Mission: Survive!

 +++++John 17:6-19+++++

‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

‘I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

+++++Talk on the Reading+++++

At Ascension Christ promised the disciples that he would not leave them alone, but that he would ‘send you what my father has promised’. He told them that they must stay in Jerusalem and wait until the promise was fulfilled, until they had that power, which would be the Holy Spirit that would ‘clothe’ them, literally cover them.

The disciples at that stage probably had not the slightest wish to witness to Jesus, they needed to be prayed for, and they were timid and fearful, often locking themselves behind closed doors.

So……

……. They were waiting, trying to prepare themselves, they had wonderful news, tales to tell, amazing experiences to relate – but how do they develop them into information to be shared with others – after all they had been through, 3 years, 3 years of their lives! What happened now?

Was it all going to be lost and forgotten, would the “resurrection phenomenon” simply fizzle out?

In today’s reading we can hear Jesus anticipating this crisis, Jesus knew he was about to be arrested, that he would experience pain,   but not only him: his family, his disciples, his followers would share that pain and more, because they would also be experiencing their own pain, partly through what they would see being done to Jesus, but also because of how the events that followed would make them feel.

Humans are, let’s face it, ‘self-absorbed’: we dwell on our own feelings and worry about our own responses to a situation. However awful something is we tend to think on how ‘it’ affects me…

…and that can overwhelm us, it can paralyse us, it can make conscious and logical thoughts and actions impossible. This is not what Jesus wanted for his disciples after his death and resurrection, and certainly not after the Ascension and the festival of Pentecost…..

…so Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples, that they would be truly ‘sanctified’ (or in the Good News version truly ‘dedicated’).

Sanctified or dedicated, it is about being made special, set apart; it is about knowing this and investing time and effort in responding to it.    Jesus prayed for the disciples because he wanted them to have strength so that they could be committed to taking his story forward into the world.

And they could not do that until they had received the courage and protection that Jesus knew was coming. Dedicating themselves to witnessing was challenging but…

…We would not be here now, generations later, as inheritors of the message if they had not.

So how does that affect us now, can we do that too?

When Jesus prayed for his disciples and for believers all that time ago, I believe he was issuing a challenge…

…for us to become One, One people with 1 heart and 1 mission

Who knows who Bear Grylls is?

Bear Grylls is known around the world as one of the most recognized faces of survival and outdoor adventure. He had an eclectic upbringing and is SAS-trained.

Bear has led record-breaking expeditions, from Antarctica to the Arctic.

He was appointed as the youngest ever Chief Scout to over half a million scouts in the UK.

And is now involved in television survival programmes such as the island and more impressively Mission Survive

…did any of you watch it, if not here’s the blurb

Bear Grylls stars in an adrenalin-fuelled series in which the adventurer takes eight celebrities into the depths of one of the most unforgiving Central American rainforests, where they will be competing in an epic survival mission.

In Mission Survive the team will be pushed to their physical and emotional limits. they will have to navigate treacherous obstacles and journey through dangerous dense jungle, testing their ability to adapt, improvise and overcome in one of the world’s most hostile environments.

  They will be tested at every turn on the fundamental principles of survival: water, food, fire and shelter, whilst having to abseil down ferocious waterfalls, cross perilous rapids, trudge through swamps and negotiate razor-sharp vines – not to mention contending with scorpions, snakes and sand flies.

 Bear will guide the celebrities on their punishing assignments, sharing with them his expertise, mindset and skills.

The aim is to be the ultimate survivor.

Bear wants the person who will run if they can, walk if they have to and crawl if all else fails… but they will never give up, the ultimate person to be beside him in a survival situation.

So, Mission: Survive

Jesus knew the disciples were about to embark on their own Mission Survive.

Are we on it too? Is our journey just as adventurous and challenging as the celebrities, with as many fears to be faced?

What do we need to survive as Christians today?

Well when the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost, which we celebrate next week, all the equipment and knowledge that those disciples, and us, now, today needed to survive was freely given. The strength, the stamina the power and knowledge was made available to us. As well as awareness of the water, the food, the fire and the shelter.

And there are 2 aspects to the survival business, which reflect our values as a church, the UP and the IN / OUT. In order for me to thrive as a Christian I must first concentrate on the UP (my relationship with God) and that goes for all of us.

So to allow us to survive in terms of the ‘up’ we need 4 things:

Firstly Water

Being thirsty is horrible. When you are so thirsty, oh! the relief of water!

You can survive for a long time with little food, but thirst is a terrible thing, it affects your every thought and action.

And Jesus spoke of our need for water on 2 memorable occasions

John 4:14

The Samaritan woman at the well was offered living water by Jesus:

‘Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never thirst’

It will become in him a ‘spring of eternal life’  that would never leave her thirsty again

John 7:37

Jesus again spoke about encouraging those who were thirsty to believe in him and then to come and drink so that streams of life-giving water would flow out from their hearts.

If we are to survive as Christians then we need to drink of that wonderful, cool life-giving water

Then we need Food

Reading the bible is often described as good food, it is so important that James is proposing to devote several weeks of sermons to working through the books of the bible.

…. but it can also be really daunting, especially when you are already having a hard time, when it is an emergency, so think ahead…. Create your own emergency rations and…

…   Claim a verse or two for life.

