Why I Follow Jesus

31 05 2011

by CARLOS ENRIQUE MEJIA, Council of Twelve Apostles

Many times, people find themselves weighed down, tired, and overwhelmed. And they don’t know how to change their situation.

The scriptures hold a marvelous invitation from Christ to help alleviate this, but you know something? Many of us ignore that call, that invitation to follow Jesus and find rest and joy in him.

Personally I follow Jesus for many reasons.

Twenty-eight years ago I was in a very difficult situation, and I couldn’t share it with anyone. I was doing things that were destroying me, little by little. I was involved in a world of drugs. I started using when I was 11 years old, and I found myself unable to stop. I had to wrestle with this on my own because I didn’t know there was someone who could help me escape and restore my life.

In 1984 a missionary seventy came to my town to start a congregation. This man and his wife invited my now-deceased brother to church. Back then, we worked at a bakery that we had.

One day my brother, Ramos Salvador Mejia, became gravely ill. The missionary came to our house and explained the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. A miracle occurred in Ramos’ life. Something extraordinary happened in our family, which was stunned to see his healing. Something especially happened to me as I saw a light of hope for my own problem.

I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to go church and heed the call of Christ. I asked with all my heart that if he was real to heal me of my drug addiction. I promised to follow and serve him if he would help me. I gave my life to Christ, and what I asked for came to me. Everything changed.

My wife, Carmen, and I began a direct experience with God. We put God in the center of our relationship, and we have been blessed with two daughters.

Carmen Eloisa, a journalist, married Ronald Urbina in August 2010, and this July they will make me a happy grandfather! Our other daughter, Karla Corina, is single and a lawyer. She is a priest and a part of the praise ministry, “SION,” of San Pedro Sula.

In Christ and in this church I have found what I did not have and what I didn’t know existed. Today I am a happy man. I have many reasons to follow and serve Jesus and my brothers and sisters in the Central and South America Field, and wherever else God sends me.

Jesus and my family are the main supports for my ministry. Without their help I could not do this beautiful work, which I love. Every day it makes me feel responsible, and I always want to give the best of myself so that I can accomplish the purpose for which I was called…the good of others.

As for you, what is your motive for following Jesus? Tell it to your friends at school, at work, in your neighborhood, wherever you go. If you do this, you will help others find what I was lacking and what I found in Jesus.

Blessings.





The Dream of McGowan’s Lake

28 05 2011

by LARRY GALBRAITH, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

RVA volunteers provide many skills in completing work on shower and toilet facilities.

The Community of Christ RV Association became part of an ever-expanding dream at McGowan’s Lake Campgrounds in 2010.

The group’s volunteers provided the expertise and manpower to complete a full shower and toilet facility. The work enabled many more people to attend and join in God’s ministry. The campground no longer is for Community of Christ members alone. It is open to other people and other needs as God directs and opens doors.

The work lasted three weeks as association volunteers labored side-by-side with church members and nonmembers.

It was the latest development in a setting that church members dreamed of more than 60 years ago. At that time, people from the Ottawa Branch had to travel more than 700 miles to attend the nearest reunion at Eerie Beach Campground on Lake Erie. They prayed to find land closer to develop for reunion experiences for eastern Ontario and beyond.

Their prayers were answered with the purchase of land on McGowan’s Lake in Maberly, Ontario, Canada. Work started in the mid-1950s. By the mid-’60s, McGowan’s had become a “tent city.”

Members from Ottawa, Montreal, Cornwall, Kingston, and Belleville gathered to clear land, hold Sunday school picnics, and dig wells. They also organized a full reunion agenda with preaching services in a natural, outdoor chapel. It featured a huge rock that served as a choir loft.

Leaders bought a World War II airplane hangar from the Ottawa airport for use as the first building in 1969. Workers assembled the steel, interlock Quonset hut by hand. With no power tools or cranes, they relied on muscle and hand-built scaffolding to lift the heavy panels. By the end of summer 1970, the building overlooked the lake.

In 1977, they added a chapel, bringing blessings and gifts to young and old alike. The promise has been given that as opportunity to grow arises, the finances and key people will be there to fulfill the dream.

McGowan’s Lake has seen this time and again. God bless each volunteer who has helped make the dream a reality. You have inspired us to move forward with zeal for the Lord’s work.





