Deacon Sarah Gillard Faulkner looked at the 3rd Anglican Mark of Mission on Sunday evening.
On this Mothering Sunday she noted the role her mother had in nurturing here in the faith, and probably our Mothers had in nurturing us in faith and values.
Of course this mark of mission comes directly from Jesus’s own lips. In Saint Matthew’s gospel we read:
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Now there is part of me that wants to say “Need I say anymore?” But I’m not sure I’d get away with that.
So I want to ask you: Where were you taught about the faith?
For me it was in built in my upbringing. Like many children of a Christian parents I was taken along to church with them and was put through my paces in Sunday School. . . which was slightly funny for me as my mother, was the Sunday School teacher for a while. And through server training and sitting through endless sermons whilst a chorister by hook or by crook something sank in! And I’m guessing that for some of you this holds a similar truth.
But what about those of you who have come to faith later in life? What is it that has taught you the faith?
But to all of you I ask: Do you feel you know enough about the it? As a teacher I found the need to have a bit of knowledge in able to impart it! And by that I don’t mean a theological degree! I don’t think the 12 disciples were sent to a theological college to be downloaded with academia beyond! No indeed they sat at the masters feet and listened and watched and that is how they learnt.
Now not for a moment am I suggesting that I or any other cleric are the master, but, what I am suggesting is that all of us need constant educating in the faith so that we can go and teach those who have yet to hear the good news, that is the gospel message.
Yes you are asked by Christ as much as I or anyone else who wears the collar to go out and teach! It’s a direct order from Jesus that us to are already are baptised, who claim to be the followers do it. Now don’t be afraid I’m not about to suggest any of you are called through your baptism to get up here and teach from this perspective but I wonder if we all have the opportunity in our daily lives but just haven’t quite seen them.
Just before the start of Lent I took a retreat at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham designed for Clergy. Its over all title this year was Abiding Friendship. It was indeed a good time for those who attended and we were given talks by 3 senior clerics two of whom I am sure you know: Bishop Dominic Walker, Bishop Rowan Williams and the Dean of Worcester Peter Atkinson.
I was struck by how they spoke of the power of friendship, and how when we establish friendship with others we form relationships that are safe places to explore who we are in Christ. Our friendships are places where we have opportunities to learn and grow. I suppose this is the basis behind such concepts as discussion and home groups places where we can learn from each other, in love and support.
Are you friendships not places where you have the power to share what you have learnt from the Master’s feet? Places where you can have conversations with people and share what it is that engages you to be inspired by the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Christ needs this of each of you so that we can move to the next action in my title to baptise. In Baptism we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to be followers of the faith. Of course Baptism is not just for infants! Baptism is offered to anyone who claims Jesus Christ as Lord!
But this is dependant upon us who are already baptised doing our bit in the spreading of the faith! So here we are in a bit of a catch 22. . . we don’t tell people and teach what we know. . . new believers don’t come forward. . . and what happens to the faith. . . it dies.
But how do we nurture those who seek? Well through abiding friendships! Through the love and nurture of each other we grow. In recent weeks I have heard someone suggest that communities that grow are ones that not only are friendly but are places where friendships can be established. Because in them we learn to grow and be strengthen.
Are our communities places where we can truly say that of them? I’m sure we would like to say they were. . . but are they really?
Ultimately for me this mark of mission for so long has been seen as the work of the cleric, but the gospel account shows us that Christ didn’t just ask this of the clergy but of those who are baptised in his name. The body of Christ, the church is the vehicle if you like in which we do it. It’s the gathering of friends who can welcome strangers and engage with them nurturing them in Christ’s love.
So I leave you this evening with the question what are we doing both as as individuals and as the church to respond to Christ call to teach, baptise and nurture?
Next week: Canon Aled Edwards CYTUN General Secretary on Mark 4 “To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation”.
You can read previous Sermons in the series here:
Mark 1 : Bishop of Monmouth
Mark 2: Canon Carol Wardman