Apostolic mission

Daily Reading for October 28 • St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

Scholars tell us that it is this aspect of Christianity, the infinite value of every person, that caused the church to grow so explosively in the early decades. Christianity flourished not because it fashioned attractive doctrinal alternatives to the worship of Greek gods or because its theology appealed to the movers and shakers of the ancient world, but because it made such a profound difference in the lives of the people who believed it. In a strictly ordered and hierarchical world where power, wealth and righteousness were considered synonyms, Christians lived and worshiped in communities where rich and poor, male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile were respected as equal members of the body of Christ. Whoever you were, you were somebody in the eyes of God. And they took care of one another; they created a social safety net. Their widows and orphans were not left to die of starvation or to suffer the indignities of prostitution or begging. The community organized to care for their needs. In a time when everything was considered divinely ordained, when death was the just punishment for sin, the Jesus way was something new under the sun, and many, many people found it so inviting, so compelling, that they were willing to risk their lives to be part of it.

I suggest to you that the capacity to transform the human person is still the foundation of Christianity to this day. For all our splendid worship, for all the music, the art, the literature, the preaching, the grand buildings, the fundamental purpose of Christianity is changing lives. Our lives—we—are supposed to be different because we follow Jesus. And we have been charged to touch others with that good news.

“The heartbeat of the church,” said our Presiding Bishop this summer at General Convention, “is mission.” Mission, mission, mission. The mission is God’s, the missio dei. God’s mission is to reconcile all people with God and with one another in Christ. And the mission has a church—that’s us—and all our ministries are directed toward furthering God’s mission, bringing the people around us into closer relationship with God and one another.

From Bishop Stephen T. Lane’s sermon at the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, October 23, 2009; found at http://www.episcopalmaine.org/diocesan_life/diocesan_convention.html

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