Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 3:10-14
I have served on a mission trip every summer for the past 16 years. I have had the privilege of serving in the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain States, across Appalachia, along the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Maine and back, in Hawaii, in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I have served on construction mission trips, music mission trips, and spiritual formation mission trips. I have played four-corners, four-square and connect-four more times than I can count.
Serving on mission trips is near and dear to the hearts of the people called Methodist. In some ways our denomination was birthed from a missional movement, though John Wesley never intended the Methodists to become their own practice of faith apart from the Church of England. Methodism was a revival movement committed to taking the practice of faith out of the church building and into the world. “The world is my parish,” said Brother John and that mantra accompanied him into every slum, prison, hospital, marsh, farm, and schoolhouse where he preached the nourishing Word of God to very spiritually hungry people. Wesley also recognized by his being with the people that in order to serve their spiritual needs he first needed to meet their physical needs. The physical need could have been companionship, comfort, connection, clothing, or carbohydrates! Meeting physical needs in order to address spiritual needs is a lesson I believe Wesley took from the Apostle James who writes,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
“I by my works will show you my faith.” I set this verse as my intention in each missional interaction – which I have learned can take place away from a local church as well as in the local church. It is my privilege this week to share in the practicing of this intention alongside the students and adult leaders in Tuskawilla’s Youth Ministry as we partner with the members, friends, and community at First UMC Pahokee in service and fellowship. We plan to complete painting projects, light construction (light as in the adjective and not the noun…but if we complete the noun version that would be awesome!), volunteer in a local neighborhood recreation program, serve in the community garden and food bank, and, most importantly, grow closer to God and to one another. Through this intentional work God shapes and refines us for greater works in the Kingdom. Through this intentional work God sanctifies us – God makes us holy – and draws us deeper into the interior space of God’s House of Grace. Through this intentional work God changes our appetites away from me and towards the we.
As this holy transformation further roots in my life, I am aware that my life is becoming more simple. I desire experiences not things. I desire connections not commodities. I find, as Paul says in our Scripture passage for this week, that “I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). I have not done this on my own; I have done what I have done and do what I continue to do as a witness to my salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. God’s grace is the cause of all this – of what was becoming, what is now, and leading towards what I will be. God’s grace has brought healing and closure to fractured and broken moments in my past. I no longer think of those moments as part of who I am because my identity and personhood is in Christ. I am looking towards the future. God’s grace strengthens me for the service I am called to now and is preparing me for the service I will do in the future. I am pressing on.
I am thankful for the opportunity to spend this dedicated time with our church’s students and to be God’s hands and feet not only in their lives but also in the lives of the sweet folk in Pahokee this week. Mark your calendars to join us in worship on Sunday, July 12 to hear all about their mission trip and service experiences. Keep us in your prayers. You are in ours.
Prayer: “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save. I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send? I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain. I have wept for love of them. They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send? I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame, I will set a feast for them. My hand will save. Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied. I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send? Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”* Amen.
*”Here I Am, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal 593.