The question that I asked myself as I prepared for this homily was this; “what does this Gospel passage have to do with mission?” As I first sat with the text, I sensed a need to focus on the authority of mission that Jesus gives us. Nearing Sunday, and as I continued to study and pray, I moved in an different direction. I was compelled to preach on the character of mission. The posture we take towards God and others as we engage in the Mission of God. But I don’t think authority and character are mutually exclusive. As we live out this posture towards God and others, we discover that our authority is actually increased or descreased by our faithfulness to Christ and his teaching. In short, the authority we receive from Christ for mission is directly connected to our obedience to Christ’s life and teaching. As Jesus engaged in mission, we see a commitment to radical hospitality, direction guided by prayer, and a concern for ‘the other’.
When the crowds came to the house of Simon Peter’s mother in-law, they were not sent away. Mark says the ‘whole’ town comes to the door (hyperbole much?), and they are allowed to remain. Many experienced the healing power of Jesus that night. Jesus embodied a radical commitment to welcoming the stranger. Hospitality has always been one of the inviting features of Christ’s church. As a church, we need to cultivate an environment that allows for this space to welcome a stranger. As a missional community we need to cultivate environments are inviting to strangers. As families we need to work to make room in our life to experience the interruption of a neighbor as a delight and not a burden.
Jesus was very compassionate, very concerned about the least and the lost, but not at the expense of what the Father sent him to do. Jesus says as much in the Gospel of John; “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Jesus came to do the will of the Father. To discern the voice of God, Jesus often withdrew to solitary (desolate) places to pray. Jesus knew that an ongoing conversation with the Father was the source of his direction. We too as a church need to be committed to a conversational relationship with God in order to do the things that God desires. It’s possible as a church to do many good things while entirely missing God’s thing. Prayer is at the heart of mission.
From Jesus response to the crowds at the door and from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians, we know that mission is guided by “the other”. Our freedom in Christ is not a freedom to do whatever we want, it is a freedom from the burden’s and anxieties of our day for the sake of the church, Jesus, and the Father’s mission. Mission is driven by the person we minister to and worship with. We have the freedom to lay down our life in order to make the Kingdom more manifest to those who need a clearer view. If my drinking makes another brother or sister In Christ uncomfortable, I don’t do it. I have the freedom to, but their needs trump mine. If I swear like a sailor and it makes my brother or sister In Christ uncomfortable, I don’t do it. There is freedom in Christ to do both things because behavior is not what makes us Christian. It is the spirit of God given to us that makes us Christians, but that Spirit is a spirit of love, it is spirit that sacrifices self for the sake of “the other”. Remember, the name Christian is used in the book of Acts and it assumes that those who were followers of Jesus attempted to live as ‘little Christs’.
As I go about my week, as I prepare for lent,
- How am I at welcoming strangers (people I don’t know, people who are not like me) in my life. How are we as an MC about welcoming strangers into our midst?
- Have I cultivated a conversational relationship with God. When God speaks, do I know what He sounds like?
- Do I use my freedom to do what I want regardless of how it makes others feel? Am I willing to lay down my preferences for the sake of “the other”?