Summary: Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to our world today. That does not mean that we have to seek an active role in ministry. We are all given gifts from God to use in our mission.
Today, we are celebrating two special occasions in the life of our Diocese-Mission Sunday, and Anglican Church Women Sunday. Rev. Judy is celebrating Missions Sunday with another church in our Diocese this morning, as she has been asked to explain to that congregation what her role as a Non-Stipendiary Ordained Minister involves. Anglican Church Women Sunday also celebrates an important ministry in the life of both our Parish and our Diocese. It is appropriate that both ACW Sunday and Mission Sunday are celebrated during the season of Epiphany. The season of Epiphany emphasizes mission and ministry, and the Gospel reading from Matthew that we heard a few minutes ago is especially appropriate for today.
Our ACW members are some of the hardest working members of the congregation. The old saying “Idle hands are the devil’s playground” certainly does not apply to them. They have been called to a unique Christian ministry, and it is similar to the call Jesus issued to the first disciples-a call we heard in our Gospel reading. Jesus and the disciples combined ministry that met people’s physical needs with ministry to the minds and hearts-namely, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom). Our ACW members also minister to the physical and spiritual needs of people, and they do it in their unique, individual ways. Their ministry, like that of Jesus, leaves no areas of human lives untouched-family relationships, friendships, and our perspectives on life, work, leadership and our world.
Being an ACW member is just one of many calls to ministry that Jesus issues to us. He has called all of us to serve others as he did, to follow him, to sacrifice comforts, to bless the lives of others, to minister to the sick, and to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. ACW members and all who answer Jesus’ call live in the light God gives them.
Jesus walks by all of us, observing our efforts on the job and in our communities, and he calls us. He calls ordinary people, including the ACW members, to do extraordinary things. He asks all of us to love him above all else and fully commit to obey him. When we do, he will accomplish more through us than we could even imagine. Through him, we can make something of our lives.
The kingdom of heaven is the place where God rules. If God rules in our hearts, that the kingdom of God is in our hearts, and it is certainly in the hearts of our ACW members. God speaks to us through their words and deeds, among other ways. They are the example to follow when we want to learn how to live our lives with honour.
An orchestra was giving a concert in a large church hall in England. The place was packed. Afterwards a casual member of the church very flippantly asked the pastor of the church when the hall would ever be filled like that for Sunday morning worship. The pastor answered solemnly, “It will be filled when like that conductor I have eighty well-trained, committed and disciplined men and women to work with me.” Oh, how the church needs that today!
When we answer his call, we show that we are willing to leave everything to follow the way, the truth and the life, just like the first disciples left everything to follow him. ACW members are the same. They all have other commitments, but they set them aside to do the work that God calls them to do when he calls them to do it. Jesus invites us to reform and reshape our lives and look at things through the gospel lens. ACW members turn to the needy with acceptance and compassion and whatever form of healing and comfort they can offer.
ACW members are ordinary people just like all of us are. They are called to follow Jesus and grow with him just like all of us are, but there also comes a time when we have to move from being followers to being leaders. A church should never have trouble finding people to teach Sunday school, or work with youth, or sing in the choir, or to take on leadership positions. God blesses all of the work we do in his name, including the work of the ACW. God calls us each in our own way to do his work in the world. (Pause)
A minister was delivering a series of sermons in another pastor’s church (much like Rev. Judy is speaking in another parish this morning about her unique ministry). While there, a young boy took a special interest in him and sat beside him every evening. I the minister was on the platform, that’s where the little boy sat. If the minister was in a pew, the little boy sat with him in the pew. The minister said later that the little boy was not a bother---he just wanted to sit where the minister sat. Later, the minister found out that he boy’s parents did not attend church.