Everybody wants to have a mission. A purpose. A calling to fulfill. A reason to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
The Blues Brothers had a mission.
Remember the original movie about Jake and Elwood? John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd?
Not examples of good moral behavior in the eyes of society, nor, for that matter, the church, but upon Jake's release from prison, they were chosen for a special purpose. A holy mission. And no amount of Illinois Nazis, redneck bar fights, police chases, or shopping malls were going to stop them. Not even Carrie Fisher (“Hell hath no fury...” indeed!).
Jake and Elwood accepted their calling to save the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. This became their mantra, which they repeated over and over again: “we're on a mission from God.”
In John's Gospel (20:19-23), Jesus gives us what some biblical scholars refer to as the mission of the church.
According to Jesus, our mission is to live out God's forgiveness of sins. Our mission is to live out God's forgiveness of all the world's sins.
To refuse to accept this mission is to condemn others to live in our chains of unforgiveness; it may or may not affect others, but it certainly affects how we relate to and interact with others.
To refuse to accept this mission is to deny the work God sent Christ Jesus to do.
To refuse to accept this mission is to deny the work that Christ finished on the cross, to deny Christ's resurrection.
One day in March of 1958, almost seventeen years after he turned his back on the world and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton walked the downtown streets of Louisville. There, standing on a busy corner, Merton said he was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that he loved all the people around him. Even though they were total strangers, he sensed that he belonged to all of them, and all of them belonged to him. “It was like waking from a dream of separateness,” he wrote.
Merton said that because we belong to God, our attitude towards others changes; and because everyone else also belongs to God, our attitude changes. “We just happen to be conscious of it, and to make a profession out of this consciousness.”
Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into his followers, yet too many of us haven't realized it yet. We're still in a dream of “unforgivenness.” Alas, we are unforgiving of the sins of the world, unforgiving of the sins of others, unforgiving of our own sins; therefore sins are retained, sins continue to control us. We live as though Jesus remains in the tomb.
Jesus wants to wake us from the dream. Jesus wants us to “make a profession out of this consciousness.” To live in the resurrection, to live in the consciousness of God's forgiveness of the whole world which God so loves.
There are many obstacles, of course. This is still the world of terrorist groups and terrorist nations. This is still the world of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, hatred. The world of technology and mass media and cyber-bullying. The world of political corruption and revolutions and social chaos. The world where horrible illnesses seem to always inflict the good and innocent yet leave the bad and not-so-innocent unharmed. This is a world that lacks forgiveness; a world filled with people who are difficult to forgive – including ourselves.
Jesus breathes the wonderful, powerful, unpredictable, reckless and wild Holy Spirit into us, and Jesus charges us to live awake in the reality of God's forgiveness, in this world, just as it is.
We are to make a profession of this consciousness, and to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And, not even Illinois Nazis, redneck bar fights, police chases, shopping malls, nor a scorned Carrie Fisher (may she now rest in peace) will be able stop us.
We are, in the words of Jake and Elwood Blues, on a mission from God!
Now, please excuse me while I go put the band back together …