~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
~ To respond to human need by loving service
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Between 1984 and 1990, the Anglican Consultative Council, which is part of our connection to the larger Anglican Communion, developed the “Five Marks of Mission”. At General Convention in 2009, these “Five Marks of Mission” were adopted as a way for churches to understand their mission in their local context. This summer in Indianapolis, these “Five Marks of Mission” were everywhere! As I walked from my hotel to the convention center, they were on sidewalks, signs, tshirts…everywhere. Not only were they meant for Episcopalians, but for any passerby who was wondering “so what are those church people up to?”
These “Five Marks of Mission” like our Baptismal Covenant, are a declaration of our ministry as a church.
In today’s gospel (Luke 4:14-21), we encounter a Jesus who has been baptized, sent out into the wilderness, and has returned. He is a different man than when he first entered the Jordan River. Luke’s gospel tells us that when Jesus returns to Galilee, he is filled with, or anointed by, the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be “filled with” or “anointed by” the Holy Spirit? Well, it might depend on who you ask. Historically, it has meant being given the authority to preach or teach; and women were said to be “too corrupt” or “too much like Eve” to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and therefore should not be given the authority to preach or teach. In some denominations, to be filled with the Holy Spirit means to have spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, ability to perform miracles, and healing. Spiritual gifts are Biblical, but they aren’t a pre-requisite to being “filled with” or “anointed by” the Holy Spirit; they are actually two different things entirely!
So what makes them different? Spiritual gifts are just that… gifts from God that empower people in their various ministries. But to be “filled with” or “anointed by” the Holy Spirit means to be called to ministry... it compels us to act and respond. While we aren’t all given the Spiritual Gifts outlined in scripture, through our baptism, we are all anointed by or filled with the Holy Spirit. Every time we confess our belief in Jesus, and are brought into love and harmony with God, ourselves, our neighbors and all creation, we are doing our ministry in the world…we are declaring our mission.
Let’s go back to the gospel of Luke for a moment. When Jesus goes to the temple to worship, he is handed a scroll from Isaiah to read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He is declaring his mission…to tell the good news, to free us from oppression, to heal our hurts, and to open our hearts to God. In that moment, he’s responding to being anointed by or filled with the Holy Spirit.
So how do we know when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit? When we feel compelled to act; when we realize that we are responsible to God in a way that is bigger than ourselves. Any time we:
--proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
--teach and nurture new believers
--respond to human need by loving service
--seek to transform unjust structures of society
--strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
--respect the dignity of every human being
--welcome the stranger
…we are doing ministry. This is what it means to be Christians. This is what it means to be “the church”.
Today I invite you to consider what your mark of mission is. What is your declaration of ministry? When have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? How has this scripture been fulfilled for you?
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.