We Are Transforming

26 05 2011

by SERGIO JUAREZ, Los Angeles, California, USA

For nearly five decades Community of Christ members were without a church in downtown Los Angeles, California.

This was partly because of the closing of a church at 39th and Grand streets. I don’t know the reason it closed, but I know a new congregation is emerging nearby.

Thanks to the generosity of contributors, La Nueva Esperanza en Cristo now ministers in a place where Community of Christ ministered before. Our brothers and sisters accepted the invitation to give to the ministries that our church carries to different places. Often we receive people whose lives are deeply wounded, their spiritual journeys ignored.

It now is our congregation’s turn to transform the vision of church leaders into reality by inviting coworkers, neighbors, relatives, and classmates to visit us. Many youth have taken this to heart. One is Saira Juarez.

About two years ago she invited a classmate to a Young Peacemakers Club meeting. Later this guest, Ana, invited her younger sister, Irene. In turn, Irene started coming and invited her friend, Sandra. Sandra invited her younger sister, Yessenia. Yessenia invited her friend, Natalie. Natalie invited Nicole.

All of this happened through invitation. With other youth in the church, these girls have formed a strong bond. Besides attending Young Peacemakers Club, they come to Bible study weekly, and some attend worship services.

All of this happened because of the contributions and tithing of others. We strongly believe in Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b.

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can meet the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

Many are waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel. Some need to be lifted from hopelessness. Others need the helping hands of servants. They would be lost without the generous response of disciples who share from their bounty that others might know the joys of the kingdom.

These are the powers of sharing and inviting.





Love in Any Language

24 05 2011

by REBECCA BELCHER,
Children’s Peace Pavilion director

Spring often evokes a wish in people to sort, create, and rejuvenate their lives. As spring bursts forth, I find myself reviewing this last school year and realizing it has been a busy time for the Children’s Peace Pavilion.

I assumed directorship of the pavilion in July 2010. August found the pavilion with an expanded and enriched vision, reduced staffing, and a budget designed to provide fiscal stability.

This was a busy time as families, neighborhood groups, and private schools rushed to tour the pavilion.

During late October and early November, the Community of Christ RV Association refurbished the exhibits, prepared several areas for new displays, and completed some remodeling.

Outreach International, a humanitarian organization affiliated with Community of Christ, developed a display featuring African and Philippine villages for the museum’s Peace for Everyone area. Bryce Veazey, co-founder of Major Oak Productions, created and produced new, exciting, and enticing DVDs. As the new year rolled around, a new display of role models from around the world expanded the children’s understanding of peace.

Guests come from public, private, and charter schools; early childhood centers; faith-based groups; and Girl Scout troops. Families, neighborhood groups, and home-schooled children drop in daily.

The pavilion’s interactive displays teach children life skills that will help in their peacemaking journey. The exhibits introduce the four elements of peace: Peace for Me, Peace for Us, Peace for Everyone, and Peace for the Planet.

Peace for Me helps children discover the wonder, beauty, and worth within themselves, where peace begins. Peace for Us explores daily relationships, stressing cooperation, communication, and conflict resolution. Peace for Everyone encourages peace among groups and includes cultural appreciation and diversity. Peace for the Planet addresses stewardship, care, and appreciation for the earth.

The pavilion focuses on shalom for all of creation.

As I watch the reactions of the children and adults, I am convinced the pavilion is a necessary ministry for the world. It helps us fulfill our calling found in Doctrine and Covenants 161:2a:

Become a people of the Temple—those who see violence but proclaim peace, who feel conflict yet extend the hand of reconciliation, who encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.

One Saturday, as a Girl Scout troop viewed the conflict-resolution video Stop, Think, Peace. A middle-school student blurted, “I could have used this before I started a fight at school this quarter!”

Other students at the Children’s Peace Pavilion talked about using this conflict-resolution method with siblings and parents. As the children complete the exhibits, you hear voices say, “Stop, think, peace.” It’s a contrast from arguments, name-calling, frustration, and teachers’ raised voices.

When parents or grandparents bring children to the pavilion, the young ones scoot away from their parents, rushing to the displays. When they return, you hear, “Wow, this is neat! Come on, let’s go make a picture!”

