“Sent” A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. —John 17: 18

Last week’s text was from the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” In my sermon I spoke about the way Jesus calls us into the church, gathering many very different people together into a congregation. Our text today is also from the Gospel of John. Jesus is praying to God the Father, and he says, “Just as you have sent me, I send them.” So, the church is not only gathered, it is sent.”

That is what I want to talk about today, what it means for us as church to be sent. One of the words we use to describe the church means “the sent.” We call the church “apostolic,” because we share the faith of the apostles, who were Jesus’s his earliest followers. An apostle was a disciple of Jesus who knew him while he was alive. The Greek word from which we get “apostle” simply means “one who is sent.”

The church is sent, but sent by whom? By Jesus. As he tells his Father, “As you have sent me into of the world, so I sent them into the world.”

Think of the church as being like a sports team. Jesus gathers us together to be part of his team, the church, and then he sends us into the game, which is the world.

The image isn’t biblical, but I think it works because a team needs to have diversity within unity; it needs cooperation among the players, and it needs spirit to guide and strengthen it, just as the church needs the divine Spirit.

Let’s take football as our example. On a football team you have many people carrying out different functions. There’s a kicker, a quarterback, the line, the receivers, and then on defense, you have the linebackers and safeties. Everybody has a job to do.

All the jobs are important. The team cannot thrive without everybody cooperating. And the jobs are not interchangeable. The kicker can’t do the tackle’s job of keeping the opposing line off the quarterback, and the tackle can’t kick, but one isn’t more important than the other. It’s a team.

In much the same way the church is sent into the world by Jesus to do our part, whatever that might be, to use our particular gift – our role or skill for God’s good purposes.

One person might be a teacher or a student, another a business person, another a physician or electrician. Each brings to his or her work the values of the church, which is the community that Jesus sends into the world. So, all the members of the team will be honest, fair, and kind, striving to show God’s love and mercy in their work.

God sends each of us out to do our special calling. The word vocation is rooted in the verb to call. Each of us has a calling. How do we know what it is? One definition I really like its from Frederick Buechner. He writes, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

But vocation doesn’t refer to just your occupation, although it does include that, but is about how you respond to God’s call with your whole life.

One could be sent into the world to be a volunteer, to work in a soup kitchen, or a homeless shelter. Or you might be sent to tutor someone in English, or to give blood, or deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. Or someone might be sent to serve their community on a committee, or work in a community garden.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any jobs within the church, and I have done that for a reason. I’m talking about our being sent out into the world. And one of the important things that being sent reminds us, is that God doesn’t gather us as the church for the church’s own sake, but so the church can be for the world around it.

Your calling in the world may be to take care of a family member or to help a neighbor. There are many ways to which we can be sent from Jesus’s team. Just as God the Father sent Jesus into the world to show us his love and mercy and grace, so Jesus sends us into the world, to be his witnesses.

So, we don’t just come to church because we like each other, although we do, we are not a club; we are the church – gathered…and sent. Amen.

(I preached this virtual sermon on May 16, 2021, at the United Congregational Church of Little Compton, RI. To see a video of the whole service go here. Photo: Berry Pond, Pittsfield State Forest. R. L. Floyd)

 

“The Model Shepherd” A Sermon on John 10: 11-18

“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus said to them. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Later, after he was crucified, the disciples recalled his words and realized that he was the good shepherd, the one who loved and cared for the sheep, even at the cost of his own life. Continue reading

Rick’s Mediterranean Sheet Pan Roast Chicken

Since COVID has enlarged our family bubble, I have rediscovered ways of cooking for a crowd. The slow-cooker is my friend. And I have been having fun roasting things on sheet pans. Lo, and behold, the New York Times just had an article about this as a trend. When you think of trendy, I’m sure you think of me.

So, tonight I roasted some bone-in skin-on chicken thighs with some vaguely Mediterranean flavors and it came out pretty good.

Continue reading

Rick’s Berkshire Jambalaya

For tonight’s Shrove Tuesday dinner my son requested that we have both pancakes and jambalaya, which is a thing their church in Alexandria does. “Dad, do you have a jambalaya in you?” he asked last week. It was in rotation during his childhood, but I seldom make it anymore because it is a pile of food, and until the pandemic, it was just the two of us.

Continue reading

A Meditation on Divine Providence and Human Freedom: Luke 13: 1-9

The Parable of the Fig Tree

I went to my 50th high school reunion in 2017, and several of us agreed that if our lives were measured like a football game, we would be in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. That, of course, is something we can only surmise, and, indeed, some of that cohort have died since that time.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has made it more difficult to avoid thinking about one’s mortality, whatever quarter of the game we might imagine we are in.

I turn to the 13th Chapter of the Gospel of Luke to reflect on the mysterious interplay between divine providence and human freedom, and what Jesus might have to say to us about our living of these days, however many of them we are blessed to have remaining.

Continue reading