Our Mission is to Participate in Jesus’ Mission … Going and making Disciples of All Nations

Rev. Paul Roggow was installed as missionary to Metropolitan Vancouver on Sunday, April 22.  Please keep Paul and his wife Jackie and their three children in your prayers. Pray the Spirit of God will use Paul in miraculous ways to being His message of life and salvation to people who do not yet believe in Jesus as their Saviour!

The  following message was preached at Paul’s installation service by Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer. The text selected for the occassion was: Ephesians 2:12-13(11-22) which is Paul’s Confirmation verse.

“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:12-13, Paul’s Confirmation verse)

Paul and Jackie: welcome to Vancouver!  Welcome to Canada!   You’re no doubt thrilled to be here, eh?  In order to help you to adjust to living in this new culture, there are some facts about Canadians you might want to know.  For example:

Did you know that a Canadian is someone who …

  • Thinks an income-tax refund is a gift from the government?
  • Apologizes for not being ready to order at the waiter’s convenience?
  • Heartily proclaims, “Sure it’s 38 below, but it’s a dry cold!”?
  • Spends an inordinate amount of time trying to define what a Canadian is? (From: The Penguin Book of Canadian Jokes by John Robert Colombo in Reader’s Digest Nov 2002)

Canadians are proud of their citizenship.  Only a couple years ago, this city was transfixed by the Olympics.  Canadian flags were tattooed on people’s cheeks. Streets and building, including the Richmond Center, were draped in huge red and white Canadian flags. The word “Canada” was emblazoned on the front of red and black hoodies.  Impromptu “flash mobs” broke out with renditions of “O Canada.”

Most people are proud of their citizenship and culture. People love to wave their flag.  They elevate their forefathers to folklore status.  Their identity is tied to their “home-grown” language, music, art, and sport. They delight in the accomplishments of fellow-citizens.

And rightly so!  People should be proud of their culture and their country. Our distinctive languages and cultures are God’s masterful mosaic! How much richer is our world because of the diversity of people, cultures, and languages!

But, you know as well as I do that, these differences divide people.  Self-centred people morph these differences into hostility, prejudice, and racism. This was certainly the case in Paul’s day.  Jews despised Gentiles and Gentiles loathed Jews. Scores of Jews and Gentiles had been killed because of their hatred for one another. And now, in the Ephesian Christian church, deep-seeded feelings of hostility rooted in racial resentment and conflict, divided Christians.

Would you agree that walls of racism and prejudice divide Christians today? Granted, there are communication barriers because we speak different languages. Misunderstandings occur because of different cultural expectations.

But, do we find ourselves feeling threatened by immigrants who are taking over our cities and now who are taking over our churches?  Do we think, “My culture is superior to your culture?”  Are hostilities in our “homeland” dividing us from fellow-Christians in our new adopted country? Are we operating our congregations with the premise, “People should stick to their own kind?”  Are we allowing the challenges of interacting with people of other cultures to dictate our unwillingness to partner with them?  Are we simply evangelizing our “own” or do we have a passion and desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all people – no matter their citizenship, culture, language, religion, or social-economic status?

Let me state an obvious truth.  Jewish blood flowed through Jesus’ veins. At 8 days old he was presented at the temple and circumcised like all Jewish boys. He learned Hebrew and attended synagogue school. The stories of how God’s Chosen People had conquered their enemies by God’s powerful hand were rehearsed and celebrated by Jesus and his family.  Jesus was well aware of his distinct cultural ethnicity and the differences that existed between Jew and Gentile.

But these racial, cultural, linguistic, and religious differences did not cause Jesus to be selective in whom he came to save.  Simeon sang of the infant Jesus, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

Jesus knew he was the Saviour for all the peoples of the earth. He said, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son!” (John 3:16). Again, Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.   They too will listen to me, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

Jesus didn’t just pay lip service to this reality.  Jesus practiced what he preached.  Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion and said of the Roman, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Luke 7:1-9)  Jesus arranged a “divine” appointment at Jacob’s well with a Samaritan woman so that he might reveal to her, “I who speak to you am the Messiah.” (John 4:25-26)  To a Canaanite woman Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request [that your daughter be rid of demons] is granted.”  (Matthew 15:21-28)  

Thankfully, Jesus did more than simply heal the Roman centurion’s servant, drive out the demon from the daughter of the Canaanite woman and witness to a Samaritan woman. He died for these Gentiles and for all Gentiles … and Jews!

