Living Out the Mission of the Church
LIVING OUT THE MISSION OF OUR CHURCH
Fr Luke Veronis
Who knows what the “Mission Statement” of our Church is? Well, I want everyone to look at your weekly bulletin, and look at the bottom of the page where is says “Remember in Prayer.” At the bottom of that page, we have our Church’s Mission Statement.
Let’s read it together – “The Mission of our Church is to proclaim the Good News of salvation through the Orthodox Christian Faith for the glory of our Triune God. Everyone is welcome to participate in our WORSHIP, FELLOWSHIP, EDUCATION/SPIRITUAL GROWTH, WITNESS, and SERVICE which will lead all to a deeper relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another.”
So, if anyone ever asks you, “Why do you go to Church?” or “What do you do at Church?” you have a very clear answer here in our Mission Statement. We hear and then proclaim GOOD NEWS which GLORIFIES GOD. And HOW do we do this? Well, we glorify God through our WORSHIP, the LOVING FELLOWSHIP we have with one another, by learning our faith through Christ-centered EDUCATION which leads to our SPIRITUAL GROWTH – growing closer to God and become more Christ-like. We also learn how to WITNESS God’s love and hope to others here and around the world, and offer sacrificial SERVICE to one another, and to the larger community in Webster, Central Mass, Northeast CT, and around the world!
This is something beautiful the Church offers to everyone who comes, and it is quite sad to think how many people miss out by not coming to Church regularly!
Yet the question I want to focus on today is this. How many of us here in the Church today can honestly and sincerely say that we are living out these five central characteristics of the Church in our own lives? In other words, I want each of us to reflect upon our own lives, and ask ourselves: Am I worshipping God regularly? Do I turn to God each and every day in my prayers and honor Him through my daily prayers and personal worship? Do I worship God weekly in community, coming to the Divine Liturgy regularly, on time, and participating fully each week? I’m not talking about coming to Church and then going to the kitchen to prepare the coffee fellowship. That’s not worship. That’s helping with our fellowship, but why not come to church 15 minutes early and get everything done in the kitchen so that you can then be in the Divine Liturgy at the beginning, with all the saints and angels, worshipping and honoring God!
True worship means serious effort and work. It’s not for the fainthearted. It’s not easy. It takes effort, concentration, and participation. But when you truly worship, you enter into the presence of our Living God! You encounter God and invite Him to enter fully into your own life! True worship is truly a blessed, exciting, life-changing experience! And the more we worship – every Sunday for Divine Liturgy, Saturday evenings for Great Vespers, weekdays for special saint day and holy days, and during the special seasons of the year – the more we worship communally, as well as the more we connect with God in our daily prayers, the more we will be filled with God’s presence through the Holy Spirit!
So ask yourself – Are you sincerely worshipping God on a regular basis?
How about Christ-centered fellowship? We all connect with various people – people at work, in our neighborhood, in our hobbies. Some relationships are life-giving, other relationships are neutral, and some relationships pull us down. In the Church, we want to create an atmosphere where we all feel safe, feel loved, feel cherished and honored, feel special. But to experience this type of fellowship, we also have to live and give this type of fellowship to one another. Are we giving of ourselves in this manner in the Church? How can we get more involved in the Christ-centered fellowship of the Church? In a couple weeks, we have our annual Festival. This is a very exhausting event, and yet it can also be a beautiful time of fellowship. And that is a special event at the beginning of our new Church Year. Hopefully this will be the first of many different moments in the life of the church that will enrich and bless us during the new Church Year.
Are we experiencing and participating in Christ-centered fellowship?
Third, there is the need for Christ-centered EDUCATION. What are each of you doing to GROW in your Faith? What are you doing to learn new aspects of the rich treasure of Orthodox Christianity? Are you reading the Bible daily through my daily email? Are you attending a Bible Study? How much of the rich treasure of Orthodox Christianity do you understand? This year, we will have our Bible Studies on Wednesday morning and Thursday evening. Are you attending our twice a year spiritual retreats and listen to the guest speakers we bring to our Church?
Ask yourself - In what ways are you learning and growing in your faith?
Fourth, what about WITNESSING our faith? How many of us actually talk about our faith with those outside the Church? When was the last time you told a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, a colleague about what your faith means to you? Can you invite one of these people to come to our Church on a Sunday? Invite them to come to a Bible Study with you. Don’t be shy to talk about your faith and love for God. This is a central part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We all, each one of us, need to share God’s love through our actions and with our words. Of course, one of the main reasons why many people feel unsure about witnessing their faith is because they don’t think they know their faith well enough! Well, this means we need to take the time to learn our faith, and then share what we learn. Each of us can begin by simply talking about what Jesus Christ means to us personally. Begin with that. And then tell them who Jesus Christ is, and what He can mean for them in their own lives!
Think of different ways you can share your faith with a friend, and then go out and do it!
Finally, being a disciple of Jesus is all about serving one another. Jesus said, “I did not come to be serve but to serve.” He set the example by washing his disciples’ feet. And he expects each of His followers to do the same. To serve one another. That means being the one who is always ready to help and serve here in the Church. We have a festival coming up, and we want every single person in the Church to be volunteering and serving for a few hours at the festival. That is one way to serve. We have our monthly Living Bread Luncheon. Have all of you come and helped out yet? I’d love to offer the Living Bread Luncheon TWICE a month, not once. But we need to have enough people who will say, “I can volunteer. I will be there to help out!” And then, let’s be creative and think of other ways we can serve the larger community outside the Church. What can we do to help others, to serve others, to bring God’s love in concrete ways to those in need all around us!
Ask yourself – Do I think life is about me being served, or am I ready to serve others?
Today’s Gospel story was a warning about the wicked tenants who were unfaithful to the owner of the land. The Master gave his field to tenants, but they proved to be unfaithful in offering back to the Master what was already His. My sermon today can be seen as a warning, but better should be seen as a guide on how we can be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. If we truly love Christ and His Church, then we all, each one of us, will fully try to live out in our lives the five central characteristics of the Church.
We will WORSHIP God regularly and faithfully! We will help create a warm, loving atmosphere here in church where everyone who walks in these doors will experience Christ-centered, loving FELLOWSHIP. We will make every effort to learn what our Faith is all about, to be as well educated in Orthodox Christianity as we are in our own profession. SPIRITUAL EDUCATION that leads to ongoing SPIRITUAL GROWTH. Then as we encounter the Living God and are filled with His love through fellowship and understanding our faith, we will become His WITNESS, sharing His love, joy and peace with the world all around us. And a central part of our witness will be SERVING one another, serving in a humble, gentle way.
Let’s go! Let each of us begin today in living out better out our Christian faith and becoming more faithful members of Christ’s Church!
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith
The Sacraments: The Meaning and Importance of Liturgical Life