Sharing the Gift Week 1: Just Imagine!
Today we begin a new 4 week message series called Sharing the Gift.
Imagine this. Wouldn’t it be great if your teenagers, your adult children, your teenage friends, your adult friends, your adult nieces and nephews, the people who you love most said to you:
When I come to church here I feel like I belong.
I want to stay!
I want to be part of this place and what’s happening here.
I never knew church could be like this.
I want to invite my friends to church here.
For the first time I understand what it means for me to have a relationship with God, and I feel like I can do that.
I look forward to Sunday Mass all week.
Just imagine that!! In order to achieve this, we have to be crystal clear about our vision and mission of who we are as a church. With clarity of vision and mission, our parish will change lives.
For clarity’s sake, the mission of the Catholic church is to bring people to Jesus, by sharing the gift of Jesus’ message, sharing Jesus’ message of God’s love.
One of the first things Jesus says to his followers after he rises from the dead is: As the Father has sent me, so I send you. So, Jesus says to YOU, his followers, as the Father has sent me, so I send YOU. I send you to share the gift with everyone.
What I say now can be a difficult thing to accept. You are not here primarily for yourself and what the church can do for you. You are supposed to be focused on others, and what you can do for them. The primary thing you are supposed to do for others is bring them to the Lord. That is what it means to share the gift; bring others to Jesus. That is who you are as church. That is your calling. Your primary life’s calling, as given to you by Jesus Christ, is to bring people to him, everything else is secondary.
In the bible, whenever Jesus challenges people to think more of others than themselves, they tend to get angry with him. In the gospel we heard today, the people raved over Jesus’ first hometown sermon, proclaiming a year of God’s mercy. But the mood turned violent when he went on to declare that God’s mercy embraces outsiders.
How about this famous saying: The church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of the outsiders, those who are not its members. Have you ever thought about church that way?
The church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members. Just like the early church, the current church exists, we exist here, to bring other people, non-members per se, to Jesus. Does this idea make you angry like it did the people in the gospel? There are many in our parish, and many in other parishes, who are here to be spiritually cared for, fed, and kept safe. That is, we mostly exist for our own good, not solely for the good of others.
Many of us think it’s the work of priests and deacons to share the gift while everyone else is here to be spiritually cared for, fed, and kept safe. That is incorrect.
You are also sent by Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, to share the gift, to bring people to him. If you are truly the church, you are here for others, not yourself.
I’m not talking about one and done type service opportunities, such as visiting a nursing home, a small group serving at a soup kitchen, or a mission trip. These are only a means to help you discover your true primary vocation which is to share the gift in such a way that you bring people to the Lord.
Our vision for Saint Mary parish is this: Be a place where it becomes impossible not to share Jesus with the world. That is, just like Jesus’ followers in the early church, we want to be so excited about him, that we feel compelled to share him with others. It’s what we imagined earlier!
Our teenagers, adult children, nieces, nephews, family and friends and all those we love come here on Sunday and don’t want to leave! They understand and feel what it means for Jesus to love them and be their Lord and Savior. They feel the fire of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and want to bring others to Jesus, too.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic for the people you love the most to say and feel those things? How wonderful would you feel if this faith, which means so much to you, began to mean so much to those you love the most, so much so, that they want to share it with others?
For us to be a place where it becomes impossible not to share Jesus with the world we must first encounter the person of Jesus here at Saint Mary. We must grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus here. Then we go out and share the gift to bring others to him.
We have been working hard on this with a team who creates engaging homily series throughout the year. Every week the homily message is spread throughout our children’s ministries, adult small groups, youth ministry and our entire school. We call it One Church, One Message. Every week, throughout the week, one clear message is propagated throughout our parish.
We’ve been giving you some tools to use to share the gift, such as 3 Conversations you can have with anyone, anywhere and our invest and invite strategy which we have been explaining for the last few years. Invest your time into someone. Then invite them to come into a small group, or to come to Mass one weekend.
We will have an amazing small group series for Lent beginning in just a few weeks. The title of our Lenten Small group series will be Seriously God?. In Seriously God? we will explore the denial, doubt, and betrayal we experience when life doesn’t make sense. While those experiences can drive us further away from God, they can also be opportunities to lean in and learn more about him. We will have a lot more to say about our Lenten Small Group Series, Seriously God? over the next few weeks. It is the perfect thing to invite someone into to share the gift of God’s love.
We also continue to work hard on being a place on fire with the Holy Spirit through our worship, through beautiful music integrated with our primary message for every Mass. We work with our hospitality ministries, so everyone feels welcomed and embraced because they belong to Jesus, they belong here in this place.
Our vision our children is that they fall in love with God and his Son Jesus, where they want to come to Mass every weekend and do not want to leave, a place where our children go forth wanting to tell their friends, their parents and the world about God’s love for them, and thus sharing the gift of Jesus with others.
If you want to be on our staff, and involved in a ministry, you must live the call to pray, and share the gift of Jesus with others, whether you work in our office, are a reader, hospitality minister, EOMHC, children’s minister, school teacher, etc. Staff and all ministry members must set the example for prayer and sharing Jesus with other people because that’s why you’re here.
This is what we want you to know today. You are church! The only time we are church is when we exist for others, especially non members, following the call to share the gift of Jesus with the world. That’s what we want you to know.
This is what we want you to do. Don’t just come to church. Be the church! Pray for your personal transformation to change, to be on fire for God’s Son and the courage to share him with others. Pray. Pray for yourself and our parish’s transformation that you will have the openness and the courage to share – the – gift.