Lesson for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, January 23rd, 2022
Outward Incarnational Focus vs. inward institutional survival; closed communities of assimilation/exclusion
If discipleship formation is about learning/ understanding/living the Good News, and authentic evangelism is about intentionally sharing the Good News in relationships, then outward incarnation is about not limiting where and to whom we share the Good News. Outward incarnational focus is about being the gathered community of Christ sent out! We go not because we have a strategy for new membership; we go because we have a Savior who commanded us to be on God’s mission. We go because God’s saving love in Christ, cannot be inwardly contained in our buildings when we live with neighbors in need and a hurting world. The Good News is meant to transform and transcend. The church is meant to be a beacon of Christ’s grace, justice, freedom, and love. Outward incarnational focus means we daily take up our cross and follow to the marginalized of society, the poor among us, the suffering and sick, the stranger and enemy, the down-trodden and “the least of these.” We do not just focus on bringing similar or like-minded people inside to assimilate to our way of doing things; nor do we just go to people and places that are familiar and comfortable. Outward incarnational focus requires an emboldened faith, that goes because Christ is already present, and calls us to join.
A. Biblical References:
Matthew 25:31–46; Romans 12:1–21; Matthew 7:14; Luke 19:1–10; Matthew 8:18–23; Luke 6:27–36; 2 Peter 1:16–21; Luke 9:1–6, 23–27; Luke 10:1–12
Conduct community analysis to ascertain the needs, fears, hopes, and pressure points in the community, so that the church’s ministry and mission can address them.
The church practices genuine hospitality (more than being warm and friendly, it is about attempting to anticipate the needs of others; practicing inclusion; stepping out of the comfort zone; loving and nurturing others; its about them, not you.
Join on Christ’s mission with the lost, weak, suffering, lowly, least, marginalized, oppressed, outcast; working towards forgiveness and reconciliation
Faithful engagement in rich relationships of all diversity
Church becomes a living being sent to follow the Spirit and join where Christ is already present; not still/static
C. Potential Outcomes:
The congregation is a noted presence in the community (i.e. needs are met, people feel welcomed, reconciliation and diversity help transcend culture)
The community is viewed as being more important than the church building; we take up God’s mission
Transformation and renewal of congregations that reflect the rich diversity of the kingdom of God
Shifts from “bringing in young people and young families” to sending out, showing up, being present where God is already at work; many come to know Christ their Savior
D. Reflection Questions:
Who is at the margins of your community? Your congregation?
How does your congregation show up outside your building and share the love of Christ?
What would your community say about your church's identity?
Where is Christ at work and inviting you to join? Does your congregation have an emboldened spirit to follow Christ?
What prevents you from going where God may send you? What are your fears? What leaves you focused inward?
Does your church welcome the lost, help the doubting, sit with the grieving, lend aid to the poor, help the downtrodden, offer forgiveness to the sinner, clothe the naked, support the suffering and sick, strengthen the faint-hearted, respond to the skeptic, help bind up the broken-hearted, stand up for the weak, give voice to those silenced, pray with those in pain, and otherwise live into the incarnate spirit of Christ our Savior? If so, in what ways? If not, why?
Do you feel like your church equips you in the faith to have difficult conversations of racial oppression, social injustice, white privilege, racial profiling, sexual and gender inequality, terrorism, and/or stereotypes and prejudices of any kind?