Love his appearing

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Sermon for Proper 25 – RCL Year C Option 2

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6–8, ESV)

As Paul is writing this he is in a Roman prison, waiting to be executed on account of faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that despite shipwrecks, sickness, stoning, false accusations, and betrayal that he had stayed faithful to the Gospel. He had done the work he had been called to do. He planted churches. He raised up leaders. He taught truth. He gave up everything for the Kingdom, because of his great love for Jesus.

What does it look like for us to run our race and fight the good fight?

This past Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Fr. Scott and I went to Nashville for the annual Anglican Mission Clergy Retreat. The Anglican Mission is the network of churches that we are a part of. It is a three streams missionary society all about developing leaders, church planting, and apostolic works.

It was a great time of refreshment and relaxation—most of our time was spent just hanging out with other priests and deacons. We were able to spend a good amount of time with both the Grotons and the Dysons, and they send their warm greetings to you all.

While we are at the retreat we got hear about what it’s looking like for many different churches and clergy to fight the good fight.

One priest I met named Bob leads a small group of 15 people—not all of whom are Anglican—on their spiritual journey. He also goes to the UK regularly with about 4 people to engage in prophetic ministry. He has also become a spiritual shepherd at his gym where he works out.

We spoke with Pastor Matt Kessler from San Antonio. They needed a new place to worship because they’re growing. They were randomly contacted by Baptist church that had sensed that God wanted them to sell their building to Pastor Matt’s church.

We connected with Chris, a Mission priest in Colorado that has been working to unify Anglicans across jurisdictions as board member of the Colorado Anglican Society.

We heard from our bishops about ordination and church plants in the Anglican Mission in India, and about how the Anglican Mission in Canada is now ready to kind of move on from us and stand on its own two feet as its own society for mission there.

So we heard and saw and experienced many expressions of faithful Christian leaders fighting the good fight.

What does it look like for us to run our race and fight the good fight?

On the first night we were treated to dinner and desert by Christ Church Nashville, which is a very large inter-denominational church pastored by an Anglican Mission Priest, Dan Scott. Many of you know Dan and Christ Church well so you won’t be surprised that we got a bit of a Gospel concert from their choir during desert, which was just a wonderful ministry to us. During that concert, one of their worship leaders stepped forward to the microphone and just started speaking words of grace to us…she talked about how much they loved us and were glad we there, and how wonderful it was to know Anglicans even though they weren’t Anglicans, because they could see how the Anglican Mission is committed to being the light of Christ wherever they are. And they can see how much the ethos and culture and doctrinal commitments of the Anglican Mission have blessed and nourished their own pastor, who in turn ministers to them.

What really stuck with me was how the worship leader said they were so blessed because of the commitment of the Mission to be the light of Christ, wherever they are.

Paul talks about his reward of righteousness, which is about God making everything right, that will be given him to and all “who have loved his appearing.” This is a beautiful phrase that in the Greek has the sense of those that have loved every phase of the appearing of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his Second Coming.[1] That love is expressed in faith, in trust, in Jesus. Like Paul, we are not direct witnesses of the Incarnation, and like Paul, we may not see the Second Coming before we die. Do we love his appearing in the here and now?

What does it look like for us to run our race and fight the good fight?

The amazing thing that connects all this together for me, is that as these leaders and churches all fight the good fight in the way God has called them, they demonstrate so much faith, so much trust in the goodness of God, in the presence of God, in the appearing of Christ then, now, and in the future, that they radiate the light of Christ.

Why do we keep doing what we do here at DMAC? Why do we keep fighting the good fight? Because as we do that, as we put our faith into action, we become the light of Christ to others. In a very real way others see the appearing of Christ in us.

How do we fight the good fight here at DMAC?

We do it in our worship, in dedicating ourselves to spiritual growth, in intercessory prayer, and in service to those around us. As an Anglican Mission church, we have a particular emphasis on mission, and on certain kind of mission. Of course every church has a mandate to fulfill the great commission, to make disciples of all nations and teach the world to obey the commandments of Jesus. As part of the Anglican Mission, though, we go about doing that in a certain way. In particular, we approach our worship and discipleships in the balance of the three streams of Scripture, Sacrament, and Spirit, and we are always looking to support and start new works of ministry.

As a Mission church, we are particularly concerned with evangelism.