The immediate impact is clear as you watch children—from urban core or suburban areas—complete the displays.

It’s also clear when you see a quiet, shy child grow in self-assurance and confidence. As the two hours pass you see such children become free to express their opinions as they work with a team to complete tasks.

Just a few days ago, a small family came for a return visit. They had given their child a list of 10 things she could pick to do that morning. Her quick and repeated response was to go back to the pavilion.

The children leave with broad smiles, shining eyes, and love on their faces. They chant, “I wanna be a peacemaker in my home, in my school, in my neighborhood, and in my world.”

It is with renewed confidence that we watch the impact of the pavilion on the children who are our future.





Share Jesus

21 05 2011

by LYNN BRADY, Chicago, Illinois, USA

I’ve had many opportunities to share why I live for Jesus Christ.

When sharing why I go to church, I tell people the church building is the physical representation, and Christians are the spiritual representation of Jesus Christ. As a believer of Jesus Christ, I am confident in witnessing to others.

John 4:7–26 gives us Jesus’ example of how to share our faith. In the scripture Jesus spoke to the woman at the well when she was alone. I often find people are more open and honest when alone. When Jesus began witnessing to the woman, she was truthful in her responses, but not remorseful.

Similarly, when I speak with people, I let them know they can tell me anything, but God knows all. Sometimes that enables me to share another trait of Jesus (omnipresence). When I tell people Jesus sees all and knows all, I confirm my statement with a personal testimony of how Jesus has been with me throughout my life.

I realize that convincing someone Jesus is present and loves them can be a great challenge if they are unemployed, depressed, or without hope.

One day I met a classmate in a wheelchair. Tony wanted nothing to do with Jesus and anyone associated with him. Tony was bitter and angry at God, but I continued to testify that God was good.

I told Tony that God wasn’t punishing him. Rather, God loved him, even if he couldn’t see it. I told him God gave his son, Jesus, to die for us so we could live eternally with God. I challenged Tony to think about being killed for someone he didn’t know.

Of course, he thought it was crazy. And there was my opportunity to share Jesus’ story.

I often share about Jesus’ crucifixion and his love. The sacrifice of his life is the basis of my faith, my unflinching reliance on God. According to Hebrews 9:22 (NRSV):

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

And without the Resurrection there would be no promise of eternal life. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. As a Christian I am compelled to tell people the meaning of the cross and its value in my faith. I own a cross necklace. I occasionally wear it as a tangible reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and a tool that provides opportunities to share about Jesus.

I accept that my purpose is to bring others to Christ, and that involves reflecting the quality of Christ in and through my life.

In If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg writes:

Knowing when to get out of the boat and take a risk does not only demand courage; it also demands the wisdom to ask the right questions, the discernment to recognize the voice of the Master and the patience to wait for his command.

Well, I’ve gotten out of the boat. I’ve heard the Master’s voice. And I‘v e prayerfully listened to his command.

Further, Doctrine and Covenants 163:11b tells us:

There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.

I accept the challenge to pursue what matters most for the journey ahead, and that it is to share Jesus.





Listen for the Song of God’s Voices

19 05 2011

by LAURIE GORDON, Spiritual Formation Team

The morning is still and gently yellow with sunshine. A faint breeze rustles the leafy canopy. I anchor my wandering mind by listening intently, counting the variety of twitters, whistles, warbles, and trills. At least 10 bird species share this moment.

Some calls are easy to identify, like the scolding burr of an Anna’s hummingbird as it sips nectar in my flower garden, or the flurried peeping of bushtits foraging in the tree overhead. Some songs are less familiar; in this morning’s symphony is a solitary whistler whose rising and falling inflections I cannot place. And some voices are missing; I long to hear a mourning dove, whose haunting lament stirs my heart with intimations of God.

Hidden nuances in this avian chorus signal alien intentions I barely can grasp. So, too, God sounds infinite love everywhere and all the time in strange and unexpected tones that go unrecognized. Sifting through the noisy cacophony of competing voices in my life, I wonder: What does God’s voice sound like?

