If you had to define a Christian to someone, what words would you use? (Invite congregation to help) When Bill and I first started dating, my father-in-law had a very specific idea of what a Christian was from his experiences as a Jewish man. And I must say his views were not flattering. Yet they were not exactly wrong either. The Christians he described could be summed up in a few words hypocrites, judgmental, and holier than thou.
I am sure all of us can adequately say we have come across these individuals, as well. And it leaves the wider world confused about who we are as a people of faith, what we stand for, and what values are important to us. I was very uncomfortable with this being the only experience of Christians he and Bill had. So we discussed my faith, my beliefs, and the mission I believed that I was called to in life. And I changed the view of my father-in-law through word and action. Not all of us are judgmental, not all of us are hypocritical with our faiths, and not all of us are holier than thou. Being Christian should be a way of life, a descriptor of how we interact in the world.
In that conversation, I had to really tackle the question: “What is the mission of Christ?” I figured that I should be able to keep my answer a short and direct answer. Yet most Christians I talked to this week hemmed and hawed over this question. Most people couldn’t give me one simple answer. One they truly believed and lived. In my understanding of the scriptures, Christ’s mission to the world was love. Our mission to the world is love. What good is our faith if we don’t attempt to live this mission? How can we truly feel the work of Christ in our lives if we don’t attempt to live it?
Now I am sure there would be others to argue with me that I am over simplifying it. But really I am not. When we start defining Christ’s love then it gets more complicated. But Jesus lived his message and we see it in our scriptures. The apostles attempted to teach others the message, the mission, teaching them how to live into the type of love that binds people together. They in essence taught what it meant to be a Christian in a polytheistic world that was dangerous and hateful. Their message is still being preached by Christians and non-Christians alike, the Dalai Lama’s message to the world today is, “My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of being with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own”. We are still asking people to act out of love and to see other people not as other or completely different but rather as children of God who seek the same safety and care for their families that we do. People who need a helping hand and a caring heart.
Peter taught that in response to hate we should love. In response to violence we should have our actions reflect God’s love, as Jesus’ did with the crucifixion. In response to a world that does not understand, we should act with patience and care. The early Christians understood that to practice their faith there was the danger of persecution from those who feared them, and those who did not understand Christ’s mission in the world. I think in our modern world, we have lost some sense of risking everything to love others openly.
We should be enthusiasts for the message, for the wellbeing of humanity, for goodness. So what does it look like when we are enthusiastic? (Invite Congregation to share)I recognize an enthusiastic person as someone who is committed, passionate, and eager. In the faith, this shows itself in what we do and in our projects in the world. Christ calls us to an obedience to love. We need to live into his love. We need to openly care for those who find themselves in need.
So what does this all look like? To me we already do some of this. We take care of the people who are hungry in Bridgeport. We reach out to families at the holidays and provide for their needs there. And now we join with the other churches in our faith community to care for a family who has lost loved ones, who has been persecuted, and has been told that they are unwanted in this world. We reach out in Christianly love, as Christ would have, and do what we can to help them transition from a life of fear and pain, to a new life here in the United States; a land that still represents hope of a new and better life to many people.
So I reach out to you to ask that you support our faith community here in Easton in this new ministry. Plan to join me this afternoon at 1:30 at covenant church where we can ask our questions and determine how we might best help. How we might best live into the message and mission of Christ. This is just one way that we like the disciples, live into Christ’s word. Remember the words of Jesus to the Apostles from our scriptures for this morning, when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. If we love Jesus then it is our duty to contemplate and determine what his commandments mean to not only us but to others in the world. It is our duty to do our best to not turn away when someone is in need. But rather to ask ourselves: What would Jesus have us do?
 Dalai Lama, 21st century.
 John 14: 15, NRSV.
(Based on John 14: 15-21 and 1 Peter 3: 13-22)