Genesis 32:27-30; Revelation 21:5
Naming the mission
We have talked about Jacob and his quest for a mission as the new patriarch of the Hebrew people. He had to return from exile and face his past, and thereby, his brother, all alone. In this finding or naming of a new mission there are several elements. First he must name struggle. His struggle is with himself and with his conscience. Second, he must be renamed. He becomes Israel, Prince of God. Third he must name the place where his mission takes place and he calls it face of God. Finally he must name the mission itself. In his case it will be the generational leader of his people. Let us see if we can apply this to other things.
I talked to you about Grace Damman featured in the documentary States of Grace. She is the physician who working with dying AIDS patients in San Francisco in the early eighties who with her partner adopt an AIDS baby and live together in their Buddhist Community in Marin County. Then comes the accident on the Golden Gate Bridge which her daughter survives unhurt but that almost kills Grace. After more than a dozen surgeries she completely becomes a disabled person who is dependent on others and feels she is a burden to others. Again we can name the struggle, to live with her disability and dependency. We can name the person: Grace the person rather than Grace the famous physician, we can name the place, her community and home (more than the hospital where she worked) and we can name the mission: to show a new State of Grace and move through her grief to a new way of contributing to her family and beyond.
Friends, we talked also of the Dutch Javanese lawyer, a man whose tradition told him to change his name in different stages of life and who was a magistrate of a small city and who nearly faced his doom at the hands of his enemies. He survives because he has changed his name, taking his father’s. He is there because he can name his struggle and that struggle is to help found an independent nation, liberated from the Dutch. He names the place, the town called Madiun which is synonymous with a volatile history of the birth of a new nation and finally he must name his mission: to found a judiciary that is independent and has integrity and so he becomes the first Head of the Central Java Supreme Court.
Friends, so it seems when we talk about personal mission that people have, Jacob’s experience applies: there is struggle, there is a new identity, there is the understanding how important this place is. Finally there is naming the mission itself.
How is this true for you? Are you perhaps in a stage in your life when you have to define a new mission for yourself as individuals: where is the struggle, what is the name you would give yourself, what it so significant about the place you find yourself and how would you describe your mission? Maybe it’s a bit heavy, but it’s worth a thought.
If it is true that Jacob’s experience applies to people, then maybe it can be true of groups of people too, for instance or specifically rather, this congregation. Our exploration groups have taken us to the threshold of a new mission statement. First, we too face a struggle: as an inclusive multicultural community with people from different faith backgrounds to be the church in a meaningful and timely way. Second, we must have a new name, a new identity, for we cannot stay the same. Third, we must rename the place we find itself: is it just this buildings, just this little campus, is it the streets around here or further out. Finally we must name the mission itself. Now I think you have spent a lot of time in the exploration groups thinking about the first three already: 1. Parkview’s struggle, 2. Parkview’s identity, 3. The place or places where Parkview wants to serve, this coming Saturday during the exploration group meeting at the Hill’s house you need to talk about how you name the mission for the coming years, write your mission statement which perhaps should mention all three: struggle, identity and place.
But wait a second, there is still that verse from the Book of Revelation that talks about God making all things new. It is in our readings to remind us that we should not just look at what’s around us to see how we should be the church. We should also listen for what God moves toward us. Where our work and God’s will come together, that is where our true mission will be. May God as Holy Spirit give you insight.