Our Mission is Mission

Our Mission is Mission

Easter 7 (NL4) John B. Valentine
Acts 1:1-14 May 29, 2022


You know what day it is today?

It’s “Memorial Day Weekend” Sunday .... wherein we formally commence the start of Summer.

• Graduates marched off their respective high-school campuses on Friday evening ....

• Blockbuster summer movies are trying to coax people back into movie theaters ... and

• It’s “Indy 500" Sunday ... wherein about five minutes ago ... if everything went off as planned ... they dropped the green flag at the Brickyard Oval!

But then again ...

• It’s also the first weekend after that horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas .... wherein nineteen third and fourth graders and two of their beloved teachers were murdered by a just-turned-eighteen-year-old ... and

• It’s officially now three months since Mister Putin’s murderous troops invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

Closer to home ....

• It’s “Pastor John’s Back In The Pulpit” Sunday .... following my ten-day long bout with COVID-19 .... and I’ve got to tell you .... it’s GOOD to be back ... or at least ‘back on my feet’ ... and

• It’s “Church Musicians Birthday” weekend ... with Marc Levine, Tom Henry and my own beloved Bethany all celebrating birthdays within the past five or six days!

And ... on the church calendar ...

• It’s Ascension Sunday ... the seventh and last Sunday of the Easter Season ... the Sunday before Pentecost ... and ...

• It’s the Sunday before our annual Synod Assembly ... which will take place up in the Reno area later on this week ... and which promises to be fairly significant for a whole number of reasons ... most of which aren’t good.

All in all ... there’s lots of divergent stuff out there that is on peoples’ minds ....

Which kind of makes it one of those classic “Stump the Preacher” Sundays ... because there’s so much to TALK about ... so much to PRAY about ... both good stuff and bad stuff ... that I’m kind of perplexed about which way to turn.

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But that being said ... you called me to be among as one to preach and teach the Word of God ...

And one of the things that we’re doing around here this summer is taking a long slow walk through the Book of Acts ... a long slow walk that starts today ...

And while it is true ... as Karl Barth once said ... that we should preach “with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” ...

Rather than looking to the world out there to set the agenda for this morning’s sermon ... I’m one who was taught to let this Word (the Bible) and its world speak to our words and our world ... rather than the other way around.

So let’s take a look ... at Acts Chapter One ... and see just what it has to say to us this morning ....

And in order to do so ... I want you to consider one of the things that I hate most in the world .... WAITING.

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Seriously ... do any of the rest of you hate to wait?

• Be it sitting and waiting in those tacky naugahyde chairs in the ‘waiting room' at the doctor's office ....

• Be it sitting and waiting ‘on hold’ for so-called ‘tech support’ from the folks at Comcast ....

• Be it sitting and waiting for the mechanics to clear the aircraft on which you’re seated for takeoff.

Now granted ... not all waiting is the same.

• Waiting for the arrival of your first grandchild is a whole lot different than waiting for the arrival of the next BART train.

• Waiting up at night for a loved one to get home is a whole lot better than waiting in the check out line at the grocery store.

• Waiting for the movie to start is a whole lot less excruciating than the wait that those parents at Robb Elementary School endured earlier this week amid the uncertainty of knowing if their child was safe.

But ... all in all ... to me at least ... Tom Petty pretty well nailed it when he sang “the waiting is the hardest part".

For I am a persons who HATES to WAIT.

So ... naturally ... the first thing I notice in this morning’s text from the opening chapter of Acts is that invitation ... that order ... from Jesus ... to “Wait!”

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Seriously ... what did the text say??

Jesus ... not too many days prior ... had been crucified and came back to life.

And he’d appeared to his first friends and followers on numerous occasions between Easter Sunday and this day we call ‘Ascension Day’ ...

And here ... in this morning’s text ... we see him ... among the disciples ... for the last time.

And he says ‘WAIT’ .......

Actually ... he “ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait”. Ugh!!!!

• To wait for God to do something ...
• To wait for the Holy Spirit ...
• To wait for His return.

