Friday, April 21,2017
Acts 4:1-12, Psalm 116:1-8, John 21:1-14
The People of God: Called to Transformational Mission.
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.
True mission is never a tidy business. True mission will cause disturbance. The background of our text is the healing of the man, born cripple, by Peter and John at the gate of the temple called ‘Beautiful’. The chief priests were against Peter and John but five thousand believed the word preached by them. The resurrection makes a difference and made a difference in the lives of the early disciples and to those added to the New Testament Church. You cannot believe in Jesus, and the story of Jesus, and remain the same. When you live the gospel, there is going to be some disturbance. There will be those who are for you and those who are against you. True mission is never a tidy business.
Those who were added to the New Testament Church were converted, transformed individuals. Persons seeking to be Christ like. It was not an easy thing to accept Christ in the first century. Judaism was hostile to Christianity and we know that the early Christians were persecuted, some hunted down and brought before Jewish authorities and condemned to death. It was not safe to accept Christ and his church. The reality today is far different for us. The church is not being persecuted for the most part and in many countries, it is an accepted institution. Nonetheless, we must expect no less of a radical conversion to Christ, if the church is to remain strong in its witness.
Conversion and Transformation.
Some years ago, I attended a conference on mission. At this conference one of the subjects the main speaker spoke on was conversion and transformation. As I remember it, he stated that Conversion was God’s business and the church was in the business of transformation. He was using the words, ‘conversion’ and ‘transformation’, to mean different things.
As I understood it Conversion for him was an event. The event in our lives where we come to a consciousness of God’s pull on our lives and we surrender to God’s will and hold on our lives. Transformation he spoke of as an ongoing process. In other words, transformation is a process that follows conversion. We are converted to Christianity and we are being transformed into the image of Christ. We believe, and what follows must be a formation, transformation, of our lives in keeping with what we believe. It must be intentional, from baptism to the grave, which we heard much about yesterday. Transformation, change, is a lifelong process. The hymn writer, writes;
Changed from glory into glory till in heaven in take our place.
Transformation we can say is the formation process which takes place in the community of the faithful.
41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; Acts 2:41-44
We have to grow in the love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may call it discipleship. The disciple of Christ is in a process of change, transformation. Rowan Williams in his book “Being Disciples,” writes
“The disciple is not there to jot down ideas and then go away and think about them. The disciple is where he or she is in order to be changed; so that the way in which he or she sees and experiences the whole world changes” [page 4]
Transformational mission begins with converted lives and lives that are being transformed. The early converts to the faith we know influenced their society. The focus of God’s mission is the world, human communities. The church with all its ills has over the centuries been an agent for good in the lives of people. The challenges of today are different from those of the past. However, those who have been transformed by the light of Christ are called to be agents of transformation. God’s mission involves changing lives that start a revolution for good in society.
Transformational mission is not about gaining members, membership and finances. Neither is it about rebuilding a kind of status quo or even Christendom. It is not simply to have persons say Jesus, but to live Jesus. Our lives must reflect the person we claim to believe and follow. The church has influence, and we must use it in the places we find ourselves for the sake of the gospel. We must be an influence in the shaping of our country and world; in breaking the circles of abuse, injustice, violence and all forms of evil. We are to be,
“. . . an assertive influence for good and justice, always reaching out to engage the wider society through collective and individual mission and ministry, in faith, hope, and charity. . .”
(Vision Statement of the Diocese.)
From the presentations, we have received the last two days we must become a data driven Church if we are to be relevant and intentional if we are to engage in transformational mission. We can begin a revolution, a transformation of our society, by the way we do business, the quality of our family life, by the moral values that guide our lives in all places of endeavor.
The church must so live out its mission that it begins to effect change in society. We must help in the shaping of our society to become a more wholesome place for all God’s people. A society where justice, equality, righteousness and peace characterize our society. But remember that it will not be a tidy business. There will be rejection and acceptance but we do so as disciples of Christ and for the Kingdom’s sake. Amen.