Our Rich Liturgical Heritage: Mission
The Collect for Saint Bartholomew helps us in our thinking about mission: Grant that your Church may love that word which he believed and may faithfully receive and preach it; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Our Rich Liturgical Heritage: Mission
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
The Collect for Saint Bartholomew helps us in our thinking about mission.
Set for 24 August, it runs: Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace to believe and to preach your word: grant that your Church may love that word which he believed and may faithfully receive and preach it; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
The prayer is as challenging as it is helpful, reminding churches and believers alike, to keep the preaching of God’s word central in our affections and agendas. There is nothing as transforming and comforting as believing and loving God’s word. The gospel word focuses upon Jesus as Saviour and Lord, especially the two great Easter events, the cross and Jesus’s bodily resurrection. The former assuring us that Jesus primary purpose in coming was to ‘save His people from their sins’. His third day resurrection marks him out as the unique Lord, through whom we must come to God in repentance, and by simple hearty trust, find pardon, welcome, adoption as his beloved children and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Our response to the preached word, about the living and reigning Word is properly one of love.
Love for the Father in calling us, to the Saviour who so graciously came amongst us in great humility and to the Holy Spirit who by opening our blind eyes gave us receptive hearts and saving faith.
Once we have been born again in this way, our love for others will compel us to share this gospel word. Just as a person whose life has been saved by the efforts of a skilled surgeon, a brave rescuer or the timely intervention of the Flying Doctor, we too will express our gratitude by speaking up our gracious rescuer, the Lord Jesus. The likelihood of our performing life- saving surgery, braving the surf or flying a rescue plane is slim, but the rescue operation that our Collect, following Scripture, prays involves all believers.
Some may have the special gift of an evangelist, but all are called to be faithful witnesses.
The plight of our fellows in Perth and WA is far more serious than any requiring surgery or a rescue operation. Here is a work that only believers and churches can do. We remind ourselves of its importance and urgency in the creed: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and pray for it: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Good deeds are no substitute for preaching, sharing and chatting the gospel in words. It has been said that there are six gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, me and us! Just as the four written gospels show us Jesus at work, they equally teach us what He said, so with us. Our works-witness is vital, and should be worked at so as not to invite the charge; ‘Excuse me, but your actions are speaking louder than your words!’ However, if our perfect Saviour had to speak words to explain, exhort and encourage the timid, careless, arrogant and stubborn, so too we. Doing good is proper and right for us all, but left unaccompanied by words about Jesus, should never be called mission. Indeed, they can mislead, leaving people thinking that doing good can save them, and become a way of failing to love those around us who refuse to follow Jesus.
Failure to encourage people to repent and embrace Jesus as their Saviour and Lord often displays a cowardice to stand against our culture which expects us to affirm pluralism, universalism and works salvation. The
5th and 6th gospels serve to show God’s love, and often give us occasion to share the words of the gospel with invitations to read the written gospels. In pointing people to the Saviour, who alone can bring the salvation, as set before us, for example, in the Christmas day gospel of John 1:12-13, we continue Jesus mission to seek and save the lost. Here is a heritage enjoyed in the doing, enriching us, our churches and our communities like nothing else.