Last weekend, our diocese met in its annual convention, and we considered the mission plan for the diocese, creating a new relationship with the Diocese of Western Mexico, and a change to the constitution of our diocese that clarifies who are considered clergy on the Standing Committee. We listened to a keynote address on human impact within creation and hosted conversations on ways forward that extend out from our faith in Christ Jesus. In all of the topics that were being considered by the convention, we were focused on the ways that the Church is called forward in works of mercy and of healing in our own contexts. We were asked to make decisions on how our diocese would carry out the mission of God and how we would continue the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us. (I commend to you our Bishop’s sermon from convention and our Bishop’s address to convention. She offers much for us to consider not only for the diocese but also for individual missions and parishes.)
The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of the church. St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19,
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (NRSV)2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NRSV
In the Book of Common Prayer, we find that the mission of the church is, “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855). The mission of the Church is a mission of reconciliation. It is a mission of curating relationship with God and with each other in Christ. It is a mission of healing in and through those very relationships that are knit because, as the Bishop said in her sermon at convention, “We are in the same boat as Jesus, no matter how rough the seas.” We are the messengers, the apostles of the healing love of God. We are called to be a healing presence in the world, and we fulfill that part of the mission of the Church in the ways that we share God’s healing love with others.
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.The Book of Common Prayer, p. 855
The Collect for the week following last Sunday also makes mention of the healing work of the Church. On Sunday, we prayed, “Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
The prayer that we prayed was a reminder to ourselves that we are the evangelists of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Each one of us is called to share that Good News. We, as disciples of Jesus, are those who have the honor and the privilege of being voices of mercy in our steadfast confession of faith in the Name of the one, true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
On Monday, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Luke, which normally would be celebrated on October 18. (It was transferred to Monday because it does not meet the criteria for supplanting Sunday propers according to the Book of Common Prayer.) The collect for Saint Luke is equal in compelling the Church to remember its work of reconciliation and healing.
Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.The Collect for Saint Luke, Book of Common Prayer, p. 244-245
In that prayer, we ask God to graciously continue sharing the love and healing power of Christ in the Church. We are asking for the same love and healing power of Christ to be present in us as his disciples and as apostles of the Good News. We are asking God to help us preach the healing message of the Gospel and to find new and courageous ways of sharing the Gospel with world. We are asking God to grant to us the courage to share our faith with others in our most local context: with neighbors, coworkers, friends, and strangers. We are asking God to help us find the words of healing love that will encourage others to know the love of God made known in Christ Jesus. We are asking God to help us in our own journey of discipleship in the ways that we share the journey with another and in the ways that we encourage folks to rediscover the love of God.
In both of the prayers that I have quoted, we encounter reminders of our identity as followers of Christ. We are being reminded of the goodness of God’s love in creation, and we are reminded of the true source of our identity: the one, true God.
In the work of establishing a new companion relationship with the Diocese of Western Mexico, in listening to human impact on creation and considering ways to care and heal creation, in passing the mission plan for the budget, and in clarifying who is clergy for the purposes of our canons, the diocese came together to do works of healing and of mercy. We can only do that because of the merciful love of God and healing power of Christ. We can only do that because we understand our identity to be of God, and if we are of God, we are called to walk in the ways of God’s household. We are called to go out into the world with the healing power of Christ, and we are able to do that out of our shared commitment to sharing the Good News with everyone that we meet.
Our mission, our ministry is one of reconciliation. It is a mission of curating community by first creating a welcoming place for people to belong and secondly by extending invitations to others to join us for worship and for fellowship. We have a most important mission in this time, and God has gifted to us the one tool we need to fulfill it: The Gospel of our Lord and Savior.