To read this sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. David Allen Marcus, Jr. on his installation Sunday click on “Continue Reading” below.
Sermon based on Luke 4:16-21
It is such a pleasure and privilege to come before you as the newly installed pastor of Christ Moravian Church on such a wonderful day like Mother’s Day. I hope all of our mothers and those who serve in a mothering role will be treated as well as I have been treated during my transition period and first week of service at Christ Church. Our family looks forward to the reception that awaits us Sunday following worship next week from our Women’s Fellowship.
A few days after accepting the call, Lee, David III and I ventured out for a dinner celebration. Now those of you who have or have had young children I’m sure would agree with me when I say that going out to eat with children can be challenging. Parents sometimes must bring an endless supply of books, electronics, toys, and patience to get through a meal. One restaurant, which helps make things easier, is the Cracker Barrel restaurant. They opened their first store in Tennessee some 40 years ago. They provide crayons and a coloring sheet for your child and they have a peg puzzle on the table that can keep your child occupied while waiting for their meal. And if a parent gets really desperate, there is a great inventory of toys to purchase on the spot in the Cracker Barrel Store to get through a meal! I was very interested to learn about the mission statement of Cracker Barrel. Their mission statement is simply two words, “Pleasing People.” I believe they fulfill this mission statement very well.
What exactly is a mission statement? A mission statement is a formal, short written statement of the purpose of a company or organization. The mission statement should guide their actions, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making. The national bestseller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People declares individual effectiveness will only come to those who draft a personal mission statement. One of the most popular books among church leaders for a couple of decades now is the Purpose Driven Church, by Rick Warren. This book stresses the importance of establishing a mission statement. Mission statements illustrate the guiding principles we live by and generally what rules we observe as we operate under these principles.
I remember when I met with the church board here at Christ Church and a member asked me what my vision was for serving and coming here to lead this congregation. For a few days following our meeting I started to reflect upon that question and how I wished I had answered that question a bit differently. At that time I wished I had answered the question as I do before you all this morning. My vision for Christ Moravian is to follow the mission statement already in place here that says:
Christ Church seeks to be a caring congregation, worshiping God and encouraging one another, as we serve outside the walls of our congregation in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.
I really love this mission statement at Christ not because of the way it is worded, but because of the way I have already seen it being lived out. As a caring congregation, our family has been so encouraged and we look forward to leading and joining you all as we serve outside these walls in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.
As we talk about mission statements we see in our gospel lesson from Luke that Jesus used a section of Isaiah’s prophecy for his mission statement. This passage presents a standard by which we can evaluate the effectiveness of our life and service in God’s kingdom. For Jesus, this time in his ministry was most important. At this point in his ministry, Jesus had experienced his baptism and temptation for 40 days. He was looking forward to returning to Nazareth to see his family. He was “going home” to his hometown synagogue of Nazareth. Despite going home Jesus was fully aware as Scripture says that a prophet is often without honor in their hometown. Jesus was aware that the hardest people to minister or teach are those who know us for the longest time. Jesus begins this journey home facing the real possibility of being rejected by those who knew him best.
As later verses in this chapter indicate it was not the greatest of days for Jesus as he taught in the synagogue in Nazareth. He read from the prophet Isaiah and at one point said the following, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people were offended by his words. They were offended not because he implied he was the Messiah for the Jews, but that he was the Messiah for everyone. Jesus despite facing resistance in his hometown persevered. No matter where he taught he was always consistent in his mission. Jesus was guided in his ministry by three things and I hope these things guide us in living out our mission statement as a community of faith.
First, we learn that Jesus returned home guided by the power of God’s Spirit. Dr. Paul Brand, a missionary doctor was once speaking to a medical college in India. His message was on trying to follow these words of Jesus from Matthew 5:16:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
In front of the pulpit where he was speaking, there was an oil lamp, with its cotton wick burning from the shallow dish of oil. As he preached, the lamp ran out of oil, the wick burned dry, and the smoke made him and others begin coughing. He immediately seized this opportunity. “Some of us here are like this wick,” he said. “We’re trying to shine for the glory of God, but we stink. Brand went on to say, “Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke, if the fuel, the Holy Spirit, is in constant supply.”
