Canon Carol Wardman, Church in Wales Bishops’ Church and Society Officer preaches on the 2nd mark of Mission: To respond to human need by loving service.
I’m very pleased to be here this evening to take part in this series on the 5 Marks of Mission, talking about ‘responding to human need by loving service’. When I came along last week to hear Bishop Richard talk about the 1st Mark – ‘proclaiming the Gospel’; and – apart from being well ‘trailed’ at the beginning of the service, thanks to Fr Mark – I was delighted that Bishop Richard set up today’s theme beautifully for me, by quoting the famous words of St Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel: use words if necessary.”
Or, turning to this evening’s reading, and the words of Jeremiah:
‘Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness; deliver from the oppressor anyone who has been robbed; do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow. … But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself that this house shall become a desolation.’ [Jer 22:3,5]
On a darker note, St Luke writes:
‘Whoever does not carry the cross … cannot be my disciple. For which of you … does not sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete the task?’ [Lk 14:27]
Responding to human need is not cost-free, in a whole variety of ways – as we shall see as we explore this theme.
From beginning to end, the Bible is shot through with injunctions to care for the poor and needy; to defend the outcast and the oppressed; to challenge the unjust structures of society (which is another of the Marks of Mission) and to pray for those in positions of responsibility in the world. So I probably don’t need to spend too much time persuading you that engaging in acts of charity, providing help to the needy, or setting up projects to benefit the community, are things that both individual Christians and the church as a whole should be doing. But these are difficult times for the church, both as an institution with bills to pay and buildings to manage and historical responsibilities for all kinds of things; and as a religious body at a time when religious organisations and belief itself are not always seen as benign forces in the world. So it may or may not come as a surprise to you that in this environment, when sometimes the church feels that its back is against the wall in terms of sustainability, social and community action – responding to human need by loving service – may not always be seen as of core importance to the Gospel.
Next Sunday our Vicar looks at the difference between Mission and Evangelism.
You can read the Bishop’s Sermon on the 1st Mark of Mission here.