So, for example, I have two favourite and meaningful verses written down and available when looking them up or thinking straight is just too much

I am with you always to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

Rejoice in the Lord always! (Philippians 4:4)

And yet when we eat this food we can be still be surprised, because, for example in preparing this talk, I revisited these verses and I read on in Philippians to verse 7, where I found some very familiar words, that I had never registered as being there before and suddenly it was like reading them for the first time, and they became a fresh source of food and inspiration.

(And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guide your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus)

Next for survival we need Fire

I have a candle, which was given to me when I was a teenager by a wonderful deaconess. It has never been lit.

She advised me that When I felt bad I should look at it, hold it in my mind, and think of God, Jesus, of why I am a Christian and focus on lighting it in my mind, focus on the Holy Spirit wrapping me in its fire, try to see the light flaring up to heaven and letting my faith light it.

I suppose it’s really a form of meditation and it works for me.

But I never light it – you concentrate on making the fire in your mind, you imagine lighting it as you focus on the support the Holy Spirit can give.

And finally, Shelter

When you go away on holiday it is so good to be back in your own home, your own bed, to have your own stuff around you.

A shelter keeps us safe it enfolds us and protects us and allows us to relax. In feeling protected we feel strong and in control again.

There are bible verses about this that we can claim as our own, again they make good emergency verses. Such as:

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the earth should give way and the mountains fall into the sea: though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging’

Proverbs 18:10

‘The name of the lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe’

Or, famously, the picture of the good shepherd, caring for his sheep, sheltering them and protecting them in John 10

‘I know my sheep and my sheep know me’

It goes on ‘I lay down my life for the sheep’

But the joy of shelter means we can journey out from it, knowing we have somewhere safe to return.

On our mission we can turn to Jesus because he knows and loves us and protects us.

How is that for survival necessities!

Corrie Ten Boom said:

“I know that the experiences of our lives
When we let God use them
Become the mysterious and perfect preparation
For the work he gives us to do”

Corrie has it all in a nutshell, our work, our mission as Christians is indivisible from us as people, and we need to learn to use our own experiences of Christ and to pass them onto others.

Next we need to look at mission survive on a bigger scale, at the IN/OUT, at relationships and connections with each other and the world around us.

Our building, which in monetary terms can greatly hinder us, can also serve as an important resource in this, but we need to be brave and control the building, not be slaves to it.

To put it simply:

We need Water

What better place to think of water than at the font, to survive as a community we need to add to our number, when we baptise we add the individual and we remember our own baptism promises.

But we also have an opportunity to pour the streams of life-giving water from our hearts to all those other people that we come into contact with at the baptism. And we can pray that something of god touches them, maybe not now, but in the future, who knows?

After all Jesus’s profound words to the Samaritan woman at the well came from a chance encounter.

We need Food

Our mission to the world: literally, tea and coffee and lunches and fetes and events and opening the church.

When we socialize, when we take an interest in others and, make ourselves open to listening, then as James said a couple of weeks ago, we open ourselves, our community to the ‘ministry of messy moments’……. We take part in an adventure in which we can never predict the outcome.

And also we cannot be Christians in isolation, we are part of a community and when we come to a service we feed on the sermon, the readings, we learn together.

Which is why house groups or events and courses like alpha or deepening discipleship are so important: as we have the opportunity to discuss, learn and laugh together.

Next, we need Shelter

A church should be Welcoming, listening, and accepting, when we come into the building it should feel safe: the familiar liturgy, the candles, the repetition the smell, all make us feel safe…..

……but is that right? Or is our building a scary unknown to many?

And do friendships, care, prayer, support and worship matter too?

…….This church is not just about us, it’s also about everyone who comes into the building, and everyone who does not. Our mission is to make this place feel safe and comfortable for those who do not normally come in…..it’s about getting the doors open so people can see what is inside, it’s about helping.

It is about being open to change, communal worship needs familiar patterns, but we also need to feel able to add what is expressive and connects to others, to compliment the familiar.

Finally, we need Fire

We need to ask why we are here!! We need to ask what do we have to offer?

We need enthusiasm, and that is not just about extrovert behaviour.

It’s about having that fire of the spirit in our lives, the passion in our stomachs that makes us want to talk to others about Christ, to share with others, to study and to learn.

It’s about blazing a trail of love that others can see and feel and follow.

If I come back to Mission Survive, Grylls was looking for the ultimate survivor, who showed the resilience and ability to endure. To learn, to plan to be a team player and also to be able to work alone. Yet all the participants also contributed, so they were also acknowledged to be amazing survivors.

And I confess I watched all the episodes

And do you know who won?

It was the one I thought least likely to win, the DJ, model and TV star, the woman obsessed with her make up nails and hair at the beginning; who faced several deep-seated fears of spiders and insects and confined spaces; who ultimately learned to make her uncertainties complement her strengths.

And that tells us as Christians something.

Even the least likely is a winner before God, is loved and adored and if he accepts them, if he loves them, then …………..We have a mission to love them too and to bring Jesus to them.

So Mission Survive?

Jesus stands at the centre of our mission survive, he provides all the supplies and equipment and support that we need.

Which means:

We sing for joy at the work of his hands
Forever we love him
Forever we stand
Nothing compares to the promise we have in him

(Song copyright Chris Tomlin 1998)

Sermon written by Tracy Williams and used at St Michael’s in May 2015