There was a time when the Anglican Mission was basically a refuge from heretical teaching coming the established church here in the United States and Canada. We heard from our Apostolic Vicar this week that those days are over. It’s time for the Anglican Mission to move on from being a refuge, and move into a fresh season of ministry to the lost and hurting. Bishop Philip described the Mission at the tip of the spear this week…that is, we are primarily concerned with reaching certain kinds of people…people that are new to the Gospel or maybe haven’t ever heard the Gospel, and those that are exploring the Anglican Way of following Jesus, those that are looking for an authentic and honest expression of what it means to be a Christian that is difficult to find elsewhere.

I hope this vision of what it means to be part of this society for mission resonates with you the way it does with me. I think about Jesus, even though he was always with God as the eternal Son, became one of us, incarnate in flesh, to reveal to us the love of God. He endured shame, torture, and the Cross, so that we could be rescued from sin. In his Resurrection he defeated the devil so that we can too can partake of that Resurrection life. This mission that Desert Mission Anglican joins in as part of the Anglican Mission is about displaying that Resurrection life for the world to see. It is about lifting Jesus up so that world might be drawn to him and believe in him. It is about our response of love to Jesus, because he first loved us. It’s about fighting the good fight, being on mission to be the light of Christ, so we can point to his appearing in history, his appearing in us in the present, in his coming for his people at the end of time.

The implications for us as individuals are important.

We each have an opportunity to join in and take part in what Jesus is doing through his whole Body. We all have a part to play, but not on our own. Jesus didn’t just give the Great Commission to individual disciples, but to the whole group. He founded a church, ecclesia in the Greek, which means gathering or assembly. This is something we do together. In small groups, in local churches, in cross-jurisdictional societies like the Anglican Mission. I’m excited that in addition to what we do as a local church in our local context, we get to contribute to what’s going on all over the United States, in India, in Canada. We do that through prayer, financial giving, supporting relationships (that’s what this retreat was really all about), living out Mission values right here. And of course because we are in a Society, we are not alone. We have people praying for us, supporting us, equipping us to be the light of Christ where we are here in Sunnyslope. I have people contact me from the Mission all the time telling me that they are praying for us, thinking of us, and asking how they support us.

You all know that I have been thinking a lot about mission, and in particular mission that is patterned after Jesus’s mission. Part of that is leaning into a life style of service to our community, which is what our Harvest Classes at Tuesday nights are all about. Part of that is seeing healing ministry as regular part of what the Church is meant to do. You know that has been on my heart for some time. An amazing part of being in community with other leaders, pastors, and churches this week was the sense of confirmation that God provided for this direction for our church.

We didn’t know what the teaching session was going to be about, but as it turns out it was healing prayer. Moreover, as Father Scott and I were praying with another priest after that session, that priest prayed what seemed to me to be a prophetic prayer. Without me saying anything at all about the direction of our church or what’s been on my mind, he prayed that we would have a fruitful weekly healing prayer ministry.

I took that as confirmation that we’re on the right track.

We want to be faithful to the example of Christ and what he is calling us to right now, so we will begin have a special time for healing prayer each Sunday starting next week, and we look forward to what God is going to do during that time. We look forward to seeing the light of Christ displayed, and seeing him draw others to himself as we respond in faithful obedience.

How are you being called today to fight the good fight, so that others might love the appearing of Jesus? I wonder what God is asking you to do as part of this community, Desert Mission, as an outgrowth of our common worship and our fellowship together. Where is God calling you join in on mission? Is it starting Bible study at work? Is joining the Harvest Class? Is it going out of your way to develop relationships in this part of town? Is it making a commitment to intercessory prayer? Is it financial support? Is it helping with Sunday School? Is it inviting your next-door neighbor over for dinner? Is taking more intentional discipleship approach with your kids? It might be one or several or none of those things, but I want to encourage you to think deeply on it.

Do you love Jesus’ appearing?

Do you trust that he came, is here now, and will come again? Keep fighting, running, training, pressing on toward him. Remember that whatever it is that God is calling you to do, he’s calling you to do it in community, not on your own. When you move in faith in the context of a society of mission, you will be transformed from the inside-out in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will join the candle flame of your witness with the entire communion of the saints, and together we become like the bright, roaring flame in an old lighthouse. Doing some reading this week I found many of those lighthouses in the 18th century weren’t lit by coal fires, or oil lamps, but by banks of candles working together to warn and guide ships to safety. Together we not only tell the world of the appearing of Christ, but will bring them to him so they can know and experience his light, his love, his grace, his forgiveness, his mercy, his abundant life in the here and now. Amen.

[1] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (2 Ti 4:8). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.