Consider Elijah. He cowers inside a dark mountaintop cave, desperate for God’s voice. He listens for it in fierce winds, but the breath of God is not howling in the storm. He listens for it in the earthquake but, no, the Divine Mover of Creation is not rumbling in splitting rocks. He listens for it in the fire, but again, no, the God of the Burning Bush is not in the crackling flames.

Then the world goes still.

In the depths of inner darkness, Elijah hears God in the “sound of sheer silence” (I Kings 19:12, NRSV). Unexpected, indeed.

The birder in me likes to think God sings, rather than merely speaks, to us—and not so much one-pitch vocalizations as multilayered harmonies. If God sings to us in tones of inner stillness and the sheer silence between words, how are we word-bound creatures to discern God’s melodies? If God calls us amid the complex symphony of life experience, how are we to intuit the divine invitation?

Like a birder identifying birds, or Elijah seeking God’s voice, we listen, we pay attention to what we hear (and don’t hear), and then we listen even more deeply.

It is daunting to recognize meaning beyond the safe familiarity of words. It requires deep, constant attention to learn the identifying variations of pulse and tone in a bird’s song. It takes intention, awareness, study, practice, humble patience, and wise companions to discern the unfamiliar thoughts and ways of God’s living mystery.

As spiritual seekers we listen for the sheer sound of God’s silence in the complex cadences of life. We examine the pitch, rhythm, tempo, and quality of our experiences. We pay attention to grace. We hear God calling in the desperation and sorrow of others, as well as in the joys of life and shared community.

Listen! God is singing God’s great love for you, and for all creation.





Always a Singing People

17 05 2011

by PETER JUDD,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Presiding Evangelist David Brock lifts his voice in song.

From our earliest days, singing hymns and songs has helped express our movement’s faith. We sing what we believe, and we believe what we sing. The two are intertwined.

As part of the committee that selected hymns for the 1981 Hymns of the Saints, I was aware we were living in a time of change. The texts and tunes of the 1956 hymnal no longer were adequate to express current understandings. Some 30 years later and still a people of change, we again need to update our hymnody to express who we are today.

The hymnal in preparation (due for release in 2013) recognizes we are an international church. While remaining an English-language resource, its contents represent our diversity of languages and cultures. Yet this hymnal will be unifying, as members in many nations sing its rich variety of new and old hymns.

As I have visited congregations in several English-speaking countries, I have been heartened to see Hymns of the Saints in the pews. This quickly reminds me I am in “my” church. This is reinforced as we sing together for worship.

As 2013 draws closer, congregations will want to plan to buy this exciting resource. It will bear our name: Community of Christ. It will witness of who we are and who we are becoming.As yet untitled and covered in a color still undecided, this hardbound book of about 600 hymns and songs will cost no more than $25. Consider how much use our members and friends will get from this modest expenditure—surely many times what we usually get from a book of similar cost that is read once and then shelved or discarded. And what a potential to witness of who we are as Community of Christ!

Plan to buy enough copies to fit your dreams of growth. Include this cost in your congregational budget, or challenge each active member to buy two copies: one for the congregation plus one to keep at home. Please visit http://www.CofChrist.org/hymnal for more details about congregational budgeting and project description.

This will be the fourth major hymnal representing a significant journey from the time I learned to play the hymns from the 1933 Saints Hymnal as a child. I can’t wait to play the new hymns in 2013, and even more to sing them together in worship!





The Power of 10 Starts with You

14 05 2011

by INTEGRATED COMMUNICATIONS

World Church leaders, ministers, and priesthood have been invited to respond by increasing their giving to support worldwide ministry. The response has been encouraging. Now the entire church is being extended that invitation through the Power of 10.

The Power of 10 is an inspirational new way to align how we live out and give to Christ’s mission. It’s a mission that’s all about inviting others to be part of it, reaching the brokenhearted and the suffering, and pursuing justice and peacemaking.

That can sound impossible to achieve in a world where life’s tragedies seem overwhelming. But, Christ’s mission is our mission! God calls you to put your life into the divine mission of evangelism, compassionate ministry, and justice and peacemaking.

$10 a Week Will Change Lives around the World

Together, we can do this! When you apply the Power of 10 concept to pursuing mission, you begin to see how the gifts of one person can directly impact the lives of many. Maybe it’s inviting 10 friends to a church activity or helping 10 people become baptized and welcomed into our church community. And how about becoming a sustaining contributor to mission? Did you know that takes just $10 a week?

