Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Mission of Mission

Sermon on the eve of the Commemoration of the Feast of St. Barnabas, the Apostle

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One Triune God, and may His grace and mercy be upon each and every one of us. – Amen

Respected Anoop Achen, and my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

If I were to say “Indian Orthodox Church”, what are the few things that come to mind? Right off the bat, we usually come up with things such as worship, our saints, our liturgy, our songs, the diocese, MGOCSM, our Sunday school. I bet the word “missions” did not come across your mind at all, and don’t be alarmed; because this is the case for many.

This reminds me of what my friend had told me back when I was in college. I had brought her to my church and a few bible studies and afterwards, I had asked her about her experience. She then went on to say, “Bobby, what you guys have is really nice…..but I feel as if you guys are just focused on your own people. Your ministry is only geared to the people in your own church. What exactly are you doing to bring others to this faith of yours? I feel as if your church is an exclusive club”. She even went on to say that the clergy lead the services and sacraments, the elders take care of the logistics, and the youth and children are being taught about the faith……then after a few years, the  youth and children become the elders and there will be a new set of children to teach. Its ends up being an ongoing cycle”…..And she’s exactly right. We spend so much time teaching our own kids about the faith, which is great…don’t get me wrong….but what are we doing to educate others? I was a leader of a non-denominational group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship back in college, and I kid you not, no one there knew what Orthodoxy was. So when I said I was Orthodox Christian, they asked me, “so like Jewish?” Sad isn’t it?

What are we doing to show others who Christ is? Do we love Orthodoxy enough to share it with the world? Are we just merely exercising our faith alone to benefit us and our loved ones? Do we even have to spread it in the first place? Peter gives us the answer to this in 1 Peter 2:9, where he states

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.

We are CALLED….and we are CHOSEN to “proclaim the excellencies” of Christ. It’s not something we COULD do, but rather it is something we are CHOSEN to do. Just having faith in God does not cut it. What are we doing with this faith of ours? With that said, I’d like to turn our attention to James 2. IF you read this chapter, you can clearly underline his thesis as “faith without works is dead”. James is stating clearly that "an empty faith" (or a non-action filled faith) is not true faith, it is nothing more than mouthing words. Simply stating that I’m better than Lebron James in basketball, means nothing, and in the same way, simply stating that I’m a Christian, means nothing. It does not mean anything UNLESS you can demonstrate WHO YOU ARE in a way that would convince any and all who saw them. In the words of Billy Graham, faith and works go together like inhaling and exhaling. Faith is taking the Gospel in (inhaling) and works is taking the Gospel out (exhaling). Talk is not enough. Intentions are not enough. REAL faith…translates into REAL action.

So with that said, I invite all of us to examine our lives, myself included. Ask yourself, what have I done to spread the word of God? What have I done to help those who were in need?
When I take Holy Communion on Saturday evening, Christ dwells within me; so what am I doing to share that Christ that dwells within me? Do I Keep him hidden, or do I shine light to Him so that all may see? There is nothing I can say or do to show you what works you can do. Each of you are called in different ways. Each of you are put in different scenarios and situations in life where you can cater to those in need. For me, especially in New York City, you’ll see many asking for money. So the one question that I get asked in New York by the youth is, “well, what if I don’t have money to give to those in need”? My answer to them is “why does missions have to be limited to money?” It can be simple as giving a hand to someone who needs help, picking up trash that you see around your community, sharing a verse and praying for others, inviting people to church, praying for someone, and sooo much more

By you all coming here today, and attending Qurbana on Saturdays, and actively being involved in your prayer life, this all demonstrates your faith which is a great foundation. But to accompany this faith, have a heart for missions. If we define missions, it is as follows - the vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith. This faith that is instilled in you, share it with the world! There’s a saying that goes “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, so in the same way, to reach the world, start with your own backyard. Share this faith with your neighbors, and those you encounter on a daily basis. Share it with the poor, the sick, the suffering, the needy, those who need Christ, and those who have not yet heard of him.

In the same way Christ called the disciples to go out in to the world, Christ is calling you too. Among the disciples called, is Barnabas, a disciple of St Paul. We see their motive here in Galatians chapter 2
….they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do”. (7-10)

They traveled together, have converted many, and attending to the poor and sick. How fitting is that this church bears his name. This church, is set apart from all other churches. You all are a mission parish. And so, don’t take that lightly. Be that beacon of light for missions, and lead the way for future churches and generations. And as you all prepare to celebrate the feast of St Barnabas, remember also the spiritual giant who bore his name as well, the late lamented H.G. Mathews Mar Barnabas. Thirumeni was a huge advocate for missions. So let us seek intercessions from Thirumeni, St Barnabas, and all the Saints as we too prepare to spread Gods love and our faith to all those we come across.

My prayer is that when people see you carry out missions, they can boldly say that you are a Christian. Not by the cross you wear around your neck, but rather through the reflection of Christ on your face and through your deeds.

+ To God belongs all glory, honor, and praise. Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment