by Fr. Daniel Daly, Spiritual Advisor for Midwest Antiochian Women
(Editor’s note: Fr. Daniel took excerpts from the following sermon in a talk he gave to Midwest women in fall 2010. Published in DIAKONIA Winter 2010-2011 )
"Going therefore teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you...”
The Church is in the world to carry out the mission given to it by the Lord Himself. The church must carry out the ministries of : 1. evangelization and witness, 2. the sacramental mission of worship and sacrament, 3. the ministry of fellowship, 4. the ministry of charity.
Our ministry of evangelization is carried out in various ways in the church. In addition to the Sunday sermon we have our church school programs and our adult education series. We have bookstores, which can be very popular with our visitors. We are very blessed in Orthodoxy that our building and our icons proclaim the message of the Gospel. In addition to all these things we have the individual witness of each of you. We have a duty to witness both to the people within this faith community and to those outside. In all that we do here in our church we do so with the realization that our church does not only exist for those within this parish, but it also has a mission to those outside it as well.
Our ministry of worship and sacrament goes beyond our Sunday Divine Liturgy. The Sunday Liturgy is the climax of all our other activities. These involve the baptisms, chrismations, marriages and funerals throughout the year. The Church is uniquely a “worshipping community”. Our worship is not something that was written by some sincere person last year. Our worship goes back to the commands of Christ Himself. In fact our Eucharistic worship is the worship of Christ.
Each church is called to the mission of fellowship. Christian fellowship is primarily our fellowship with Christ and His Heavenly Father, (Read the First Chapter of St. John’s First Epistle) but like everything in the church it has its human side, its human component. Spiritual fellowship needs basic human fellowship. Our church at one time was a group of immigrant people from the Middle East. We stand on their shoulders, and must be grateful for what they did. Today, as you know the parish is more diverse. We have people from many backgrounds. We thank God for our new people. Without growth a parish will die. Our fellowship with Christ and the Father is dependent upon our fellowship with other members of the church. And that can be for better or for worse.
Like the ministries of witness, worship and fellowship, our ministry of charity is also diverse. Our food for hungry people collection was a great success. Each time we pass a special tray here, you are very generous. There are many of you that I can approach without hesitation to assist others. The ministry of charity touches every aspect of our lives, not just in what we can do materially. Above all “let us love one another” here in St. Nicholas. Let us never speak unkindly about a brother or sister. Let us be courteous to one another. All that we do and say to each other, and about each other is not missed by our children. Let them grow up in a family of faith, hope and charity.
In all these areas of ministry we must look both within and without. We must witness to each other, worship with each other, have fellowship with each other and help each other. But we must never lose the vision that we must look outward. The church is a community with a mission. The Lord called us to teach all nations, baptizing them. St. John in his first epistle calls people into the fellowship of the church. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and to visit the sick and imprisoned.
I believe that our parish is conscious of its mission. Do we do it perfectly? Of course not. We must strive to do all these things better and more fervently. As your priest I can only judge from a human point of view. Our Lord sees these things that we do. Only He truly knows how well we do them. But I believe that all of us are striving to be that kind of church. We can improve in every area of parish life, that is true; but I believe we are going in the right direction.
Let us not fear if a member of the church reminds us that we are not doing what we might in any one of these four missions that we are called to be carrying out. At times we will be doing one mission better than the other. If someone says “our church should be doing this, or that”, we can always ask ourselves “does that activity belong to one of these four missions?” If it does, then it might become part of our church life. If it has nothing to do with these four missions, then we should examine it carefully.