Many of you know that last week Liz and I were in Orlando for Pastoral Leadership Institute’s “Missional Leader” training. This is a 2 year continuing education program that Liz and I are doing thanks to a generous $2000/year grant from the FLGA District and a $1000/year grant from University Lutheran.
A part of Missional Leader’s training process is to get us to step outside of our comfort zones and treat our surrounding geography like a mission field – looking for openings and opportunities. As a part of that, one of the days we were together, we were given the afternoon assignment to pray about some way in which we might positively engage with the neighborhood around the church we were meeting in (Prince of Peace, Orlando), and then go and do something about that.
After 20 minutes of prayer, we felt like the starting point for our engagement with the local community started at the local grocery store. The store was amazing – if you walked one way down the aisles all of the signs were in Spanish, if you walked the other way, they were in English. We bought some flowers at the store, and continued on with our plan. We were going to buy flowers and then distribute them at the local assisted living facility.
When we got to the assisted living facility, we got permission to hand out flowers and then we broke up. Guys went one way and girls (and baby Tempest) went the other. There were three of us guys, but one quickly got engaged in a conversation, and that left Jerry and me. Jerry and I arrived at the end of the hall quickly, were we found the memory care unit. We asked someone if we could go in and hand out flowers, and she let us in. But I don’t think she had full permission.
On our way out, we were approached by Phoenix. Phoenix was the program director for the facility and didn’t seem quite sure what to make of us. I can understand his apprehension looking back on it – two middle-aged white guys handing out flowers in a memory care unit has some pretty big red flags attached to it. Phoenix asked us, “Why are you doing this?”
I don’t think it would have really worked to recite Luther’s Small Catechism at the time, but it would have been a good enough answer in some other ways. We confessed the explanation of the First Article last week:
“I believe that God defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any worthiness or merit in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
We tried as best as we could to contextualize that message to Phoenix, who ended up giving us a tour of the facility and handing out the left over flowers that we didn’t get handed out (the girls ended up only talking to one lady, but making a huge impact because they had my daughter Tempest with them). Our answer of why we were doing this was because we were taken care of, and had been sent with care for others.
When you think about it, the First Article is really all about mission. God promises to protect us, and to give us good news worth talking about (“all this without any worthiness or merit in me”). Out of God’s protection, we see our duty – to thank, praise, serve, and obey – in other words, to live as He would have us live (which He showed us in the person of Jesus).
Maybe you’re not buying flowers and delivering them to an assisted living facility today, but you’re in your vocation, the place of duty that God has called you to. What if we all did our vocations in such a way that it would inspire the Phoenix’s around us to stop and ask why, and what if we responded contextually with the explanation of the First Article? It’s worth thinking about as we go about our vocations, knowing that we have been taken care of by the Gospel, and that we have now been sent forth from that care with care for others.