Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)
Jesus sends you Out
In today’s Gospel, we hear, “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go.” Three times in these instructions, Jesus said for us to “Go!” We must never forget that Jesus sends out disciples. We say each week in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one Holy, Catholic, and APOSTOLIC church.” Well, that is what Apostolic means, “to be sent out.” In today’s gospel, Jesus sent out the twelve on a mission road trip. He said, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”
Even today, Jesus send us out to proclaim, cure, and restore, but he sends us out without a reliance on our own selves. He sends us out trusting in and relying only on God. Jesus said, “You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.” We are called to rely on God alone.
See, we are mission people, sent out to continue Jesus’ ministry, but we need to keep working, trusting in and relying on God alone. We sometimes think we cannot move, unless we have the right resources already in place, the right plan already completely figured ou,t or if we have the right perfect leader up front. The truth is, “we already have the leader of our lives, leading the way; Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And he calls us to take a risk, to trust him, and to move forward in mission asking, “What if?”
What if ….
Over two years ago, after Terri and I first arrived at St. Monica’s, I preached a sermon that included a question of hope, of anticipation, and of challenge. I asked this congregation, “What if?” I said, “The truth is “God is always making things new!” I challenged you to be “willing for God to open your hearts and eyes, to change your mindset, and to transform your default responses, to no longer believing that “you are not enough” or “you do not have the resources” or “you need more space.”
I challenged you to “live in hopeful expectation, to dream big again and to invite God to give you all a HUGE dream! I told you that “’What if’ is a powerfully simple phrase, and it has the power to release in you, God’s renewed creativity and hope in which, you can expect the unexpected. You may even be able to expect a miracle or two.”
On that day, I believe God was placing a vision in your hearts for a renewed day and a renewed spirit of faithful service and action. God did not abandon you then, and you faithfully lived into a new day. You were faithful and at peace, not because of a new priest who came to you from the diocesan office, but because you all were willing to trust God, to take a chance, and to dream again. Now is the time to begin dreaming once again, and to begin asking the most important question before you in this time of transition, “What if?”
What if becomes What we do!
You see, when you dream big and listen to God’s Spirit guiding you, “What if,” becomes “What you do,” and “How you do mission.” In that same sermon, I asked you all a lot of “What if’s,” and over the last two years you answered the call and with God’s help, you are doing mission and ministry in new ways, with more people leading those efforts, and more people growing in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ.
On that day two years ago, I asked you, “What if God is already creating an exciting welcoming program that will help our new friends become active and engaged sisters and brothers.” You did just that. You created a team of Greeters whose smiles and hospitality welcomed and had a part in bringing over 80 new parishioners to St. Monica’s. You installed upgraded live stream technology in the sanctuary that expanded your reach to more people through YouTube and social media. You hosted six quarterly “Circle of Friends” gatherings, where we had over 65 people attend and who eventually decided to make St. Monica’s their spiritual home. At the 2019 annual Bishop’s visitation, you had four receptions, six confirmations, and one reaffirmation of Baptismal vows. Last year we baptized four children and welcomed new young families into your family. At St. Monica’s you are a people that can take a “What if,” and it becomes a “What you do,” and “How you do mission.”
On that day two years ago, I asked you, “What if” God is calling you to renew and expand your Christian formation programs to grow your faith together for all ages. You did just that! You developed multiple Adult Christian formation classes on Sundays, Thursday evenings, and Friday mornings. You developed a Youth Sunday school team consisting of over 12 adult leaders. You called an Interim Youth Minister who revitalized your Youth Program and taught you how to create a program and support a new leader, whom you will call soon. You offered seasonal Quiet Day retreats, and challenged yourselves to learn more about the faith, our tradition, and how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. At St. Monica’s you are a people that can take a “What if,” and it becomes a “What you do,” and “How you do mission.”
On that day two years ago, I asked you, “’What if’ God is calling us to gather together in new ways of fellowship and fun where we can support one another.” You did just that! Youheard the call to dream and you did have some fun! You shared a few fun potluck dinners. You enjoyed a minor league baseball game together. You shared an impromptu beach outing where over twenty of you shared food and a beautiful sunset. You had over 300 folks attend two annual Trunk or Treat events at St. Monica’s where kids and families had fun, shared your hospitality, and came to know how wonderful you are as a family. You shared two amazing Stewardship Dinners where you had fun, ate fabulous food, and spent time fellowshipping together. At St. Monica’s you are a people that can take a “What if,” and it becomes a “What you do,” and “How you do mission.”
On that day two years ago, I asked you, “What if” God is inviting you to even more ways of service and local mission in which, you continue to feed those in need, where your current mission expands even more to provide for the destitute, where you can continue to help families in your midst who cannot care for themselves.” You did just that! You created a new local mission team who partnered with Meals of Hope and with as many as ten ministers from the parish, you provided nutritious food for one of your local neighborhoods. You continued to support Baby Basics and distributed diapers to economically challenged families in your neighborhood. You sent ministers to Immokalee to support the Guadalupe Soup Kitchen and provide food for many struggling families. You created a new mission with New Horizons and through their use of our facilities, and with your own gifts of mentorship and support, children in your local neighborhood are now able to be tutored, so they can overcome the sin of systematic racism and social injustice. At St. Monica’s you are a people that can take a “What if,” and it becomes a “What you do,” and “How you do mission.”
A New Day and New Adventure
My sisters and brothers, you are once again in a period of leadership transition, but that should not deter you from the mission call God has given you. Jesus is telling you to “Go,” to “Go Out.” I said it two years ago, and I say it again today, “I believe God is calling St. Monica’s to a new day now, a renewed way of life now, a renewed vocation now, and God has in store for you a future you cannot fully fathom today. Nonetheless, I can see it, because I believe God is leading you in ways in which, you should be excited, even in the midst of this change.
I shared with you in that sermon two years ago, a beautiful poem of hope written by Erin Hansen, based on an imaginary dialogue between a Mamma bird and her baby, who was about to jump out of the nest again. It is an encouragement for all of you, as you continue on this new chapter of mission with God. Erin wrote, “There is freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, “What if you fly?”
St. Monica’s, God has been, is now, and will always call you to live into a new day of mission and ministry. As you answer that call, you can no longer ask, “what if we fall.” Youmust live in hope and expect miraculous new adventures, expect the unexpected, and expect Christ to burst forth on the scene with you. Your mission question from this day forward must always be, “What if, with God’s help, you fly!”