Mission – December 2, 2012

Purposeful Mission = Two Thumbs Up!

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the social networking page known as Facebook.  I also have to admit that I do have a Facebook page, and I periodically (well, regularly), I check out what my other Facebook “friends” have posted on their walls. While I do enjoy seeing the many photos that friends frequently share, I am not a fan of the political or religious commentaries that so many of my FB friends feel compelled to post.  For me, Facebook isn’t a place where I would choose to share my political or religious views…..well, not until recently anyway.

Several weeks ago, when Hurricane Sandy struck and devastated so many communities along the Atlantic coastline, I felt compelled to express my conviction that we in Vermont must reach out and respond to the many victims of Sandy who have experienced such devastating losses.  In a sermon I delivered on Sunday, November 4, 2012, I challenged the people of Christ Church/Montpelier to engage in an outreach mission project meant to help folks in Ocean County, New Jersey who were among those hardest hit.  In my sermon, I asked folks to consider taking the following actions:

  • Consider making financial contributions either to Episcopal Relief and Development or make checks payable to Christ Episcopal Church/Toms River Discretionary Fund.
  • Consider purchasing gift cards from stores in the NY/NJ area where new clothing or household goods could be purchased by those who literally need to start over.
  • Consider the possibility and plan for a mission trip to the New Jersey Shore, where we together, we can become a “boots on the ground” response team helping to clean up and rebuild local communities.

After I delivered my sermon and received such positive response from our faith community, I decided to post a plea on my Facebook page…asking for other people’s help in support of this mission project.  I was surprised that within several days, I’d received only two “likes” (meaning a thumbs up) regarding my post.  Two thumbs up, but no other inquiries or comments asking how anyone could help out.  To put it mildly, I was quite surprised.

For me, truly engaging in mission means much more than “liking” an idea on Facebook.  To me, mission means action.  Mission means rolling up one’s sleeves.  Mission means praying for and reaching out to others, especially when the chips are down.  Mission means sacrificing my time, talent, and treasure for someone else that may need real help. 

A few years back, I used to think that mission and mission trips were only for those good people who traveled to faraway places like Africa.  I used to think that mission and mission trips wouldn’t necessarily be found in my own back yard.  But that all changed in 2010, when I took a mission trip to Galveston, TX to help with rebuilding efforts resulting from the destructive winds and waters of Hurricane Ike.  When I made that mission trip to Texas with another local church group, I learned that mission and outreach can and does often happen literally in many of my own neighbor’s back yards.  Mission certainly can begin right here at home.

Recently experts have estimated that cleanup and rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Sandy will take well beyond two years to complete.  That means there will be lots of opportunities for missional disciples like you and me to make a difference in the lives of those folks who have been impacted by the ravages of Sandy.  I hope and pray that we Vermont Episcopalians will remember what Irene was like for us.  I hope and pray that we will respond, not only in this time of immediate need, but also well into the future.  Our call as Christians is to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.  It is through our purposeful and intentional mission and outreach, where we can make a difference in the lives of folks who so desperately need a lift.  And I also believe that when we do choose to respond by springing into missional action, that Jesus will most definitely “like” what we are doing by giving us two thumbs up.

Paul Habersang,
Priest-in-Partnership
Christ Church, Montpelier, VT

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