abram will bring land, children, and blessing to Abram and his descendants, but it is this last part that really shows us the heart of God: BECAUSE of the covenant (and so…), Abram and his descendants will be a blessing to others. And the PURPOSE (and result) of the covenant is that in Abram and his descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed.

That purpose describes the heart of God. I pray and give thanks for it every time we have communion… that though we turned from God, He did not abandon us, but has pursued us in love. The covenant is one foundational expression of that loving pursuit: God blessing and working through one for the sake of blessing and redeeming many. 

Covenant People

As heirs and spiritual descendants of Abraham we are inheritors of that same covenant. We, too, are called out and blessed so that we might be a blessing to the whole earth. Let’s think about what that might look like more specifically.

There is some kind of impulse to huddle together and keep this Christian faith and community to ourselves, and I think that happens for a number of reasons. But we are blessed to be a blessing – to go where God leads us and to rub off on others… like Clemson fans.

Sure, we don’t want to cross over into obnoxious territory, but I haven’t me a lot of Presbyterian Christians flirting with that particular problem. Rather, how about a willingness to give credit to God, to ask someone if we can pray for them, an openness to share our faith story, or, like a Clemson fan, an infectious enthusiasm about this thing we are a part of called the Church.

The next eight weeks or so are going to be perfect for inviting friends to church. We’ll have lots of good music, some straightforward messages, and testimonies from different church members… ordinary folks people can relate to. A bunch of church folks usually go out to lunch after church… invite someone and bring them out to lunch to get to know some of the church family.

From the beginning God demonstrated His heart for the whole world. He reached out to a particular people – the children of Abraham and now the Church – and blessed us with the Good News of Jesus. That blessing is not meant to be hidden or hoarded, but shared extravagantly with all who would hear. It’s like this whole story [the Bible] is marked, “For Sharing.”

If we can really grab hold of the joy of that, who knows, maybe we’ll rub off on someone! Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Love and Teaching (Deuteronomy 6:4-12)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 11, 2011

Love and Teaching
Text: Deuteronomy 6:4-12

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Sometimes the spoken version of the sermon varies greatly from the printed draft manuscript.  This was one of those occasions and the spoken version varied so greatly I am not going to post the written version.  I hope you will give it a listen!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Power and Authority for Ministry (Luke 9.1-6,10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 4, 2011
Some Music Used 

 Prelude : "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" (Martin)
Song of Praise: "Days of Elijah" (Robin Mark)
The Word in Music: "Accepting His Call" (Billy Howell)
Song of Response: "Fill Me Now" (Hansen/Peppin)
Offering of Music: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (Sanborn)
Hymn of Sending: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (CORONATION)
Postlude: "Menuet Gothique" (Boellmann)

The Word in Music
Accepting His Call - by Billy Howell

O I know I could do so much for you
Telling the world about, the kingdom that you made
Saving the lost you called, believers to share your name
Give me strength to be, a brother to the weak
Out on the streets, Is where we belong, Sharing bread, Like Jesus would
I know we all have someone
That needs to hear about the Good Lord
Stand up, Save the lost unknown
That need to hear about the Good Lord
O help me, Jesus, to reach for hands in need
Pulling them in to you, showing love and grace for you
Feeding the soul of those, who need to know your face
Give me the strength to be, a brother to the weak

Power and Authority for Ministry
Text: Luke 9:1-6,10

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

For the last two weeks we have looked in Luke 8 at stories about Jesus’ power and authority. We saw his power and authority over the natural powers of this world when he calmed the wind and the waves with a word. We saw his power and authority over the spiritual kingdom of this world when his presence drove the demons from the man in the tombs. We saw his power and authority over health and holiness when he healed the woman with a flow of blood and publicly declared her clean. And we saw his power and authority, even over life and death, when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead as if simply waking her from sleep.

It is easy to simply see those as isolated stories of healing and help, which are miraculous and fantastic enough. And we surely should pray for help in trouble, sickness, spiritual struggle, and as we deal with death. But over and above, around and through, and under and beneath, those four stories all resounded with the single mind and faith-stretching theme that God the Father has bestowed all power and authority in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth upon Jesus the Son, so that the scripture from Philippians 2:9-11 might be demonstrated:
For this reason [his humble obedience], God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Last week we were called to the same point as the disciples in the boat during the wind and the waves… not praising Jesus for the answer to prayer (to calm the storm), but “fearful and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?’” (Luke 8:25)

Reminded of Jesus’ comprehensive power and authority over all things, it is startling to read the very next passage. The next thing he does is what is recorded in today’s text. Jesus “called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and heal diseases… and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (Luke 9:1-2) Do you hear the connection and can you guess where I am going? Jesus, the one with all the power and authority, gave some of that same power and authority to his followers so that they could do ministry in His name. So also, Jesus has empowered and authorized us, as His followers, to engage in ministry in His name.

I want to look with you at the specific nature of the ministry which He authorized, and also at what it means to minister with the power and authority of Jesus. 

To Proclaim the Kingdom of God

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority. Now interestingly, the wording in verse one doesn’t line up exactly with the task he sent them to do in verse two. He gave them power and authority “over all the demons and to heal diseases.” (v. 1) And he sent them “to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (v. 2) So the healing parts line up, but what about the first part? What does authority over demons have to do with the Kingdom of God?

