Sermon: Core Value-Compassionate Mission
Readings: Micah 6. 7-8, Matthew 28. 16-20
Sermon date: February 18th
Q. What do we Christians mean when we talk about 'mission'?
Have you ever taken part in a Mission, through church, university, school etc?
What did you do?
What's the difference between 'mission' and 'evangelism'?
Mission is the whole work of the Kingdom that we are sent by God to do. Evangelism is part of that.
As we begin this week's study, let's re-emphasise that the God of the Old Testament is exactly the same God as in the New Testament. That might seem an obvious thing to say, but so often we mentally separate them. But there is no competition, no difference, just one God and one story.
Read Micah 6. 7-8 together
The prophet Micah has been speaking out against the sin of the nation: injustice, physical cruelty, and taking of bribes by those in power who should know better; the false prophesying of those who declared that all was well, when the opposite was the case. (They would soon be taken into Exile.)
Micah is warning them of God's judgement on them. Yet interwoven in this prophesy is the promise that 'in days to come', God's house will be established, things will change, God will judge human behaviour and war will cease. Ordinary people will live in peace in their own land and homes. God will gather to himself, all the hurt, the refugees, he desolate and will be their king. And from little Bethlehem will come the one to rule Israel.
Then the tone of God's words changes to a conversation with Israel in which he asks, “What have I done to you? (to make you act as you do)
It is a book of rebuke and warning, but also pleading to return to God's ways.
And in the passage we heard read, there is another voice asking: “With what shall I come before the Lord?...sacrifices?”
And that most wonderful answer is given:
He has already told you: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
Q. Spend time discussing what these three things look like in our lives.
Here are some pointers:
Justice: which incorporates honesty and fairness in our own dealings, but also challenging the unjust dealings of others. So it starts with our personal behaviour, but includes our social/national/international behaviour, wherever we have the chance to be influential in these.
Kindness/mercy: which reflects our empathy towards others, -seeing, -and then meeting, -their need wherever we can, demonstrating the love we have received from God. This is personal behaviour again, but on a neighbourly, community and national level. It incorporates acts of selflessness, for the love and welfare of others; gentleness; observation in the family/community, because we have to see the need, in order to respond. Together, justice and kindness are social and political actions, too.
Walking humbly with our God: here we have our motivation, the bedrock of all this. It is because we know God and know he is with us and sends us out, that we do all this. It is about wanting to be like him, -humbly, in His service, returning love as best we can. That's our mission.
Q. How do these three things balance in your life?
Do you concentrate on one more than another?
Sadly, we Christians can tend towards embracing the personal walk with God, and forgetting the social and interpersonal components. Faith isn't just a personal thing, between me and God, -it is a way of living. And sadly many other people are wonderful at the social action, but miss out on the relationship with God. But Jesus didn't separate these two ends of the spectrum.
The choice of today's readings, standing alongside each other demonstrates the only one difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament: that in history, between Micah and Matthew, God has made himself known to us through Incarnation, becoming one of us, being WITH us in every way. Jesus showed us how to do Micah chapter 6.7-8; gave us the power through his Holy Spirit to do it; and in Matt.28, sends us out to do it.
Read Matthew 28. 16-20
Q. How does that commission make you feel?
Q. Why did Jesus say 'make disciples' and not 'make believers'?
Disciples are pupils, learners, followers of a teacher. They stay close, watching, listening and copying. 'Believing' only, produces no fruit
Q. How easy do you find it to tell someone about your faith in Jesus?
Q. What circumstances make it easier?
e.g. Knowing the person first, -having a context with them, on which to build relationship. Holding a recognisable role like a house-group leader, or Pathfinder leader, where people may approach you with questions etc. Also being involved with them in justice issues, and kindness giving.
Q. What can be some of the costs of evangelism?
e.g. 'Coming out' as a Christian can have its cost. Family can think you're crackers; friends can start to 'drop you' socially; professionally you could be thought less credible, etc.
Q. What sort of things do you think are unacceptable in evangelism?
We are not in the business of frightening people into God's Kingdom, with threats of dire consequences if they don't. Yes, judgement is part of our Christian understanding, but bullying tactics are not. And spiritual bribery isn't much better: give your life to Jesus and you will have....... The 'prosperity gospel', as it's sometimes called, is an insult to the Saviour who asks us to take up our cross and follow him.
Q. Here in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus has told his disciples to go back to Galilee, where they had first met him. Reflect on how you felt when you first came to know Christ. How might this help you in approaching others?
Q. Discuss the 4 uses of 'all', in this Commission.