St Andrew's Church Walkerville - inside
bible icon

Sermon – Mission Oriented

Mission Oriented

Sermon 6 in the series about the ecclesiology of St Andrew’s

Sermon Preached by Reverend Stuart Langshaw on Sunday, 11 February 2024.

I am awe-struck by the TV show “Grand Designs” with Kevin McLeod. It makes me realise how problematic it is to build your own home. There are so many things to consider before the first shovel-full of dirt is dug.  The show makes a big song and dance about the orientation of the house being built, as to whether it is oriented north-south or oriented east-west, and the effect that this has so far as natural light coming into the house is concerned. I can only say that I think that architects are very clever people.

Practitioners of the oriental art of Feng Shui and its 5 principles are into orientation in a very big way, seeking to orient the features of the house and the location of furniture according to those principles.

Frankly I have no idea about the geographical orientation of St Andrew’s Church – if I was pressed I would say that it is oriented north-south.  But I have very definite ideas about the spiritual orientation of St Andrew’s Church. It is … and it definitely needs to be … mission oriented. Today we come to the 6th sermon in this series about St Andrew’s based on the statement on the front cover of the pew sheet.  Christ-centred … sacramental … inclusive… thinking … praying and prayerful … mission-oriented.

We Christians follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ … and Jesus was very definitely mission-oriented in what he did. He preached to the people of his own race and got into severe trouble for what he said. And he also went beyond Israel to Samaria and spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), breaking several social and religious conventions in the process – but the mission of God’s kingdom was more important than conventions. For the sake of his mission, Jesus broke the taboos about disease and gender, for he spoke with and touched lepers (Luke 17:12); he touched Peter’s mother-in-law and restored her to health and strength (Mark 1:30). That was mission-orientation.

Jesus was mission-oriented in his prayers, and in what he taught his followers to pray. His words were, “When you pray, pray in this way … ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come …”. Your kingdom come …” this simple prayer means, “May people everywhere become members of your kingdom.”  “May your kingdom of love and peace become established in the hearts and lives of people of every race, language, and time. May your kingdom come.”  That’s definitely mission orientation. In what has become to be known as “The High Priestly Prayer” in John chapter 17, Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word.” (Verse 20). Jesus always had his eye out for those who would become believers … “those who believe in me through their word.” Jesus knew that his followers would speak about him, and that through their words men and women and young people would become Christians – a result of being mission-oriented.

Jesus’ mission was an expanding mission – both in numbers as well as in quality.

He passed on that mission-orientation to his disciples. He said to them,  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15). Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not this fold; I must bring them also so that there is one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Jesus also said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the very furthest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

And that’s what these disciples did. After the ascension of Jesus back to heaven, we know that Thomas went to India and founded the Mar Thoma Church – now millions strong. Tradition has it that Matthew went to Ethiopia and to modern day Iran. Andrew was known for his missionary work around the area of the Black Sea whose beaches form Russia and Turkey. John went to Ephesus in Western Turkey. Batholomew went to Mesopotamia, to Parthia and Armenia. He came to a very sticky end by having his skin flayed from his body.

There have been many famous Christians who have heard the call of Christ to missionary service, and who have put their mission-orientation into practice by going to every nation on earth to bring the good news of Christ. David Livingstone in Africa … John Wesley in Europe and America … Gladys Aylward in China … Dr Catherine Hamlin and the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa … oh … and so many more.

There is a page on our parish website that indicates that St Andrew’s supports organisations and people involved in Christian mission work in many parts of the world – and to that extent, St Andrew’s is certainly mission-orientated.  You go to the Home Page, and then to the heading “Community” and then “Other Activities” in the drop down menu, you will see the organisations that we actively support … Anglicare … the Magdalen Centre … the Church Missionary Society … the Bush Church Aid Society … The Christmas Bowl Appeal … The Anglican Board of Mission. Our financial support of The Bush Church Aid Society is quite significant each year. Through our support and commitment to these organisations, we show that we are mission oriented.

And although our own home-grown activities were knocked on the head during Covid, we at St Andrew’s are reaching out again to our community in friendship and fellowship.  Our Women’s and Men’s Breakfasts are starting again, with an open invitation to ladies and chaps to be a part of us. Our Markets are starting up again, opening our doors to the general public.  Another thing we do is to welcome strangers and newcomers (as the parish prayer says).  At our Morning Tea tables we ought to have a spare chair for someone beyond our close friendship group to find a place. We need to recognise, and make a small fuss of, people we have never seen before.  In my brief time here at St Andrew’s this time I can name several people who have come to Morning Tea, were welcomed there and who have subsequently filled out contact forms to become members of the congregation.

To be frank, the average age of our congregation works against our being a congregation with a preponderance of young families. But to be frank, the quality of our welcome will create an atmosphere in which young families may feel welcome. It’s not impossible and it’s not hard.  How many of you are in our congregation because you were made to feel welcome – sincerely, and not overpoweringly – and were followed up with a gentle phone call or email – and have a continuing friendly welcome her each time you attend.

One of the challenges that will face the incoming Rector will be to establish some sort of youth ministry here as part of our mission-orientation.

And prayer – without prayer backing all efforts to reach out to others will fall short. Without prayer our mission-orientation will remain simply a noble aspitation rather than a lived reality. The Parish Prayer needs to become a part of our congregational DNA. We are never too old to pray – and never too old to smile at a newcomer or stranger.

And if we are those whom God has not called into particular works of Christian mission or ministry, we still have our particular lives of mission and ministry to live – – – to live as prayerfully as possible … to live as gently as possible … to live as encouragingly as possible … to live as carefully as possible … to live as joyfully as possible … to live as genuinely as possible … to live as thankfully as possible … to live remembering ghat Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works … and … glorify your Father wo is in heaven.”  That’s our mission. That’s our ministry. That makes us mission oriented.

This quote is most appropriate – The church is like a gym. It exists to train, equip and challenge the body of Christ to live in the light of the gospel. But many treat the church like a restaurant that exists to feed and serve regular patrons. That’s a massive disconnect.

We follow Jesus who was mission oriented.

We walk in the footprints of the disciples who were mission oriented.

We support organisations that are mission oriented.

We do welcoming and caring things because we are mission-oriented.

We live our ordinary daily lives because we are mission oriented.

All this because we are member of St Andrew’s, and St Andrew’s is mission oriented. (1445)