I’m a definitions guy. Not sure why, but I am. Whenever I encounter a word I don’t know, or when I start to research a topic, one of the first things I do is look up dictionary definitions. Late last year, I was given responsibility for “missions” here at Fellowship of the Parks.
From a church perspective, I had a notion of what the word “missions” meant, but, for some reason, I never looked up the dictionary definition until today. Among the laundry list of definitions (20 separate definitions!), this one caught my eye:
an operational task, usually assigned by a higher headquarters
What a great way to put it – concise and to the point. A mission is a task – not just any task, but an operational task, assigned to us by a “higher headquarters”. So many times I have pleaded with God:
What is you want me to do? Why don’t you direct me? Give me some direction!
At these times, I fail to realize that God has already given me a mission, indeed, He has given all of us a mission. Jesus has laid out our assigned operational tasks in His first sermon. When he returned to his hometown, he was asked to speak in the synagogue. He specifically chose to preach from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:17-20):
17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
I find it interesting that he chose this part of Isaiah to speak on – that he didn’t choose the part about how we are “all sheep that have gone astray” or the “by His wounds we are healed” part. Instead He chose the part of Isaiah that talks about a set of operational tasks:
… preach good news to the poor … proclaim freedom for the prisoners … recovery of sight for the blind … release the oppressed … proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
And after listing the tasks, He proclaims:
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In other words – Jesus is saying: “I am here to complete these operational tasks – I am here on a mission!”
As a follower of Jesus Christ, my job is to continue His mission – I need to look for the “poor”, the “imprisoned”, the “blind” and the “oppressed” and do whatever I can to provide relief. Whenever I feel lost, and ask God for direction – I need to remember that He has already given me my direction: find your nearest “poor”, “imprisoned”, “blind” or “oppressed” person and see what you can do to release them from their condition – whether that person is in the cubicle next to you or halfway around the world – we advance Christ’s mission when we use our time, talents and treasure to make a difference in their lives.
You may have noticed I put “poor’, “imprisoned”, “blind” and “oppressed” in quotes – this is because these are not literal – a person who is “imprisoned” may not necessarily be in jail or a “blind” person may not necessarily be someone who doesn’t have sight – poverty or disease can imprison, blind, oppress or impoverish a person in many ways. I believe Jesus’ message here is to alleviate suffering and to level the playing field whenever and wherever we can. After all, this is what He did, isn’t it?
This past weekend, the LIFEGroup that meets in my house on Wednesday nights performed some of these “operational tasks”. There is a group of refugees from Burma called the Karen that live in South Fort Worth. They don’t speak very much English, which makes life a struggle here in the middle of North Texas. Can you imagine trying to find work, or get a drivers license or do any of your everyday tasks without knowing English very well? Our LIFEGroup has adopted this group of people and this past Saturday, we threw a party for the children in this group. I am so proud of our LIFEGroup – I saw Jesus’ first Sermon from Luke 4 lived out.
As the day wound down, the Karen children, got together and sang to us – sure, I couldn’t understand the words, but the voices were beautiful and the melody haunting. It was hard not to shed a tear. Later, I was told that they were singing a song entitled Jesus Night and Day.
I pray that each of us carry out Jesus’s mission Night and Day …