Think about it. What does $10 a week really get you? A couple of lattés? A movie ticket? A fast-food meal or two? That same $10 has the power to really change lives!

It’s time to believe in the power of a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world through courage, vision, and generosity.

The Power of 10 starts with you: www.giveyour10.org

    





Christ-like Love

12 05 2011

by LINDA BOOTH,
Council of Twelve Apostles

Jesus is the living expression of God’s love, revealing that all people have inestimable and equal worth. No one is excluded from this divine love—not hateful family members, difficult neighbors, malicious colleagues, or even our worst enemies.

Last August our daughter-in-law disappeared with our grandsons, 10-year-old Brock and 8-year-old Corbin. For three months our family did not know if the boys were safe or if we would see them again. We felt pain and helplessness, knowing Gretchen could have left the state, fearing she might harm herself or the boys. We felt blessed by the prayers of the many that lifted us up to God. In our pain, we knew God was near.

One Saturday morning I awoke with a plan. I persuaded my husband, Doug, we should drive to St. Joseph, Missouri, a nearly two-hour drive from our home, to see if Gretchen was staying with a friend who had bailed her out of jail. We found the address and spent 45 minutes driving through nearby neighborhoods, looking for Gretchen’s car. There was no sign of her or the boys.

Discouraged, we drove home.

Early the next morning, I left on my own for St. Joseph. Again, I drove up and down the streets, praying, desperately searching for our grandsons. Again, no sign of them. I drove home, crying and singing these words: “I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul, rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear: may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

As I sang these praise words over and over again, a Christ-like love for Gretchen grew within me. My love for her became intense, forgiving, and whole. That love continues today. I know our relationship never will be easy. I also know that as a disciple of Jesus Christ I am called to love her, just as Jesus does.

Christ-like love is both theological and practical. Theology comes from the art of telling and listening to stories of Jesus. The practical becomes evident when we allow the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection to form and transform our relationships through Christ-like love.

The Gospels tell many stories of Christ’s radical love. It made a difference in people’s lives, challenged his disciples to change the cultural and social norms that discounted the worth of all persons, and sent his followers to share that radical love with others.

Just as Jesus’ radical love affected those disciples, the stories of Jesus’ love can shape us as we share Christ-like love with others. Following are just two of the many stories that model Christ-like love.

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying,

“My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.—Matthew 9:18–22 NRSV

We forget the radical nature of Jesus’ encounter with the unnamed woman. In the Hebrew culture, women were dismissed; their social status equal to slaves and children. In public places, women covered themselves with two veils to remain unseen. Men were prohibited from looking at or talking to women in public. A woman could be divorced for simply speaking to a man outside her home.

This woman’s situation was complicated further because she was unclean according to the purity laws. Her bleeding for 12 years would have excluded her from Jewish life and from relationships with others. She could not eat with people, worship in the temple, or have any contact with another practicing Jew.

As a result, she would have been estranged, lonely, and rejected.

Jesus’ speaking to and healing this woman would have shocked his disciples. His actions were a rejection of the cultural restrictions of gender and the religious-purity code. Jesus chose to relate to this woman, valuing her as a person of worth, healing her so she could resume relationships with others.

What does this story tell us about Christ-like love? As individuals and as members of Christ’s body we are called to see others through spiritual eyes that recognize another’s pain, separation, and need. We are called to take the time to love, even when the action does not fit our schedule. We are called to love those considered unclean in our society, to stop, touch, and heal the estranged, lonely, and rejected because they are God’s children of inestimable and equal worth.

During a final commitment service at a family camp, I was intrigued when Bill stood to say he would commit to be a friend to his neighbor who had just been released from prison for shooting his ex-wife. Months later, I sat beside Bill at a potluck in the Nevada, Missouri, Congregation. I asked Bill about his neighbor. Bill told of checking on him daily and frequently driving him to doctor appointments, etc.

“My neighbor has recently been banned from entering the welfare office,” Bill reported.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, my neighbor said something inappropriate to the woman who gave him his welfare check. Now, I have to go in to the office and get his check for him.”

“You know that your neighbor will probably never change,” I said. “So why do you continue to care for him?”

