Sunday After Theophany
After witnessing the Baptism of our Lord and the manifestation of the Divine Trinity, we cannot escape the thought that comes to the forefront of our minds and souls about the resplendent dignity of our Saviour that so directly reflects on us. Christ begins his public life among us. He begins to fulfill the very purpose of his coming into the world. Our life is a prolonged miracle and everyday our heavenly Father gives us is a special gift from him. It must be handled with care as we respond to God and seek to be what He would have us be. It also reminds us of the danger of our day, the issues at stake and the fragile nature of life. In other parts of the world, life is not a holy necessity; death has become a necessity.
There is a difference between mission and missions. Mission is the purpose of our God for the world. Mission is what our God is all about. Mission is the heart of God that does not desire any person should perish but that all come to repentance. Mission is what God is about when He sent the Saviour into the world, to be born in the flesh, to be baptized as an example for each of us, and of course, to die on the Cross. That is a brief synopsis of God's mission. The purpose of God's invasion of history in the person of Jesus Christ was that people might know the grace of God, the love of God and the offer of forgiveness and salvation that is so desperately needed by every person.
That is the mission of God in our world. The mission of God has not changed. God is still on mission. His mission is that everyone might hear the good news of the kingdom. In the gospel of St. Matthew, we are told the gospel ... will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come Matthew 24: 14. When our God concludes history and whenever the Lord comes back, it will be in fulfillment of his purpose, of his mission among us.
Yes, our Church has become involved in mission work. But is it God's mission we do? Are we still finished with mission work in our parishes? Is it not true as so many contend and observe that too many Orthodox parishes are not orthodox at all, but reflections of the misguided people in them? Is the faith that we are sharing in the missions precisely the same popular mischaracterization of Orthodoxy as we see here in the United States? We see how our heavenly Father describes his mission which should also accurately describe our mission as Church. It is how our God looks at what we are about. When we grasp we have no mission of our own, except that it duplicates the heart and soul of what our Creator God wants accomplished in our midst. When we
grasp that, when we fully understand that, we will begin to accomplish the mission that God has for us and expects of us.
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages Matthew 9: 35. He did not remaining Capernaum, which was his command post. It was there that He healed Peter's motherin-law. From there He went out into Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness Matthew 9: 35. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were worn out like sheep without a shepherd which is why He said to the disciples, The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest Matthew 9: 37, 38.
The divine mission demands that we go as Jesus went, that we go where the people are. It means that we do not simply fulfill our purpose as followers of Jesus Christ by going to a church building. It means being church wherever we find ourselves. It is not the purpose of the Church to see how many people we can get into a church building. Our purpose is to go where the people are and show them an example they will be eager to pursue. Believers are not necessarily interested in quantity. We Orthodox must be primarily concerned about quality, premier quality of faith. We are occupied not with form, but with substance, the substance of response to Christ's first shown love. The gospel mandate of our Lord is "go and tell." We are to go where the people are. Our parish was established as a mission years ago, but its purpose has been frustrated. Our own priests tell people who have moved here not to come here. They do not know what the mission of our Lord is, so how then can we expect our people, after being shortchanged by their priests to understand what their vocation in Christ consists in?
Orthodoxy is a community church and we find that pattern throughout the New Testament. When the disciples began to witness and preach in Jerusalem following the Resurrection of Jesus, they went to the temple, to the place where the people were. If we are to be on a divine mission, if we are to understand our part in the mission, it means we go to where the people have moved. We evangelize our own families, those of our flesh and blood who have no connection to Christ and the process of salvation. Be an influence in your families, in your neighborhood. And we establish a church there so the people conveniently can come and worship without the silly proffered excuses of being far away or not having a local church. There are people from the New York City parish living around here, who claim to be going to "Momma's church" in the city.
If our priests, our leaders do not understand what the Church is for, what the mission of the Church is, we easily see how much trouble we are in. We see how the Church is being fragmented and crumbling. All Orthodox people living in the Freehold area should be coming to our parish church, should be communicants of our parish family, regardless of their ethnic background. God is not going to ask if you are Greek, Russian, or Ukrainian at the Last Judgment. He is going to be looking for how faithful we were to his commandments. He is going to be looking for Christian patterns in our hearts and souls. Devotion to Christ is the only absolute necessity for a happy eternity.
Until the Great Fast begins, we are going to explore a number of issues that are important for us to implement to overcome the indifference of our priests, and local people, so that we actually take seriously the mission of our Saviour. We cannot allow neglect and old ideas to become permanent. If we understand the seriousness of the
mission of our God among us, in our area, we will all not only pray harder, not only worship more regularly and seriously, but also become quality disciples and apostles of the actual teaching of God.
We have been given a sacred trust to share. So many of us have taken it seriously and have witnessed how lackadaisical some have been in the past. Our God is not going to bless our efforts if we do not submit to his will. The divine mission demands we do as the Lord did, that we conform ourselves to his image and his likeness.