Rector's Blog: Life on Purpose
Do you think your existence is an accident? Are you here by coincidence? Do you just happen to exist, and now you’ve decided to cobble together something that vaguely resembles purpose or meaning?
I was speaking a bit about mission and purpose on Sunday at our new 10am Forum, Sent to Serve, and even as I spoke, I began to get a sense of just how radical Christian beliefs are. Our faith states that purpose and meaning are not things we create out of thin air. Rather, God has imbued this world with meaning, and each human with significance. The Book says we are made in God’s image, not the other way around. We don’t make God. God makes us, and God makes us on purpose. This means you were gifted with purpose in your birth – and in your baptism you were given vocation. That is to say, calling and purpose are in your DNA. And the world is bursting with blessing for you to share.
Our Minister for Health and Wellness, Becca Morehous (an absolute gem of a human being, by the way) sent me a message last week that contained a quote by Christian writer Henri Nouwen – and it spoke directly to this reality. Nouwen wrote, “Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying, ‘As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.’ We seldom fully realize that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do. These tasks may be very specialized, or they may be the general task of loving one another in everyday life.”
Please take a moment and dwell on the radical claim that is being made: Every single person you meet has a mission in life. That includes that man with the sign at the freeway offramp. That includes the person you can’t stand. That includes you.
I am telling myself this as much as I’m telling anyone. I love my job, and I have one of those careers that people assume I do because I feel a sense of call, of purpose. And they’re right. But I’m still a person. I know doubt. I know insecurity and uncertainty. I still haven’t met a person who doesn’t. Those of us who follow our callings do not just hover slightly above the ground from place to place in a constant sense of Significance. I am perfectly capable of thinking I’m down here all alone trying to prove something to myself. I consistently make the mistake of believing my life is my own to do with as I please. But it is not.
My life is not just for me. Your life is not just for you. We exist for a reason.
You and I exist as living expressions of God’s Love. And Love does not exist for itself. Love moves outward. Love brims with abundance uncontainable, spilling over the edges and boundaries of our comfort and convenience, drawing us into lives of interdependence and mutual care. Say what you will about Love, but it is not without purpose. So how do you think you, who are made from Love and made for Love could possibly be here by accident, responsible for coming up with your own reason and meaning?
Love is lived out in community. For the Christian, the church is meant to be our primary community. And this makes sense when you understand two things about the church: 1) The church is founded in Love 2) The church is a body with a purpose. Our Prayer Book says the church exists to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. It goes on to say we pursue this unity and restoration by praying, worshiping, proclaiming the Gospel, and promoting justice, peace, and love.
This is our work, put simply and clearly. Now think for a moment about this beautiful, overwhelming world in which we’re living: Does it look like a world in need of unity and restoration? How about justice, peace and love? Could more people be transformed by belief in the Gospel of unconditional Love and belonging? Even as you’re reading these words, you know the answer in your bones. And that means you can see even a glimpse of your purpose.
I will ask you what I asked our friends who joined us last Sunday: Where do your mission and the mission of the church meet? How can the church help you live into your reason for being? How can you help the church do the same? You and the church did not find each other by accident. We were brought together. We were put in each other’s lives. How can we live into that? What is your part in the restorative work of justice, peace and love that is saving the world?
Of course, this is the work of a lifetime. But we will be spending this Fall focusing on ways to engage this work and respond to these questions. I hope you will join us. I hope you will take these questions seriously, that you will find yourself drawn deeper into your community as you seek to engage the question of your purpose. Our shared life is your loving response.
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