Bill thought for a moment and then replied, “Because he’s a child of God.”

He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”—Luke 19:1–10 NRSV

Tax collectors were often Jewish men who were considered “sinners,” shunned by family and other Jews. Like Gentile slaves, they were denied civil and political rights granted to Jewish men. Money from tax collectors was so tainted it couldn’t be given as alms in the temple. If a Jewish man ate with or had a relationship with a tax collector, he would be contaminated and considered “unrighteous.”

Jesus’ followers would not eat with Zacchaeus and complained when Jesus announced he was going to Zacchaeus’ home. Jesus intentionally sought out this “sinner” and deliberately “contaminated” himself by eating with him.

We don’t know what Jesus says to Zacchaeus over the meal, but we know the results: Jesus’ love and compassion transform Zacchaeus’ actions. As a person worthy to eat with Jesus, he now generously gives to the poor and to those he defrauded. Jesus proclaims: “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

What does this story tell us about Christ-like love? Jesus makes it clear that all people, even sinners, are worthy of our time, attention, and love. Who matters to Jesus? Everyone!

This story also helps us recognize that sin is the universal condition of separation and alienation from God and one another. Christ shows us how to relate to those who are estranged. If we model Christ’s attitudes and behaviors, we, too, will seek the lost, love them, and help them reconcile with God and others.

Just as Jesus’ radical love touched those disciples, so can the stories of Jesus touch us if we share a Christ-like love with others, value each person as a child of God, and witness of Christ’s love through our words and actions of compassion. Christ-like love is genuinely expressed when we

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b





The Mission Matters Most!

11 05 2011

by STEPHEN M. VEAZEY, president of the church

President Stephen M. Veazey shared the following April 10 at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, and via live webcast in English, French, and Spanish. The complete address can be found at www.CofChrist.org/presidency/sermons/. Video and audio files are also available.

I previously have shared that when I was committing to paper the words that were to become Doctrine and Covenants 164, I thought I had reached the conclusion with paragraph 8. Having wrestled with complicated theological, sacramental, and ethical issues, I was grateful for the Spirit’s guidance. I wanted to rest with God.

Much to my surprise, as I began a prayer of thanks, the Spirit surged up like a fountain! I reached for my writing tablet and began to capture the experience in concepts seeking expression.

What resulted is now paragraph 9 of Section164. It is a message of God’s affirmation and hope for the church. The concluding sentence came with undeniable clarity: “The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead!”

The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead!

But, what is the mission of Jesus Christ?

The challenge in answering this question is the all-too-human tendency to mold Jesus and his mission into our national, cultural, political, and theological agendas, rather than allowing him to deepen and transform our vision!

So, I think the best way to answer the question is to turn to scripture, particularly Luke 4:18–19.

After a time of wilderness spiritual strengthening, and after his baptism and confirming experience with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went to worship in his hometown synagogue.

The congregation was mostly family and old friends; not the easiest place to announce that you are the Messiah.

But when Jesus was invited to read scripture, he did not hesitate. He was poised for this occasion. He was handed a scroll of the writings of Isaiah. He selected words that correspond with Isaiah 61:1–2 and 58:6 in the Bible.

Isaiah 61 poetically describes a servant who would restore God’s justice and peace to Israel and the world. Isaiah 61 is rooted in other Isaiah passages, especially in Isaiah 42.

Isaiah 42 speaks of both a servant and a covenant people of God—a faith community—who will open blind eyes, free captives from bondage, bring forth God’s compassionate justice, and be called a light to the nations.

Jesus strategically selected a scripture passage to proclaim his mission. By doing so he set the direction for the disciple community that would form around him.

He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…”

Jesus was able to make this claim because he knew the ways of the Spirit. He was grounded in scripture, particularly the prophetic texts. He had spent ample time being shaped by the Spirit through prayer, as well as worshipping and learning with others.

Being spiritually formed is foundational to obtaining a clear and compelling vision of mission. A compelling sense of mission springs from the overflow of deep communion with the Spirit. And such communion occurs when we engage in personal spiritual practices as well as spiritual growth through healthy congregational life.

The complete April 10, 2011 address can be found at www.CofChrist.org/presidency/sermons/. Video and audio files are also available.