“FINDING YOUR MISSION”
a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens
Coral Isles Church, U.C.C.
January 14, 2024
Revelation 21: 1- 7 NRSV
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them; they will be God’s people,and God will be with them and be their God;4 God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also God said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then God said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Are you a big fan of the “Mission Impossible” movies? I have to confess I haven’t seen very much of any of them. They go so fast and are so loud I can’t hardly follow them. Isn’t that a sad confession? And I’m pretty clear that if I were in either Ethan’s or Jim’s shoes I would not be jumping to accept that invitation from that self-destructing tape. Can you imagine? “Jim, your mission, should you choose to accept it is…” I am pretty sure I would say, “heck no, you are craaaazy! I’m not doing that for all the tea in China.”
I wonder if you ever think about whether you have a mission in life? Do you? I bet if I asked you personally you would be thinking your work or your family or catching a really big tarpon. The question for today is to set this in the context of our faith. A lot of people would assume that having a mission means going to Africa and converting the natives or to some other jungly kind of place far away to preach Jesus to the “ignorant savages.” At least that’s what it used to mean to a lot of Christians. Most of us today would say “uh -uh” to that as quickly as we would to a tape recording that self-destructs in a few seconds.
What if I told you I believe that God calls us to be part of God’s “Mission Impossible?” Our Scripture reading tells us God intends to make “all things new.” Now a lot of people believe this is going to happen by God sweeping God’s almighty hand like a broom through a dust pile and dropping a perfect city, a “New Jerusalem,” somewhere here on earth or out in the galaxy somewhere, I guess. Some even think their Christian duty is to destroy this world as soon as possible to initiate this. Really, there are those who call themselves Christians, who believe this is what God wants. I have a different understanding of God’s intentions and our purpose in that. We have a part to build up, not to destroy. We aren’t here to wait around for God to do it all for us miraculously.
It isn’t that I don’t believe God has the power to do something miraculous. It is because, as I look back at history, as I have studied the Bible for over 50 years, I believe God created us and gave us a role in bringing about God’s vision. It’s a vision for creation and all humanity. I believe God invites us to partner with God in making a just world for all. I would even say God calls us to live our lives “on a mission from God,” [ yes I just quoted the “Blues Brothers” movie ]. That mission is to bring God’s new reality to life so that God’s vision of a “new heaven and new earth” becomes our reality.
Crazy, right? Ok, I admit it. I also admit that we have pretty much failed so far. Not that we haven’t made some attempts. Remember those hippie communes of the 60’s and 70’s? Yeah – uh, no. Not what I’m thinking. And not the Jim Jones down in Guyana or David Koresh in Waco either. I think we must engage with the world and with God, seek to partner with the power of God’s vision to transform what God has given us.
As we observe the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr.’s birthday his example stands out as someone who embodied this. He clearly had a mission. He clearly sought to bring it to life using just and faithful Christian principles of non-violence and love. He was truly driven by the belief that love has the power to conquer hate. The best way we can honor his memory is to continue to strive to love others enough to work for change. In God’s new reality both those who benefit as well as those who suffer because of injustices will be better off, will discover a truer life.
This morning as we honor first responders I think their example is one for us as well. I see it as a metaphor for our lives as people of faith. In some sense the world is on fire, lives are at stake, emergency is almost an everyday constant reality everywhere. Like those first responders we need to be willing to run into the fire, to apply first aid, to stand for justice when people are hurting innocent lives. I mean that of course as a metaphor for us. I have had the basic CPR training and even used it once, but I am not qualified to take Dr. Stan’s place or a nurse’s or a firefighter’s role. And neither are most of us. But this morning I believe we still have a mission and I don’t believe it is impossible. I believe it is essential, absolutely essential, that we do our part.
Oh, I hear you… “wait a minute, preacher! I’m here to fish. I moved here to retire, I’m not going on any crusades.” Other voices say things like, “what can I do, I’m just one person? Or maybe, “I can’t even pay my bills how am I going to give enough money to help someone else?” And maybe another thought: “I’m too tired. I have my own problems. Forget about it, preacher.” I understand. B E L I E V E me! I understand. But let me offer a gentle, encouraging response.
We are going to talk about the mission of Coral Isles Church over these next weeks. We are going to try to articulate just what we think that mission is and how we carry that out. And while doing this is a great thing, it means something only to the degree that each one of us sees making that mission part of our life’s mission or purpose. Only to the degree that we say, “yes, that’s my mission in life too,” will this effort mean anything at all. So the questions start with why we should want to be part of any such mission and just what is that mission? I think the answer to that is life without a clear purpose, a clear mission, is just passing time.
Last week I shared the purpose and vision statement from our church’s bylaws circa 2019. This week let me share the current mission statement from the bylaws. It reads:
“Coral Isles Church is an inclusive and affirming church where open minds are connected to our loving God.”
There’s a lot to like there. It is always easy to wordsmith a thing and want to edit it to fit our definitions. But I’m simply sharing it to give you a feeling for the things you wanted to say as a church when that was written back in 2019. Then the pandemic happened, pastors came and went, people moved away. And here we are. Change the world? Mission Impossible, right?
But here is where I think we are. I think we are changing the world. By being who we are, by connecting open minds and loving hearts to the unconditional love of God we are changing the world right here in Tavernier. And yeah, we are going to spend some time reworking that a bit. The goal is to be sure we all buy into where we want to go as a church, but I think that isn’t so much a change of course as a clarifying of our course.
Those who think they have the corner on Christian truth may sneer and say, “Oh, you go to THAT church!” And we can say, “Yes! And that’s where I found God’s unconditional love!” And we can tell them that’s where people who lost their faith found it again. And we can know that we make a tremendous difference to this world right here. We do it by offering a safe space for adults with diversabilities. We do it by providing a place for new mothers to find support and supplies as they struggle to feed and care for their newborns. We continue to provide space for a coordinating center for people desperate for help with bills and health issues and more. And when people come here on Sunday they find a community unlike any other at any other church here in the Keys. Full stop. No. I have not been to every other church. But enough of you have been to enough of them and told me clearly how glad you are to be part of THIS church and how proud you are that we are THAT church.
I’m proud to be your pastor. I hope I can contribute in some small way to helping us move toward God’s vision of a just world together in whatever time God gives us. That’s my mission. As you go about your lives this week, fishing, doctoring, diving, being retired, whatever is on your daily schedule, take a few minutes each day as you are sitting there in traffic on that road out there and ask yourself: How does your life, and your day, fit into God’s mission for the world, and how can you be part of making all things new? That’s not mission impossible if we partner with God. That’s not too much if God is the one standing with us, working with us, making a new earth and a new heaven with us. Because one thing is sure. God is with us. And like the song we sang at the beginning – God is on the move. AMEN!