When I was a kid, one of the shows we loved to watch together as a family was Mission: Impossible. We loved the way that the Impossible Mission Force were always in some Eastern European country in which they used fake Eastern European accents and there were always vehicles on them that said “Statz Polizei,” (i.e., “State Police”). We loved the way that everything was choreographed perfectly, down to the mandatory latex mask one of them would use to pretend to be one of the bad guys.
We especially loved the beginning of the show. Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Mission Force played by Peter Graves, would pull a reel to reel cassette tape recorder out of a car or safe deposit box and begin listening to it. His boss would begin to explain the nature of the latest mission by saying, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . . .” And then he would carefully explain what the Impossible Mission Force was being asked to do.
Like the Impossible Mission Force, you, too, have been given an assignment, a mission. Here’s how Jesus Himself presents your mission in this morning’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 9: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.”
This commission of His to go out and do His will on earth as it is in heaven, which we pray for every day and which He issued here in Matthew, is also the last commission He gave to His disciples. Your mission, therefore, is the mission of the Son to obey the will of the Father; to continue the ministry of Jesus which He continues through us; and to make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to obey the will of the Father as well.
This mission seemed like an Impossible Mission to the disciples. Who were they to heal every disease and infirmity and to cast out demons?
Our mission, to obey the will of the Father, to make disciples, and to teach them to obey the Father, also seems like an Impossible Mission. But here is where our reality must part from the fiction of the TV show, Mission: Impossible. Our mission is a possible one because it is not our mission but that of Jesus Christ. With Him, all things are possible, for all authority has been given to Him, and He shares this authority with us. Secondly, we are not told, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . . “ No, we are not told, we are commanded: “Go and make disciples” and “Go into the harvest.”
In Luke’s account of the sending out of 70 and their return, the 70 returned with joy because of what they’d seen the Lord do through them. It was important that they shared what they saw God doing with others.
Jesus’ response was also important, for when they returned with their report He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
When we obey and go into the harvest and labor, then we will see Satan fall like lightning from heaven. For when we obey, the Kingdom of Heaven comes, and Satan must flee.
In June 2008 I went on the first mission trip of my life, taking a group of teens from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, along with a group from All Saints Episcopal Church. Those of us who went from St. Andrew’s and All Saints were commissioned by our churches and by the Lord to go in His Name to Belize and minister. In Belize, the harvest is plentiful. There is much work to be done. Jesus has compassion on the people of Belize because they are harassed and helpless and like sheep without a shepherd.
When we got to Belize, I had the distinct sense that God had already been there – and so He was. In Belize, we saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, because we saw God at work there.
The young people we took saw Him as they labored with their hands and wood, like their Master, the carpenter. They saw God at work in learning to work together as a team with others to help put up a building. That building soon became a completed library and computer lab for the 450 kids who go to Holy Cross Anglican School.
Others saw God when they assisted the teachers and filled in for them and gave them a break. It was difficult work: without the teacher being active, the kids quickly began to spread all over the room. Some of the girls also saw God by cleaning dishes for a few hours one day. I don’t think they were too thrilled to be doing it, but they learned the meaning of service and what the women at Holy Cross went through every day, six days a week, with no vacations. I think they learned compassion.
I had quite a few encounters with God myself, as I saw Him at work. It was thrilling to see our youth serving and learning. All of us saw God at work in the lives of Vernon and Frances Wilson, who established Holy Cross School just a few years ago. Vernon and Francis taught all of us what God can do with just two people obeying Him. Because of their faithfulness, mission team after mission team is now coming to serve in San Pedro, Belize. Through their work at Holy Cross, they are helping to transform the educational system of the entire country!
One night, I was talking to a man with dreadlocks who played reggae music and called himself the Lyrical King who told me that a man he was talking to wanted to talk to me.
The first words out of this man’s mouth were: “I just got out of prison. What should I do?”
