This week our Worthington Presbyterian congregation is looking at the fourth of five “practices of fruitful congregations.” This fourth week we are talking about and thinking about and praying about “RISK-TAKING MISSION AND SERVICE.”
When I was in college a congregation near our campus was having a “discussion.” You might say it was an “argument.” Some people wanted to start a homeless shelter in the church’s basement. Others—maybe the majority—argued vociferously against it. The youth group settled the debate. They came to the Session meeting and presented a scene from the musical Godspell. They retold Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats. “I was hungry and you gave me food,” Jesus says, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
That homeless shelter changed my life. You see, a classmate and I volunteered there. We got to know the guests—including a fellow Harvard graduate—a bright, engaging, gifted man who was battling schizophrenia. These new friends changed us in important ways. I felt called to become a pastor, my friend felt called to become a physician for the homeless. Thanks, in part, to the courage of the youth group and that church to wrestle with the Scriptures, and to allow the Spirit to draw them into “risk-taking mission and service.”
Over the years I’ve seen it time and time again. Mission trips near or far, “hands-on” mission projects at a shelter, a soup kitchen, a prison, a school, a Habitat for Humanity construction site—you name it, these things transform us. They connect us with God, and they connect us with sisters and brothers in Christ. We get back way more than we could ever give. Getting out of our “comfort zone” forces us to be reliant upon our Lord, and we find our Lord to be faithful.
In college we had something called “action/reflection.” We acted in the name and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then afterwards we reflected on how we experienced our Lord in the mission and service. You see, “risk-taking mission and service” is one of our spiritual practices.We’re not just doing GOOD. As Dr. Piermont pointed out today, “We’re doing GRACE.” We’re doing “costly demonstrations of unexpected love,” and that connects us in profound ways to the Living Christ. “You did it to me,” Jesus says.
“The Great Bloudin” was an extraordinary tightrope walker. A crowd watched in amazement one day as he pushed a wheelbarrow full of 200 pounds of weights across a gorge. He then approached a man, “Do you think I’m capable of pushing you across?” “Yes,” the man replied, “I’m sure you could!” “Well,” the Great Bloudin replied, “Hop in.”
Faith is trusting. Faith is “getting into that wheelbarrow” and trusting that God can carry us. What is Jesus calling you to do in these coming days? Is there someone you can invite to join you? How can we step out in faith and experience our Lord’s faithfulness and power?