Sunday, July 07, 2013

What does it mean to be Missional?

What does it mean to be Missional?

            When I was first looking at Seminaries I checked out Luther in Minneapolis Minnesota. It was a nice place—the biggest and most well funded of the ELCA Seminaries. I was thinking of going there—then a student stopped me in the hallway and backed me into a corner by some soda machines.
            He then asked me a very important question, “I’m Orthodox, how about you? Are you Orthodox or Missional?
            I responded, “What do those terms mean?”
            Later I had a similar experience with a “Missional” student.
            After several conversations I gathered that at Luther being Orthodox meant you understood and believed in Lutheran theology but either didn’t want to, or couldn’t, communicate your faith to other people.
            Being Missional on the other hand, meant you didn’t understand or believe Lutheran theology, but you did know how to communicate your faith to other people.
          As you likely remember—I ended up going to Seminary in Philadelphia.
            But that’s not my point—instead I would like us to think for a second about the good aspects of being Missional—so not so much the throwing out Lutheranism bit,
but the communicating your faith to other people bit,
the being relevant to the world around you bit,
the outward focused, missionary inclined,  spreading the good news through a variety of ways, bit.
            Today I would like to throw out some examples of not being missional and of being missional, all to frame the following questions: “What did being Missional look like? What does being Missional look like? What will being Missional look like?”

            What did, what does, and what will being Missional look like?
            In today’s gospel, we read of Jesus appointing 70 followers of his to go out ahead of him, as he travels toward Jerusalem.
            They are to do this task with utter humility, and in utter haste. They are told to carry no money, no bag, and to wear no sandals—so they can’t help but rely on the generosity and hospitality of strangers. They are told to greet no one on the road, because there are particular places they are going to prepare the way for Jesus.
            They go to these cities and towns declaring the peace of Jesus to them during a time of social, political, and cultural upheaval. Staying in the midst of these towns, eating and drinking just as the people of these towns eat and drink, all the while declaring the healing and comfort of the message, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
            So far so good—
but it’s worth remembering this is Jesus’ second try. This is proclamation of the Gospel-fest 2.0. This is the sequel.
            Remember last week’s gospel lesson. Jesus first sent his disciples out—the 12—to proclaim the kingdom
          and once they got to a Samaritan village they realized they had different religious practices than the Samaritans—
the Samaritans worshipped at Mt. Gerizim instead of Mt. Zion.
          So, instead of simply casting the mud of defeat off their feet—as Jesus commands the 70, the Disciples ask if they might “command fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samartians.”
            So back to my question, “What did being Missional look like?”
            Asking God to fire-bomb the Samaritans… wasn’t very missional.
          Sharing peace and the kingdom, space and meals… the very lives of the people you are among… being salt and light for the community you reside with… is missional.

            Or think of Paul’s struggle for the heart and soul of the Christian community in Galatia, which we’ve been reading about for the entire month of June.
          There they have a community of gentiles who love Jesus deeply—who have become a Christian community, a Church. Then, they are told:
          “nah—you’re not really a church—you need to become fully Jewish first, before you can become fully Christian. In addition to being saved by Jesus, you need to give up your ethnicity and culture and become a whole other ethnicity and culture…”
          And to this community Paul writes:
           “No! You are already beloved Children of God caught up in God’s mysterious working out of the salvation of the world—just as you are!”

“What did being Missional look like?”
            Well, pardon me for putting this bluntly, but cutting off the tips of male convert’s penis…was not very missional
          Focusing on the new creation … is missional—more than that, it is everything.

          What about here and now though? What does being Missional look like?
          Remember the last two Sundays we invited people in to bless them and their vocation—two weeks ago road workers, last week food preparers and servers—
and in both cases no one showed.
          Road workers are so busy in the summer they work on Sundays—ditto Food Prepares and Servers.

          Yet, an amazing thing happened a few Tuesdays back at the Omega Diner on US 1.
          I was passing out those invitation cards we’d been putting in the bulletins to the wait staff there—and one of them said, “I work on Sunday, but I wish there was a Priest or Pastor here to pray for me, I could really use it.”
          One detail I failed to mention—Tuesday afternoons are when the local Lutheran clergy get together over a meal to study the upcoming scripture for Sunday.
          So she was surrounded—lifted up in prayer by the lot of us.
The church, and prayers for blessing of her vocation and her life situations—came to her there at Omega Diner.

           Inviting people to church for a blessing at a time when they have to work—isn’t very missional
blessing a food server right there where she is serving—that is missional.

Finally, and briefly, what will being Missional look like?
          It will be more about doing than joining, more about going out than coming in, and more about creativity than good order.

          The younger generation—one I consider myself a part of—is not known as joiners—we simply don’t see value in being part of an organization for the sake of the organization existing
we do see value, however, in doing things that matter, things that we can see the concrete effects of.
Being missional will involve focusing less on maintenance and more on mission.

          Secondly, It’s not enough any more—
if it every was—
to simply open the doors and be friendly—thought if we don’t do even that we’re sorely in trouble—our task is to be church in church and outside of church.
We have an amazing message of the grace and love of God, unearned and yet ours—truly Good News—not something to hide under a bucket, but a light to dispel the darkness—a cool drink of water given on a hot day.
Being missional is living that out for our neighbors and more importantly living that out WITH our neighbors.

          Thirdly, the only constant is change—the best way to cope with change is creativity.
If we fear the future, we’ll end up like a turtle hiding in it’s shell next to a four lane highway.
Being missional is seeing changes as opportunities, trusting that the One who holds us fast, also holds the future.

          So, being Missional?...
 It’s definitely not scaring folk away from your seminary by insisting they fit into particular categories they don’t even understand.

          It is-- brining the good news about Jesus to your neighbor in a way that makes sense to them.
          It is-- focusing on the new creation that God is bringing into being.
          It is-- being a blessing to people where they are.