by Adam Smith on January 07, 2024

As Jesus is departing this world, his last words leave us with a resounding call to move, to act, to do something. It’s not a passive message but a call to action: “Go.” That’s right... “Go.” We know the rest. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that I have commanded you. Remember I am with you always to the end of the age.”

Go to your neighbors. Go into their homes and into their lives. Break bread with them. Meet them where they are. Spend time with them. Seek to be together, to live out our faith with hope and the infectious, contagious love of Jesus.

We’re often good at being church in our church buildings, but less so in the places we see and are with our neighbors. Our faith is easily walled up and isolated from the world when we seek to preserve our comfort, our traditions, and our ways of practicing faith; but our very mission as a church is the mandate to go forth to where the people are.

When the people stop coming to us, as has been the Church’s approach for generations, then the Church is called to change in order to be faithful to her mission. I’ve thought and prayed about this over the years because, honestly, I am a product of the old way of being the Church. It is the way of life and ministry in which I grew up, studied in seminary, and participated. And perhaps there is a place for the church that sits and waits for people to come to them, at least in specialized circumstances, but by and large this is not true for most churches.

In Luke 10, we learn a lot about ‘going.’ Go without Baggage...

When Jesus sends the 70 out into the world, they go with virtually nothing. No wallet, no bag, nothing. I’ve always wondered why, but perhaps it’s not simply about the material things we carry along with us, but also the baggage we carry internally. How can we go and be present with people if our ideological understandings and even traditional understandings of Church prevent us from being fully present with others? What if our political views limit our ability to embody the grace of God in Jesus Christ? What if they demonize and belittle others? What if they diminish the image of Godness that all of us bear and that blind us to our commonality as God’s children? What if our views of how worship is ‘supposed’ to be done prevent us from seeing that other ways of worship are valid and faithful?

Or what if our firm belief in free market capitalism can, at times, come into conflict with Christ’s call to love and care for one another? What if the system, necessarily, requires that some people must be impoverished for the system to work?

The point is, we carry baggage with us wherever we go – ideological baggage we’ve collected over the years that work against our call to ‘go’ to our neighbors. How do we drop our baggage so that we can be present, listen, learn, and share the gospel?

For those of you who have ever been a foreign exchange student or perhaps have done mission work abroad, you know what it’s like to come into a culture not your own. You know there is this awkwardness, and yet this openness to listen, learn, and adapt, by necessity. You have to drop your pretense of superiority and see through your ideological frames to begin to understand and be with your neighbors. In a way, this is the way our Christian mission to ‘go’ should be like...awkward, scary, needing to listen, and learn, and grow. It’s not an option, it’s a part of the gig.

Go to Your Neighbor’s Tables...

"Remain in this house, eating and drinking whatever they set before you, for workers deserve their pay." (Luke 10:7)

We all eat. Everyone. Everywhere. Every culture and family has its own tradition. But to eat with someone else is to be with someone in an intimate, personal way. No, I’m not talking about romance, but rather about entering into someone else’s life in a meaningful way. We don’t just have anyone and everyone eat at our tables. It’s someone worth our time, our attention, and our care.

What if living into the great commission from Jesus meant fewer ‘all church’ potlucks and more meals with our neighbors in their homes? What if it meant inviting neighbors to our homes and our own tables. What if it was less about centralized church initiatives and programs for growing the church and instead about each member and member’s family inviting others to dinner?

When Jesus sends the disciples out with very little in hand, he sends them to see their neighbors not as people to recruit, but those whom they will depend on even for their basic needs. The message is clear, you make disciples with the mutual confession, “You need each other.” The people we go to are not irrelevant, but a necessity.

Well, my friends, what do you think? As we move into 2024 and we live into our vision as a congregation, living as a ‘beacon of hope, reviving the world through God’s love,’ perhaps we each do this through the manner in which we ‘Go.’ And perhaps our ‘going’ might seek to remove our own baggage and to meet our neighbors at the supper table.

Definitely worth some thought and prayer, don’t you think?
Blessings to you, dear saints, as we embark on this new year together.

With Care,
Pastor Adam


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