The Soul of the Mission: The Lord’s Supper?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7 He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 (TEV)
For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth—possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life.
66 Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.
67 Therefore, there is just as much need in this case as in every other case to pray without ceasing: “Thy will be done, dear Father, and not the will of the devil or of our enemies, nor of those who would persecute and suppress thy holy Word or prevent thy kingdom from coming; and grant that whatever we must suffer on its account, we may patiently bear and overcome, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or indolence.” (1)
The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.
One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church. Indeed, by the precept of charity, which is the Lord’s greatest commandment, all the faithful are impelled to promote the glory of God through the coming of His kingdom and to obtain eternal life for all men-that they may know the only true God and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ (cf. John 17:3). On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world. (2)
I was recently reading a document which described the mission field as one where suffering may be more likely than not. It wanted to prepare (and or scare off) potential missionaries, warning them that life would be hard.
But it is not just missionaries in exotic foreign places who are to live life in that manner. It is as well those who are missionaries here. All people who pray that God’s kingdom would come. All who understand the grace of God, having received it in awe, and in awe spent time in adoration and thanksgiving. This is the glorious work that God has given all the church, both its shepherds and sheep to do.
Luther is deadly with his recognition that there is a part of us that we balk at living lives full of suffering. We don’t want to be self-controlled, living simply to put first in our lives God’s priority – that of bringing the message of salvation to the world, making it know and helping all to accept it. Being brutally honest, I think sometimes we are glad when they are repulsed by it, or when we offend them enough to drive them away. It is easier to say “we tried and failed” than “we tried, and because we love them, we will keep praying and trying.” Vatican II says it well – it is our preeminent responsibility, this work of the gospel.
Being missional, being part of the apostolate (same term) requires us to suffer, to be patient, to be driven by the Holy Spirit, enduring to the end that people know Jesus.
Throughout this article, I haven’t used the other word, Sacrifice. I have not used it, because honestly, giving up money or fame, separating ourselves from our idols and false gods is not sacrifice. At least we learn it is not, as we find ourselves at the cross. That was sacrifice. Our giving up things, our endurance is simply the process of sanctification, as God himself separates us from that which distracts us from His love, from His presence, from the sacrifice of Christ’s love.
It is for that reason the passage from Vatican II calls the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the soul of the apostolate, or as some would know it, the soul of being missional. It is there, in that intimate moment as God gives you and your family Christ’s Body and Blood, as the covenant is renewed and celebrated, that we find again what is so precious. Time with God, the refuge of peace that overwhelms us that assures us that He loves us, that He will heal us, that He cares for us. God is our refuge, our strength, our very help in time of suffering.
This celebration of Christ’s sacrifice which unites us to God is the soul of our mission; it is what is so amazing that we know others must know it as well. That life is simply not the same without it. We have to reveal it to others, we are compelled, not by force, but by love to do this.
It doesn’t matter whether we are in the mountains of Papua New Guinea or the coastal towns of Sicily. It doesn’t matter whether we are in the suburbs of Boston, or in the urban city of Bellflower, California. It doesn’t matter whether we are risking our lives preaching the gospel in the Sudan, or in Istanbul, or having breakfast with friends in Cerritos.
The need for us to reveal God’s desire to meet their deepest needs, to bring healing to their brokenness exists.
This is our mission; this is why we are part of the apostolate, those who walk with Christ bringing light and salvation to the world.
We are Christ’s masterpiece. We are united to Him, and doing the good words God has created in our lives.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 429). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.