Listening to scripture with missional ears

What does it mean for us to “listen with missional ears”? Everyone approaches scripture with certain filters in place – some intentionally chosen (evangelical, literalist, liberationist, to name a few) others less conscious (historic, linguist, gender or cultural biases, for example). What is a “missional mindset” and how does it impact our reading of scripture? Missional assumes several things about the Christian witness, including the church, its history, and its scriptures. Being missional means having an intentionally outward focus more concerned with being out among people in the community and world, being in touch and in relationship, going to preceding inviting in. When Jesus says, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” (Mark 1:38) and later “I came so that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) He is modeling a missional mindset. Never did Jesus stand within the faith community and call people to come to him – always he went to them. When he called people to him, he was not in the Temple or Synagogue, but out in the towns, or in someone’s home, or their places of commerce and recreation. At the end of his ministry as John envisions it, Jesus confers this missional approach upon the apostles, and through them the whole apostolic community, the church, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit (John 20:21). To be an apostle is to be sent with a message and a mission, just as Jesus was and Paul after him (Gal 1:1), so we are to be like Christ in this (Phil 2)

So, I think that “listening with missional ears” means starting with the understanding that we are sent by a loving God to proclaim that love in word and deed. In 1 John 4 we are urged to “test the spirits” which is another way of saying that we are indeed to have a filter when we see and hear, and this filter, according to John, is God’s love for the world revealed to the world in Jesus, the Christ. We listen with missional ears that have a filter of God’s love for all creation, a love so strong that it compelled the Trinity to send Jesus, the Son, to taken on human flesh, and then for the Holy Spirit to come and continue that incarnational work in the world through the church. We, as church, the Body of Christ, are the continuation of the incarnation.

I’m continuing my summer sermon theme: “Listening to scripture with Missional Ears.” I am working from the Lectionary to prevent me from cherry picking the “easy” and “obvious” missional texts, like Matthew 25:31-46. And I’m using the Old Testament texts, because those are the ones that Jesus and the early church had, and because it further presses me to ask these questions in places where the first glance might say, “there is nothing missional here.”

I will be preaching 6/23 and 6/30 at Rocket Christian Church. 8:30am, so you can still get to wherever else you need to be for the day. Wondering about being missional in rural Texas. This week, Elijah runs from a girl and then pouts because he thinks he is the only one who is faithful. Next week, Elisha follows Elijah around like a littler brother. Elijah says, “Go away,” and Elisha simply says, No, and then asks for too much. Later in the summer I will be preaching from the Prophet Amos, chapters 7-8, which are texts of the judgement and mercy of God.

I welcome your conversation. What do you understand to be “listening with missional ears”? What would you add or remove from what I have said? What implications do you think this way of hearing has for us?

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