Sermon: Mission Statement

2015 05 17 – Mission Statement from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on May 17, 2015.

Acts 1:1-12

Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.

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A few summers ago, Alice spent her summer as an intern
with one of the biggest corporations in the United States.

On her first day on the job, she was called into human resources
And given a piece of paper, on which was written
The mission statement of the company.

Read it,” said her boss.
If you have any questions about the statement,
  I’ll be happy to answer them.
   You are then asked to sign the statement, here,
(he said, pointing at the signature line)
  And from this day forward,
   If you observe any behavior in this company
    That is CONTRARY to our statement of mission—
     –you are to call me directly
       so that we can discuss it.
We intend to run this company
 On the basis of this statement of mission.”

Mission Statements are all the rage.

“Mission” may have started with faith,
but now EVERYBODY else—
–businesses, colleges, even governmental agencies—
–have gotten into the act of formulating statements of mission.

They attempt to state, in a succinct way, the purpose of the organization.
You know the old saying, from Alice in Wonderland
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”[i]

Meanwhile,
Just as everybody else is doing mission statements,
It’s gotten increasingly UNCOMFORTABLE for churches
To do this.

Why?

Well, maybe we have internalized the sweet thought that, in America,
Religion is a PRIVATE matter—even in church—
–and the thought of having to share a VISION, as a community, as a group…
…makes us QUESY and CONFUSED…

In an essay a few years ago,
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, now a professor at Indiana University,
Noted the differences between “religion” in our country
And how it is practiced elsewhere:
“Religion is understood…by most Americans to be individual, chosen,
  private, believed, and separate from all other
   institutions and identities—even (from) churches.
But, for most of the rest of the world,
 Religion is communal, given, public, enacted,
  And intertwined with other institutions and identities.”[ii]

Sharing a VISION of mission and faith?
Intrude on our individualism
  Or my own individual “spiritual path”?
…if that doesn’t make you squirm a little bit,
   just wait until you hear what Jesus has in mind…

After Jesus had been raised from the dead,
he appeared to the apostles during 40 days.
We have been living through those 40 days of Easter since Early April…

As those 40 days end, and as the risen Christ prepares to leave these disciples,
In the first chapter of Acts,
Jesus gives the church our statement of mission.

I honestly don’t know what to make of Jesus vanishing into a cloud
as he ascended to heaven.

But I am struck with what Jesus said—right before,
and what the disciples were told, right after, after Jesus left them.

“You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”
That’s the LAST thing Jesus said to his disciples.

And, while the disciples are still staring into thin air
trying to figure out what happened, a messenger from God reproves them:
“Why do you stand there, looking up into the sky?”

Between those two jarring statements…is the MISSION of our life. [Read more…]

Sermon: With a Friend Like This…

2015 05 10 – With a Friend Like This . . . from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on May 10, 2015.

Acts 10:44-48
and John 15:9-17

Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.

country-family-dinner

In 2015, when you “follow” people on Twitter
and you “friend” people on Facebook—

–what does that mean for followers of Jesus Christ
to be told, by way of today’s text in John,
that we are NOT servants of Jesus–but FRIENDS…?

I don’t think I’ve ever preached on this text before.
I couldn’t believe that—I’ve preached a lot of sermons
and this is a portion of a key text
in a prominent gospel…
…and I’ve never preached on it?

As one commentator has said:
“Perhaps it is avoided because its promise

is too magnificent and, therefore, too demanding.”

Some texts are like that.

Legendary preacher Fred Craddock recalls a time many years ago
when “a cancelled flight,
a motel near the airport,
a search for a church within walking distance,
since the next morning was Sunday,
a housekeeper at the motel pointing in the direction of one
six blocks away,
an arrival at a cinder block building in which
a few tired souls had already begun singing gospel songs…”

…brought Craddock to a sermon by a nervous preacher
he was preaching on these words in the Epistle of James (2:23)—
Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says,
“Abraham believed God,
and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,”

and he was called the friend of God.

…The opening words of the sermon were:
“Abraham was a friend of God.

I’m sure glad I am NOT a friend of God”

And the sermon was an explanation of why he was relieved
NOT to be a friend of God.

He recalled the story of Abraham, pilgrim and wanderer,
who, after years of homelessness—died…
…and was buried in a land not his own.

“Abraham was a friend of God,” the preacher said.
“I’m glad I’m NOT.”

He then spoke of OTHERS who had been called friends of God—
–faithful, in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword.
He concluded with a story of Teresa of Avila,
remembered as a friend of God.
The preacher recalled her begging in public to raise funds
for an orphanage.
After a series of setbacks—flood, storm, and fire
repeatedly destroying the orphanage—
–Teresa in her evening prayers said to God:
“So this is how you treat your friends;

no wonder you have so few.”

Fred Craddock recalls that sermon closed with the counsel:
“If you find yourself being drawn into the inner circle
of the friends of God, blessed are you.
But pray for the strength to bear the burden of it.”[1] [Read more…]