Summary: The Church is created and empowered by the Spirit for the purpose of proclaiming God’s grace and love in word and deed.
Acts 1:1-11 “Discover Our Mission
While we are being birthed as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, during the month of October, I think it is important for us to focus on the reason and purpose for our life. Last Sunday Jose focused on Jesus’ teaching that his disciples—the body of Christ—are both salt and light to the world.
This week we will work with Jesus’ parting words to his disciples that they were to wait for the Holy Spirit and then become Jesus’ witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. His instructions echo his parting teachings that are found in the gospel of Matthew. In chapter 25, Jesus instructs his disciples to, “Go therefore into the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all that I have commanded you and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Taking Jesus’ words seriously, the leadership of Desert Streams Church has crafted a Mission Statement that we believe closely follows Jesus’ teaching. As a congregation, we proudly proclaim that our mission is to “Invite everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ, and spirit-filled service for Christ.”
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT
Jesus sent his disciples on trial mission trips, but he did not mention the Holy Spirit at that time. Even in the great commission in Matthew, Jesus does not talk about the Holy Spirit when he tells the disciples to make disciples of all nations—though he does promise to be with them always. It here, in the beginning of the book of Acts, and in the Gospel of John, when Jesus appears to his disciples on Easter evening that we hear of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The task before the disciples is an imposing one, if not impossible. They are called to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be witnesses to God’s love and grace to the entire world. The commission goes to ordinary men and women, fishermen, tax collectors, merchants and slaves, who are not trained in marketing or persuasive speaking. Certainly, if a mission needed God’s presence and power in the person of the Holy Spirit, is was the mission to which Jesus was calling his disciples. Success in this mission depended both upon the human talents, abilities and commitment of the disciples and the power and presence of God.
Ten days later, the disciples found out what it meant to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and why they needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon them like a mighty wind. The disciples were given the ability to clearly and boldly communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to people from around the world.
We have received the Holy Spirit at our baptism. The Holy Spirit is more than God’s benign presence in our lives, or a healthy conscience that tells us right from wrong. The Holy Spirit gives us a vision of what God wants us to do, anoints our words so they touch the lives of the people around us, and empowers our actions so that they communicate God’s love and grace.
As we step forward in our mission to “Invite everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ and spirit-filled service for Christ, we do so with the faith and confidence that the Holy Spirit is present with us and is empowering us.
It is important that each and every one of us clearly understands that our mission field is large—everyone in the city of Surprise and surrounding community. The major emphasis is not on the geographical location, but on the “every one.”
One of the first Bible verses I was taught and memorized is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only sons that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” This verse catches us by surprise at the depth and the expanse of God’s love.
It doesn’t take much time in your average congregation to realize that the majority of Christians have forgotten, or have ignored, the expanse of God’s love. The church’s welcome is often limited to those who enjoy the same music, those who look like us, those who have similar incomes, or vote in a similar fashion. If different and diverse people join us, then we expect the Holy Spirit to change them into our image in a short amount of time.
We at Desert Streams Church commit ourselves to welcome all people; to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Why? We welcome all people, because Jesus died for all people, and because every one is a sinner in need of a savior.