Father’s Day & Mission

Readings for this week August 28 – September 1
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Father’s Embrace

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 15:20

God, creator of heaven and earth, has chosen to be, first and foremost, a Father…

Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless.

In Latin, to bless is benedicere, which means literally: saying good things. The Father wants to say, more with his touch than with his voice, good things of his children. He has no desire to punish them. They have already been punished excessively by their own inner or outer waywardness. The Father wants simply to let them know that the love they have searched for in such distorted ways has been, is, and always will be there for them. The Father wants to say, more with his hands than his mouth: “You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.” He is the shepherd, “feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast.”

From Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, pp.95-6.

Questions to Consider
When has the embrace of God meant the most to you? What stops you seeking his embrace?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your always open arms, ready to hold and embrace us. Your faithfulness to us is astonishing. Thank you for your constancy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Becoming Like the Father

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 5:19-23

The way human beings are called to love one another is God’s way…. If we are not only to be received by God, but also to receive as God, we must become like the heavenly Father and see the world through his eyes. But even more important….is the person of Jesus himself. Jesus is the true Son of the Father. He is our model of becoming the Father. In him the fullness of God dwells. All the knowledge of God resides in him; all the glory of God remains in him; all the power of God belongs to him. His unity with the Father is so intimate and complete that to see Jesus is to see the Father. “Show us the Father,” Philip says to him. Jesus responds, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Jesus shows us what true sonship is…. In everything he is obedient to the Father, but never his slave. He hears everything the Father says, but this does not make him his servant. He does everything the Father sends him to do, but remains completely free. He gives everything, and he receives everything…

This is divine sonship. And it is to this sonship that I am called. The mystery of redemption is that God’s Son became flesh so that all the lost children of God could become sons and daughters as Jesus is son… Through him I can become a true son again and, as a true son, I can finally grow to become compassionate as our heavenly Father is.

From Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, pp.126-7.

Question to Consider
How have you been showing more of the Father’s love in your life lately?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, make me more like your Son; open me up to more of your Spirit’s transforming power. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Mission in Weakness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 2:34-35

“A sign that will be spoken against” (verse 34, NIV) means a target that people will shoot at. The signs that Jesus provided and the words that he spoke were disputed, they were ambiguous, welcomed by some people, but decried or ignored by many others. Not everyone who saw or heard Jesus was convinced of who he was, that he was the son of God, come to call God’s enlarged people to himself in pursuit of the rescue of his creation. Jesus ministered in weakness.

But this is often (always?) how true mission presents itself, how it unfolds, how it releases the power of God into the world – in weakness. It seems highly counterintuitive to us, especially in the light of our modern technology and growth strategies and business models and programs and mission statements and all the other things upon which we often pin our hopes. It defies all logic to minister in weakness, through weakness. But Paul himself spoke of this reality: “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). And Jesus himself lived this reality: it was by the marks of his crucifixion that the disciples recognised the risen Jesus.

Here in the West we are not martyrs in anything like the way many Christians are around the world. But we are still witnesses to Christ and are called, in all we do, to proclaim our Lord’s welcome to all, love for all, and sovereignty over all. How will we enact our role as “witnesses/martyrs” to Christ? If all we have is our willingness and our weakness, that is enough to begin with.

Question to Consider
What weaknesses do you have to offer in service to God’s kingdom?

Prayer
Lord God, help me not deny my weaknesses, but offer them to you for your use and for your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – “Your Kingdom Come”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 7:20-23

Jesus erected signs of the coming reign of God. Through his words and actions, he pointed towards God’s coming kingdom, and through his ministry, crucifixion, death, resurrection and the outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost, the reign of the kingdom of God began to become a reality. But God’s reign did not come in all its fullness. Injustice and poverty still exist. People continue to rebel against and refuse to know God. Creation still groans under the weight of humanity’s presumed enthronement in God’s place as ruler of the world. We lose sight of our call to be God’s people for the world when we start to act as if it is our job to complete the work already begun, as if the consummation of the kingdom will not happen unless we somehow bring about the perfection of God’s world. This is not our task.

Like the early Christians, our mission is not to try and usher in utopia. We pray for God’s kingdom to come, we labour as God’s partners in bringing about the reality of the kingdom. When we pray “Your kingdom come” we are expressing our intense hope that injustice, oppression, hunger, and persecution will be eliminated, not our belief that they have already been eradicated. It is absolutely our task to fight against these things wherever they are present, with the same signs and words and deeds that Jesus fought with. The signs that Jesus erected are the signs that we too are called to plant in this world, in our neighbourhoods and cities and communities all over God’s good earth.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean for our part in God’s mission that the “fullness” of his kingdom is yet to come? How does this affect what we say and do?

Prayer
Almighty God, may we, in word, sign and deed, spread the message of the kingdom as faithfully as Jesus did. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A New Type of Community Not Seen Before

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 3:26-29

One of the most significant ways that the gospel exhibited its revolutionary power was in the new relationships that came into being in the new community that was formed around the person and mission of Jesus. Relationships that society deemed unnecessary, undesirable and unappealing – if not actually completely impossible – suddenly became not only possible, but also one of the most visible signs of the redemptive, transforming work of reconciliation that God was creating. Jew and Greek, slave and free, man and woman, rich and poor: people that before would have had nothing to do with each other were now accepting each other as brother and sister in Christ. The small Christian communities that sprang up were a source of astonishment and consternation to the rest of society.

It was their practice of love and service to all that caught the attention of many people. Some viewed them negatively, some positively, but the early Christians’ acceptance of one another, no matter who they were or where they were from, coupled with their visible concern for the poor, the sick, the widows and orphans, was something that no one could deny. One historian has even labelled this new community a “sociological impossibility”: a movement unlike any seen before, that crossed – and in many cases destroyed – social and cultural boundaries previously viewed as inviolable. This was not a mission stratagem, a calculated move to attract people in (although many were attracted). It was simply the natural expression of the new community of Christ.

Questions to Consider
What social and cultural barriers might God be calling his people to cross today? How do we do this lovingly, faithfully and effectively?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the new community you have called into being. May we be faithful and effective in the role you have called us to. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)