Well we talked about that two weeks ago. When Jesus stepped onto the shore and encountered the man with the demons, it wasn’t just about casting them out, but about a conflict of kingdoms. Jesus came to announce the coming the Kingdom of God, and he represented the vanguard or first tangible presence of that Kingdom breaking into the kingdom of this world. Though I don’t doubt that Jesus gave the disciples the ability to cast out demonic spirits, it is helpful to understand that behind that miraculous and unfamiliar action is the powerful declaration that “Jesus is come” and “this one belongs to him.” The power wasn’t magic power that resided in the disciples, but the power of Jesus’ name – the name at which every knee will bow. THAT is the authority to which demons would yield and that is what “power over all the demons” represents. That is why “proclaiming the Kingdom of God” equates with “power and authority over all the demons.” They are one and the same.

I remember being a child and being very afraid of Satan or demonic spirits. And my mother comforted me with the very truth contained in this verse. I didn’t have to have any special power of my own, but simply to trust and rest in the power of Jesus over the whole spiritual realm. If I trust in Christ, I belong to him and his kingdom, and Satan cannot have me. 

To Perform Healing

While authority over demons might have sounded like the more exotic power at first pass, it is actually the healing of diseases that is harder to understand and relate to today. And yet, Jesus also sent the disciples out with the power and authority to heal diseases. Does this still happen?

I believe it does, but healing has been confused by at least three things. First, it has been falsified and abused, especially for the sake of manipulating fears and profiting. Secondly, I think we often lack the faith to either experience or recognize God’s healing, and the first issue (of fake-healing) only increases the skepticism and doubt. Thirdly, I would remind you of the connection between this text back and the preceding chapter. There Jesus healed the woman with the flow of blood when she demonstrated extraordinary faith… but her healing was not the focus of his ministry to her, but the restoration of her humanity and holiness. Our misplaced emphasis on GETTING from God may cause us to miss the point and perhaps the healing as well. Which is more important – the healing of disease or the healing of our soul? May we hear and receive the Good News of the forgiveness of sin and not turn healing into a sideshow or distraction from our deeper spiritual need.

Having said all that, and even in the face of modern science and rationalism, I have heard stories of healing which I have no reason to doubt, and I have prayed for healing for people and believe those prayers to have been answered, not in any “I see bones suddenly knitting together” way, but in nonetheless miraculous ways. 

Whose Strength?

The next part of the text (vv. 3-5) is interesting. Jesus gives them some further instruction about how to go about this ministry. “Take nothing with you… stay in houses… shake the dust off if some don’t receive you.” What stands out to me is the disconnect between being granted the greatest power and authority in the universe and being sent in such poverty and dependence. But that’s Jesus, right? That same glorious passage in Philippians that describes the power and authority bestowed on Jesus flows out of a description of his humility and obedience to the Father.
“…although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men…. [and] He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
That great contrast between the power and authority granted and the humility of spirit and person is also the key for us understanding this text for ourselves.

We read about healing and demons and even about proclaiming the Kingdom of God and think, “No way I can do any of that stuff!” And that is PRECISELY the point and the truth. Neither you nor I can do any of those things on our own power or authority. What a picture of the mission-focused church is here! Is it gather a crowd, build a budget, construct a building, make a name for yourselves, and people will come from far and wide? Not at all! It is “Go out with nothing but Jesus!”

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s later letter to the Corinthians:
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
So where do I think we will see the power and authority of Jesus in Charlotte, 2011?

I think we will see it when ordinary Christians are willing to speak and act in the name of Jesus in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and daily life. I think we will see it as we seek to be a church that focuses on being a good neighbor more than making a name for ourselves. I think we will see the power and authority of Jesus – to declare God’s Kingdom and bring healing to people’s lives – the more we turn our gaze outward and upward to those in need all around us.

Do we need a lot of money, fancy buildings, the latest technology, or anything else impressive? No, all we need is the Good News and the power and authority of Jesus Christ. And we have that with inexhaustible measure! 

Called and Sent and Back Again (vv. 1,2,6,10)

Finally, I want to point out all the action words in this passage.

Jesus CALLED (v. 1)
Jesus GAVE (v. 1)
Jesus SENT (v. 2)
Jesus SAID (v. 3)

The disciples were described as DEPARTING, GOING, PREACHING, and HEALING (v. 6)

And then in v. 10 we read that the twelve RETURNED and GAVE AN ACCOUNT (v. 10).

Jesus not only gathered, equipped, and sent them out, but gathered them in again.

This is our pattern for church. We desire to gather you for worship, equip you for service, send you into mission, and then repeat the cycle. We miss this crucial pattern if we only gather to worship once a week and it doesn’t bear on the rest of our lives. We miss this crucial pattern if we try to be lone-ranger Christians or otherwise don’t seek out gathering in worship with others. We miss this crucial pattern if we aren’t giving you the tools and training to serve God in the world. And we miss the crucial pattern if we only think of ministers and missionaries as those who are sent to serve the Lord.

You are the church – you, the people of God. And just as Jesus did with his disciples, God has called you together into this place that you might be equipped and sent back out.

So we will gather at the Table, having been fed by God’s Word and then the Sacrament. And then God will send you out – each of you – with the power and authority of Jesus Christ to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God: Jesus is come, full of healing, grace, and truth. All we have is Jesus; all we need is Jesus! Amen.