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The Marks of Mission
Paula O'Shaughnessey, May 17th, 2015

In John's Gospel reading today we learn that - Judas is lost the one who was destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 

Psalm 41, v9: Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,  who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and in so doing has played a key part in Jesus' execution.  Overcome with despair, when he realises what he has done Judas hangs himself.

Jesus, the good shepherd seeks to save and protect all of his flock from harm.  He is prepared to give his very life for the people whom he loves.  In his final moments before death, he says to God:
'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'

The world is a dangerous place, where 'the Evil One' is at large:

1 Peter 5:8: Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

But here in John's Gospel, Jesus makes the careful distinction that for himself and for the disciples they are in the world, but they do not belong to the world.  In this way, the protection of God is given to them.  They are SANCTIFIED.

Judas has shown the attachment to worldly things and the corruption which it brings symbolised by the 30 pieces of silver. 

Matthew 27:3: When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
Judas cannot undo what he has done to Jesus it is too late for that.

In John's Gospel,  there is a definite way to God,

John 14.6: Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is the way of being sanctified by God.  Jesus, The Good shepherd who lays down at the doorway to the sheep pen offers the only way in and out.  He is the doorway between Heaven and Earth.  He protects them, and is prepared to lay down his life for his sheep.

The disciples are to live for the good of the people, to bring the people to God and to bring God to the people.  To be in the world, but not to belong to the world.  They have the direct line to God, and so have a unique position and offer salvation to the people, through this means.

In the reading from Acts, we learn that the vacant place among the apostles (following the loss of Judas) is taken up by Mathias.  Thus the complement of 12 is restored, and so the mission of God can continue.  The means of appointing Mathias, by casting lots is described as enabling the hand of God to be at work, rather than man.

Throughout the passages of scripture today, is the clear message that we must rely on God, and that it is through Jesus that we come to the Father.  The security of this is our vital source of strength in the world, which can be hostile and dangerous.  As followers of Christ, we too are disciples for mission and do so, with faith and hope in him.  Like the early disciples, we should not live selfishly, but strive to be faithful followers of Jesus, and lead mission in his name, and with this spirit of loving and nurturing all of God's creatures.

At this point in the church calendar we are between Ascension and Pentecost.  Jesus has gone up to Heaven, but the Holy Spirit is yet to descend upon the disciples giving them strength and courage to fulfil their mission in the world.  So important to us, in our mission is growing closer to God through prayer.  As we open our hearts and minds to God, in prayer, so we can receive and then so in turn give to others. 

With prayer, we can transform our understanding of the world and all people, by learning to see things anew inspired with love of God.

Let us pray that today, the Church can be strong in bringing this to a greater reality for everyone.  That we can see the fruits of mission in the world.  Lord, give  us your people strength and courage in our mission that we know the world needs.

* To proclaim the good news of the kingdom
* to teach, nurture and baptise new believers
* to respond to human need with loving service
* to seek to transform unjust structures of society; and
* to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the earth

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