What is our mission? What is the meaning of life? What are we here for?
The mission of the ancient Israelites was to bless others as they were blessed by God. Abraham was called by God to leave his country and go to new land that God would show him with a promise and a mission (Genesis 12:10 ). God would bless Abraham and make his descendants and great nation and he would in turn bless all the people of the earth.
The prophets of Isaiah expanded on that mission. Here is Isaiah 42:6-7 from the Bible translation The Voice
You are given as a covenant between Me and the people:
a light for the nations, a shining beacon to the world.
You will open blind eyes so they will see again.
You will lead prisoners, blinking, out from caverns of captivity,
from cells pitch black with despair.
In first sermon that Jesus preached (Luke 4:14-29) Jesus read from the prophets of Isaiah. As the messiah these scriptures were his mission statement. He would deliver the people of Israel from captivity to the law. He would release into the world healing that showed that God’s love for the world. He would bring the Gentile outsiders into God’s family through his life and teaching. His mission was to save the world was threatened by those that opposed him, the priests, the Roman authorities and the people of Jerusalem themselves, however, the worst that they could do, which was to humiliate, torture and kill him could not stop him from rising from the grave. Through Jesus’ resurrection, God’s plan for the salvation of all humanity was secured. We can have hope that death would not triumph over us.
Our mission is to tell others this good news (the gospel) and live our life like Jesus. We can live without fear and be free from captivity to patterns and systems of destruction (sin). Like the Abraham, the ancient nation of Israel and Jesus, we have a part to play in God’s plan for salvation of the world. We need to listen to God and learn together as a community how to make this world more like God intended it to be.
The Simple Way community has made a tremendous impact on me and many others because of their radical mission. Shane Claibourne is one of the founders who has written a book called The Irresistible Revolution to explain through stories the theology behind the Simple Way. They are part of a larger movement called New Monasticism which is evangelical Christians returning to a disciplined way of life inspired by monks and nuns of the past. Here is their way of life as described by their 12 Marks:
12 Marks of New Monasticism
1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.
2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
3) Hospitality to the stranger
4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.
6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.
7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.
8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.
11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.
12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.
The Winking Circle was an unique culture that emerged around the Zenga family and their church youth group in a suburban town near Toronto called Uxbridge during the late 1990’s – early 2000’s. Their code was the Wisdom of Three Beans (Create Everywhere, Redeem Everything, Be a Fool.) My friends Phil and Hannah were the Winkers who introduced to me the legacy of a group of Ontario kids who were on a mission! Here is the Winking Circle mission as explained on their 1999 zine: (http://www.zengabros.com/3-beans) Create Everywhere: To be a creator, rather than a spectator. You create excessively everywhere. Nothing is spared from the creative impulse – your appearance, your possessions, your environment.
Redeem Everything: To redeem rather than consume. You make the most out of what you have. Whether it’s a bad situation or a beat-up bicycle, you transform it into something spectacular.
Be a Fool: To be yourself rather than a conformist. Through eccentric self-expression, you are willing to become a fool in the eyes of the followers.
When a person lives by the Wisdom of the 3 Beans the result is the eccentrifation of the world.
While I can describe the many things I like about her, I cannot describe the exact “why” I love my wife Michelle and asked her to marry me. It has been said that love is blind because when we are in love we can over look someone’s flaws and see the best of who they are. Also, there is no one thing that makes people fall in love with each other. There is a mysterious and an undeserving part of love. The beloved feels worthy because of the other person’s promise to love and they trust that person.
The most important thing I know is that I can trust Michelle to be loyal to me. She can trust me too because I have made promises to her in front of our families and communities that I will stay with her through thick and thin.
God makes promises called covenants with his people throughout the Old testament. The two major ones are with Abraham (Genesis 15) and David (2 Samuel 7:8-16). Like promises between a husband and wife, these were covenants of love. The prophet Hosea understood this unique character of God’s love. He writes, “in that day I will make a covenant for them.. I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2:16).
God choose Israel over all the other nations because God loved them. They were a sometimes stubborn and hard hearted people, but God had a plan for Israel to bring redemption to the world. God loved them because God choose them to be the family to which his Son, Jesus Christ, belonged.
In connection to our talk about Exodus, here is a scientific hypothesis about how a 63 mph wind could have split the waters in the dramatic story told Exodus 14.
This coming Sunday Corbin’s grandmother, Ruth Dudlay, is coming to tell us stories about the Underground Railway with special Underground Railway quilts, actual slave irons, and other historical relics from the time of slavery in North America.
Why tell old stories, and for that matter, why religiously read and study an ancient book like the Bible? Old stories tell us who we are. Where we came from and where we are headed. It is significant that the ancient stories of the Israelite slavery were cherished by the North American African slaves. Because of these ancient stories, slaves over 3,000 years later had hope that like the Israelite slaves they would be liberated by God! It was reading the stories in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus that caused William Wilberforce to petition the British Empire (and its colonies of Canada) to abolish slavery.
The story of Exodus describes an enslaved oppressed people rising up from captivity and escaping through the desert to return to their nomadic ancestors burial lands in Canaan. If you believe this story, the Exodus is one of the most significant moments of history without parallel. Slavery has been a part of human civilization for time untold and continues to be practiced today. Throughout history many slave revolts have occurred, however they usually end with all of the revolting being killed (for instance Spartacus and his slave rebellion against Rome). That the tribe of Hebrew slaves were able to leave Egypt, the most powerful empire in the world, and survive wandering through the desert is a powerful story that has inspired many oppressed peoples throughout history.
Stories are told in many ways to help us remember them (As a musical in the case of the above mentioned Spartacus). As we discussed last week, the liberation from slavery was remembered in the ritual of the Passover feast. The Underground Railway quilts are another way of remembering God’s liberation of people from slavery. I hope you are able to come this Sunday to see them for yourself!
Pitch and Praise 2014
If you haven’t heard yet, this May long weekend Hillside Youth are going to Pitch and Praise in Paris Ontario!
What is Pitch and Praise? It’s a camping youth retreat that happens annually on the May long weekend. It’s a weekend where youth groups can connect together and grow in their relationship with each other and with Jesus Christ.
The connection happens in more then one way, this isn’t just a praise and worship conference. There are massive sport tournaments, an arcade, a movie theatre, a dance music DJ tent, skatepark, workshops on niche topics like crocheting and overseas mission, keoroke and poutine. If you ask my wife Michelle, Matt Klien or Pernell about Pitch (that’s the ubiquitous slang name for it) , they will tell you that the die hard community that surrounds the gathering makes it the annual event that they couldn’t wait for.
This year Tony Campolo is speaking and Tim Neufeld is leading worship (songwriter from Starfield) !