But all this talk about waiting begs at least a couple of questions ...

One ... HOW shall we wait?

And two ... what shall we do WHILE we wait?

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Now ... the answer to the first of those questions is tricky.

HOW shall we wait?

I mean ... we could turn to Psalm 13 and join the "I Hate to Wait" club.

You see ... Psalm 13 starts out:

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

On the other hand ... we could go with Psalm 40 ... and sign up with those who wait with patience.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

You see ... some times it's one way ... and sometimes it's the other.

Sometimes we're Psalm 13 ... and sometimes we're Psalm 40.

Sometimes the waiting seems easy ... and sometimes it feels awfully hard.

And sometimes we just have to say ‘That's life."

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But the answer to the second question is a whole lot clearer.

That "What shall we do WHILE we wait?" question.

What happened in this morning’s lesson AFTER Jesus ordered his disciples to wait???

He gets into this conversation with them about whether or not now is the time for God to rectify all the wrongs that have been done in this world in which we live ... and then

He commissions them ... he gives them a mission ... to take to the world this love ... this hope ... this grace which he has given to them.

Point being ... the LAST thing Jesus does and says before he’s taken up from the disciples’ presence ... is to clarify for them just exactly what their mission ought to be.

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Let’s stop here for just a moment and talk about “mission”.

You see ... Pastor Pam and I are headed up to Sparks, Nevada later this week for our Synod Assembly ...

And Fred Schroeder and Joan Kiekhaefer and the Birthday Girl over there are going to Zoom into that meeting while hunkered down here in Lamorinda ...

And we’re going to participate in a three-day-long meeting fest wherein we’ll be talking and thinking and praying about the mission of the church ... and our little subset of the church called the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.

And I can’t help but suspect ... from looking at the agenda and looking at all the pre-meeting documents ...

That while there may be SOME time devoted to talking about just exactly HOW we are going to be the church together in mission in the year and years to come ...

Most of what we’re going to be doing is “majoring in the minors” ... bickering about:

• Whether we should have a balanced budget or a ‘faith-based’ budget ...

• Whether we should pull our moneys out of a particular bank because that bank is a big funder of Big Oil ...

• Whether or not we should fund an outdoor ministry project that doesn’t appear to be fully thought through.

The whole weekend ... as it were ... was this one colossal reminder to me that our definitions of “mission” and “the Church’s mission” have gotten pretty fuzzy over the course of the past century or so ...

Such that now we say we’re doing the church’s “mission” when we do anything and everything.

And while ... from a management perspective ... we could well say that the church is suffering from “mission drift.”

From a layperson’s perspective ... it might just be better to say that ... “in trying to be all things to all people ... the Church is in danger of becoming nothing to anyone.”

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You see ... this morning’s lesson says that our mission is to do what announce that in Jesus Christ there is this opportunity for all people to experience the kind of life that God initially created us to live ...

A life that is shaped ... not by the presumption of our own inherent goodness ... but by repentance and forgiveness ... and a life-giving relationship with God both now and eternally.


Does it exclude such things as compassion and justice and mercy ... and being conscientious about environmental and sociological and relational issues as it were?

Absolutely not ... but those are not the main thing.

Who’s looked at a menu recently? Anyone??

When you look at a menu ...

• How many of you focus on the main thing ... like the “salmon” or the “short ribs” or the “pork tenderloin” ...

• And how many of you focus on the side dishes that come with it ... like the potatoes and/or the carrots and/or the broccolini?

Seriously ... “main thing” or “side dishes”?

Not that the side dishes are unimportant ...

Not that they can’t increase ... or decrease ... our particular enjoyment of a given meal ...

But restaurant’s reputations are ... for the most part ... made or broken on whether or not they keep making sure that the main thing is the main thing.

And similarly ... we who are the church ... we who would be witnesses to the goodness and the greatness of God ... would it not be better for us to make sure that we’re keeping the main thing the main thing!

“Our Mission is Mission” was/is a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on the 7th Sunday of Easter, May 29, 2022.  The text upon which it is based is Acts 1:1-14.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20220529