Human beings can discern there is a God through creation. Reason dictates that God, the source of all creation, is worthy of worship. All manner of people seek God and seek union with God; there is, after all, a built-in God hole in our souls! However, human sinners in a fallen world under the misguidance of spirits of darkness find themselves in error. We cannot reach God on our own, we need a "stairway to heaven" (Genesis 28:12 Jacob's vision of a ladder and John 1:51, the revelation that Jesus is that ladder).
Jesus, the Word in and through whom God created the "cosmos" (world) and all that is in it, is the salvation of God incarnate. God's plan is to rule among us, but we have dominion and our choices matter. Right now, Jesus is present in and through the church (people, Word, sacrament). We are united to God in Him (by the Holy Spirit). We love God and love one another.
Jesus' mission and ministry had several dimensions. He announced the nearness of God's Kingdom. He taught, He healed, He cast out demons, He forgave sins and reconciled people, He formed a community/family (church); He suffered, died, rose and ascended to save us from sin. However, He also told us, "As the Father sent Me so I send you..." He gave power and authority to the church to continue to do the same things. The exact same things (even suffering and dying for the Kingdom)
People need knowledge and wisdom, they need to get their lives in order. However, the power of sin, sickness, and satan are barriers to discipleship. If we don't heal, forgive, and deliver in Jesus' Name then much of our preaching and teaching and proclamation is ineffective. It is our mission to do what Jesus did--to literally be Jesus (church is the Body of Christ) in the world. Last week I felt compelled to explain that we are supposed to do these things. And I sensed a push back. Many people feel God does it on His own and its arrogant or presumptuous to take on Jesus' role in the world. God forgives and heals directly without human mediation; if we say a prayer its enough. The Gnostic lie is strong among us. The prejudice against incarnation is strong. So how to reach people?
Thanks be to God, on January 4, at Morning Prayer our first reading was from Ephesians. It was a direct message! "God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice." Imitators of God.... that is our mission and ministry. Loving as He loves---a sacrificial love, self-giving love--a love which forgives and frees people from sin, a love which heals the sick and casts out demons, a love which gently speaks truth and teaches God's instructions (Torah). A love which seeks the Face of God always and everywhere, in praise and thanks. A love which trusts God totally and is filled with Shalom Peace and Joy because it is founded in Hope. A love which flows out of God's promise and faithfulness. Love which is Life and Light. God is love, so we abide in Love.
God made us for Himself. Sin is but one barrier. Doubt, fear, unforgiveness are others. Indifference and distraction are more subtle and equally deadly. Cold-hearted worship and conflict also have their place in tearing down the Kingdom growth. Yet faithful apostolic ministry is effective and produces abundant fruits. The work of the church, our work, is to imitate God, to be Jesus. When we study His life in the Gospels it is clear what we must do. Very clear. And we need to start doing it yesterday!