From there, I had an opportunity to tell the man, whose name was Russian (which he pronounced “Roo-shon”), about God and that he needed to find a church. We talked a long time, and I prayed with him. I also gave him some of our leftover pizza and my Bible, which he carried with him everywhere the next few days. He told me that he had been praying that God would lead him to someone to talk to – and God led him to me.
The Sunday we were there, I was privileged to preach at the Holy Communion. It was the first communion service they had had there since December!
Sunday, after church, I was walking on the beach, still wearing my collar, and someone on the beach by a wall in front of a cemetery called out, “Father!”
I went over and asked the man, whose name was Oscar, how he was doing. He said, politely, “I’m doing good.” He paused a second and then added, “I’m not doing good. Three years ago I had a good job, a car, a wife, and kids. But I lost them all.”
I asked how. “To alcohol,” he said. He had said that he prayed to Jesus but that He never answered, which gave me an opportunity to talk to Him about God’s love and about Oscar’s responsibility. I talked to Oscar for about 20 minutes, prayed with him, and told him that he must find a church to help him. He had three friends sitting in front of the cemetery with him, in various stages of inebriation. For the next two days I stopped by to talk to all the guys on the wall in front of the cemetery every time I happened to pass by and they were there.
And so I’m here to tell you that when we were in Belize we saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, because we saw God working to establish His kingdom – in Belize, and in our lives.
It was, as the people of Belize like to say, “Unbelizeable!”
What made these things possible?
- We spent time praying and readying our hearts to serve God and see Him in Belize.
- We left behind our normal routines and riches, our media and our expectations, and went as servants, ready to do whatever was asked of us.
- Every evening we’d gather together to pray and to share with one another the answer to three questions: What was good that day? What was challenging? and Where did I see God at work today?
But Fort Worth is also the harvest, and your town is the harvest for you. Jesus has compassion on the people of your city because they are harassed and helpless and like sheep without a shepherd. Belize is just a more dramatic version of what happens daily here in my town and in your town – if only we would see. God is there at work every bit as much as He is in Belize – if only we would stop and see it.
The Possible Mission for all of us is to obey the Lord when He sends us into the harvest to do His will, and to look for Him and where He is at work. To do this, we’ll all need to do the same three things we did to help us see God in Belize.
- Prepare to see Him. Get and keep the heart of a servant.
- Get rid of distractions. Don’t let your weekly routine become an excuse for not seeing God. Don’t get so addicted to your conveniences and gadgets and leisure that you lose the heart of a servant. Make time to see God every day.
- Share God with others when you see Him at work, for He comes to you every day and in many ways.
Mission: Impossible was a memorable show because it was filled with heroism and adventure. One of the great contributions to Western civilization made by the late night comedian, Conan O’Brien, was his discovery that even the most ordinary and mundane daily activities could be made to seem exciting and adventurous if the Mission: Impossible music is played while you’re doing it. In a similar way, the Christian life is to be lived as if the Mission: Impossible music is playing in the background!
Your Possible Mission – and you should choose to accept it – is to listen for the Lord’s command and to go and labor in His Kingdom. Your Mission each day this week is to share with at least one other person where you saw God and where you saw Satan being cast down.
The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray, according to the words of your Son, to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard. We earnestly beg you to bless all those who love You fervently and who gladly and courageously spend their lives in service to Your Son’s Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We pray that their lives may always be centered on our Lord Jesus and that they may be devoted sons and daughters of God in making You known and loved, and that they may attain Heaven. Teach us all to look for and find You every day, and having found You, to share You with others. We ask this though the mercies of Your only begotten Son, with whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, gracious, and life creating Spirit, now and ever and forever.
Points for Meditation:
- Practice looking for God today, even in small things. Keep a list throughout the day. Where did you see Him? Were you surprised in any way?
- Make a point to share where you saw God today or recently with one (or more!) person. What do you notice about this person’s reaction? Did he find your sharing the Lord encouraging?
Resolution: I resolve to look for God today and to share with at least one person where I have seen Him today.
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