Have you heard of the 200,000 “lost Canadians”?  These are people who think that they are Canadians, but they are without Canadian citizenship.  “Lost Canadians are people born in Canada between the years 1947 and 1977, whose father took out citizenship in another country with the result that his child had his/her Canadian citizenship revoked. (From: http://blog.lostcanadian.com/2008/12/who-are-lost-canadians.html)   These “lost Canadians” are often unaware of their status until they try to collect their Old Age Pension or try to get medical care when they move to another province.  Then, they discover that they are excluded from Canadian citizenship and denied the privileges and benefits of being a citizen of Canada.

Verse 12 of our sermon text describes the situation of “lost Gentiles.”  Paul tells us that as Gentiles (that’s us!), we were:

  • Separate from Christ;
  • Excluded from citizenship in God’s kingdom;
  • Without hope; and
  • Without God.

Can you think of more disturbing and depressing words in the Bible?  Think of the millions upon millions of people who are “lost” – separated from Christ … excluded from God’s citizenship … without hope … without God because they have either never heard about Jesus or they have heard and rejected the Good News. They are clueless as to their “lost” state.  When are they going to discover that they are separate from Christ? That they are excluded from citizenship in God’s kingdom? That they are denied the privileges and benefits of citizenship in His kingdom?  I hope this revelation does not occur for them on Judgment Day!!!  Is it any wonder St. Paul asks, How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? … As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

And, the Good News is this: when Jesus died on Calvary’s cross, he died for all people – Gentile and Jew!  Paul says in our text, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Verse 13) Elsewhere, Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself!” (2 Cor. 5:19) “Because of his great love for Gentiles and Jews,” Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ. … For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:3b-4, 8)  The “dividing wall of hostility” created by our disobedience and that separated us from God was destroyed when Christ was rejected by his Father for our sins.

Jesus’ death not only destroyed the wall of hostility between us and God. His death also demolished the walls of hostility that divide people and in the process God created a new nation … a new family … one that transcends cultural and racial barriers. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” writes St. Paul, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:3-6)

We may come from diverse cultures and speak a variety of languages, but Christ’s blood unites us one to another! (Eph. 2:14-19) We are no longer “foreigners” but fellow-citizens in God’s kingdom. We are no longer divided into feuding clans but brothers and sisters in God’s household. “Christ is,” as someone observed, “the ‘meeting point’ with God for all humankind.” 

Prior to his ascension, Jesus gathered his followers together and he said, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47; Matt 24:14; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8) In other words, Jesus said to his followers, “Your mission is to participate in my mission of making disciples of all nations.”

The apostle Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and his Jewish heritage (cf. Phil 3:4-6) but he did not allow his ethnicity to serve as a barrier between him and those to whom he was sent.  St. Paul writes, Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. … To those not having the law I became like one not having the law … so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) St. Paul understood that his “mission was to participate in Christ’s mission of making disciples of all nations!” 

Paul, I’m sure you’re proud to be an American.  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin are your patriarchs.  You can probably recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” in your sleep and no doubt pride swells within you when you hear the Star Spangled Banner or God Bless America.  You have been raised by the creed that there is nothing more American than, “Baseball, hotdogs, and mom’s hot apple pie.”  You’re even a longsuffering Cubs fan – how American is that?!

Paul, your mission as missionary to Metro-Vancouver, is to participate in Christ’s mission. You carry on Christ’s work of sharing the Gospel with all the nations of the world. In your person and in your work, you echo St. Paul, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Paul, you are called and sent to proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Christ not only to fellow-Americans, but to English and French speaking Canadians … to Koreans … to Chinese … to Hispanic … to Sudanese … to Ethiopian … to Sikhs, to Muslims, to Hindus, to Buddhists, to Mormons, to Jehovah Witnesses, to secularists, to atheists, and agnostics … to the rich and the poor and to any other group of people or person who do not know and believe in Jesus as the Son of God, their Saviour!

What is true of missionary Paul Roggow is true for all of us! Our mission is to participate in Jesus’ mission of making disciples of all nations.  Through the blood of Christ, our King unites us as citizens in one kingdom. Through the blood of Christ, our Father unites us as brothers and sisters in one household.  Through the blood of Christ, the Saviour of all people, calls and sends us, as diverse as we are, for the common purpose of proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour of all nations!  Our Saviour sends us to proclaim the Good News to those who are near to us, that is, to people who share our culture, language and worldview.  He sends us to cross cultural boundaries … to people of other languages and cultures.

So “Go!” Paul, to the people who call Metropolitan Vancouver their home and make disciples of all nations by telling them of God’s love for them in Christ!  And fellow citizens in God’s kingdom … brothers and sisters in the household of God, it is our privilege and honour to participate in Jesus’ mission, so “Go!” and make disciples of all nations wherever you live! Amen.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (Heb. 13:20-21)

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