Jesus Sends Us Into the World

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Easter Sunday 6
May 22, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary : Jesus sends us out to do ministry in a world that can be anything from hostile to apathetic towards our work. Jesus has sent the Advocate or Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. Despite the problems we might face, Jesus offers us peace.

We may have seen the meme on social media: "God does not call us to go to church, but to be the church." We can see that as an important reminder. The overwhelming majority of church members attend worship and do nothing else. They do not attend religious education, take part in mission work. They only go to church. This meme serves as a prompt to take our faith more seriously.

Then, however, we can ask what it means to be the church. At a minimum, we carry on the ministry that Jesus started. Do we feel adequate for the job? How do we know what to do? Where do we find the resources?

In the movie from the 50s, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness , Ingrid Bergman portrays a young woman named Gladys Aylward, whose life's ambition is to become a missionary to China. She lacks education, support or financial resources. She finds a job with a wealthy British man who has the connections she needs. With his reluctant help, she secures the name of a missionary to China who nears retirement. Because of her meager financial resources, she takes a long train ride across China to the mission post of Mrs. Lawson, a kindly but tough missionary.

Mrs. Lawson has purchased a building that she wants to convert into a kind of hotel for mule train drivers. As Mrs. Lawson explains to Gladys, if they can influence the mule train drivers, they will take the message far and wide in China. Gladys throws herself into her work, helping to clean up and restore the hotel, learning Chinese, and becoming familiar with the culture and ways of that part of China. At first, Gladys thrills to the seeming success of the work, as the mule train workers shush her so that they can hear the stories.

All of a sudden, tragedy strikes. One bright, cheery day, while Gladys does laundry, Mrs. Lawson falls from the second story of the building, off a weakened balcony. Their assistant rushes to find a doctor, but he just shakes his head when he arrives. Mrs. Lawson dies in Gladys' arms. Now what? Gladys has no money to finish the repairs to the inn. She knows only a few words of Chinese. The assistant, who is very loyal to Mrs. Lawson, is not a Christian. How will Gladys carry on? Mrs. Lawson did not intend to leave her on her own, but that's what happened.

No sugarcoating

In this part of the gospel of John, Jesus knew that he would leave the disciples to carry on the ministry. Starting in chapter 13, Jesus sought to prepare the disciples for their ministry. Jesus didn't sugarcoat the message. He knew that he was sending them into the same world that would crucify him. In the next chapter, Jesus warned them, "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you."1. If we had read one verse more beyond our passage for this morning, we would have read where Jesus referred to the "ruler of this world." Jesus spoke cryptically there, but, at a minimum, he acknowledged that a spiritually evil, satanic force had power in the world. Jesus knew that he would send his disciples into an evil world.

As is typical in the gospel of John, the disciples did not understand what Jesus tried to tell them. In the verse just before the part we read, Jesus told the disciples that he would reveal himself to them, but not to the world. Judas (but not the Judas) asked Jesus, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" 2 At this point in the story, Jesus was about to send the disciples, who were not ready and did not understand, out into a world that would hate them and that was under the influence of evil spiritual powers. Does that not sound like a formula for disaster?

Gargantuan problems

All of that sets the stage for us. John wrote these chapters for the church through the ages, and these words come down to us. Jesus sends us out in the world to continue the ministry he started. In some parts of the world, the church truly does face hate. In some places, people persecute the church. In the United States, the church does not so much face hate as it faces apathy. Some churches have been burned, but, for the most part, the world simply considers us irrelevant.

However the world considers us, we face daunting challenges. Much progress has been made worldwide in alleviating extreme poverty, but too many children still go to bed hungry. We have made some progress in fighting racism, but racism has simply evolved. We see some light at the end of the tunnel on the pandemic, but too many face the grief of loss, and the long-term effects of the virus. We don't know how to heal the divisions among us that have arisen over the virus. The pandemic has left us stressed, lonely and bickering. We are split by angry partisanship. Into that gloom, the church seeks to do its work to remind the world that the "light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."3

Not only do we face these gargantuan problems, but the experts tell us that the church's numbers continue to decline. Fewer than half of the people in the United States belong to a church. The problems grow and we shrink. Do we ever feel like Gladys, right after the death of Mrs. Lawson? Can we empathize with the disciples when Jesus told them he was going away? Do we not sometimes wish we had Jesus with us to guide us and tell us what to do?

The peace Jesus gives

Jesus told the disciples clearly that he would leave. He had said earlier that he would be "lifted up."4 Yet Jesus reassured the disciples and reassures us. Jesus has promised us an Advocate. The Holy Spirit will teach and empower the church. Jesus offers us peace. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives."

When Jesus offers us peace, he does not mean that the problems of the world will melt away. He offers us peace in the midst of the turmoil of the world. Inner peace comes more easily for some than it does for others. If Jesus offers us a peace that only he can give, then we do not rely on our own resources. We can often find this peace within the community, if we pray together and support one another.

Jesus' offer of peace does not mean that we can become complacent. Peace does not mean sitting back and doing nothing. Instead, the peace that Jesus offers gives us assurance that the gloom will not win against the light. The peace that Jesus offers enables us to trust in God, even in the worst of circumstances. We tackle our ministry trusting that Jesus can give us peace.

Continuing to bear fruit

The story in the Inn of the Sixth Happiness was based on a real-life missionary. She was British and did not speak with a Swedish accent, like Ingrid Bergman. In the movie, Gladys secures a job to pay for the continued mission work. She finds her inner strength to keep going. She finds success in her evangelistic work. At the end of the movie, she leads dozens of children to safety with the advance of World War II. The real-life Gladys Aylward faced an even more arduous journey to China. She had to escape from detention by the Russians. She saved over 100 orphans from the encroaching war and established an orphanage in Taiwan. We can accomplish more than we think we can.

Jesus does not call us to solve all the world's problems. Jesus calls us to love one another, to keep Jesus' word, and to bear fruit.5 If all we do now is attend church, perhaps we can at least start small. Even with our shrinking numbers, the enormity of our problems, our struggle to raise money and our own divisions, the church continues to bear fruit. Despite the hatred of the world, the spiritual forces of evil and the apathy of society, the church continues to bear fruit.

Let us hear Jesus's call to continue his ministry. When we face opposition, let us claim the power of the Advocate. When we don't know what to do next, let us draw on the instruction of the Advocate. In all that we do, we claim the peace that Jesus offers. We draw upon the Holy Spirit. We do not give up, and we celebrate every victory.


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