As we strive to follow our mission statement as a congregation we must realize that reaching out and serving others will never be effective unless we are guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that we alone never bring anyone to make a commitment to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit that helps to lead them.
Secondly, Jesus was guided by the word of God. We see Jesus began reading and teaching the people from the prophet Isaiah in the Synagogue. As we talk about being guided by the Word of God and following our mission statement of worshiping God and encouraging one another, as we serve outside the walls of our congregation in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ; we must recognize that in order for this to happen that we must be growing in our faith. I believe that our faith can be compared to an aqueduct. An aqueduct is a stone waterway that brings water from nearby mountains into cities that have a low water supply. In thinking of our faith, the objective foundation of our faith is formed and inspired through the Word of God, which is like the aqueduct itself. Our subjective foundation of faith, which is our daily experiences with God that includes serving others, is the fresh water flowing through.
Some Christians neglect the Word of God and seek only the subjective experience of serving others. Without the solid Word of God to contain and channel the experience, the experience can perhaps drain away. Other Christians boast well engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are spiritually dry. They bring no refreshment through prayer, service or fellowship with other Christians. Our faith requires both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and a daily relationship with God through prayer, fellowship and service. I look forward to becoming involved in the many wonderful opportunities already in place at Christ Church and leading future opportunities to grow in our faith, and fellowship with each other and our service within our community.
Finally, Jesus gave people time to think and reflect upon what he had taught. Verse 20 in Luke says the following:
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
Jesus was guided by the ability of people to make decisions individually. Philip Yancey, one of my favorite Christian authors in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew shared that Jesus would not have made a very good salesperson. The reason Yancey shared this observation about Jesus was because Jesus would only share his message and teachings with people around him. Jesus wasn’t manipulative or pushy in any way. Jesus simply allowed people to move on or continue to follow him. We need to remember that when people begin to study Scripture especially the gospels, they need time to think and reflect. They need time to hear from the Spirit of God and to ask questions. Too often we are busy telling other people what they should think and we never give them time to listen for God themselves. Jesus read the Word of God and then sat down. He was ready to let people think about what he had said before he began to teach them further.
In following our mission statement at Christ Church we should remember this story from Bob Mumford, in his book Take Another Look at Guidance, when he compared following God’s mission with a sea captain’s docking procedure. Mumford shared that there is a certain harbor in Italy that can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights, the pilot knows they are off course and in danger.
God has provided us three beacons of light to guide us in sharing our mission statement. The same rules of navigation apply—the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to continue. The three harbor lights of guidance are:
- The guidance of Holy Spirit
- The wisdom we gather from the Word of God
- The ability to think, reflect and act upon our faith as we strive to share with others our belief that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
Together these beacons assure us that the directions we follow in life are guided by a greater power than ourselves.
In closing, I was a History major in college and I particularly enjoyed during my transition period learning more about the history of this congregation. In 1996, Christ Church celebrated their 100th anniversary. I enjoyed reading about the pastor of Christ at the time Wallace Elliot, including in the bulletin on your Centennial Sunday in October the following, “Footsteps to the Future” which said the following:
“…Our present work and mission really depend on all sharing together in the mission to which our Lord has called us…” The call to Mission from Christ is still before us. The fields are whiter than ever for harvest. Lord, may we live and work and worship together in faithfulness, trust and obedience-engaged in mission for Your sake. Amen!”
These words still ring true today in 2012. My hope and prayer this day as we begin our ministry together is that God will continue to bless Christ Church as we strive to share and live out our mission of serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ together.
The Rev. Dr. David Allen Marcus, Jr.
May 13, 2012