Gathering at God's Table: The Meaning of Mission in the Feast of Faith

Throughout history people of faith have been booted out into the world to bring God's love to everybody, not just a select few. Insightfully explores the meaning of mission in our lives and reminds us of the work Jesus and his disciples set out to do.

Katharine Jefferts Schori

6 x 9, 256 pp | 978-1-59473-316-1

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A profound reminder of our role in God's vision for a restored and reconciled world.

“The work before us—this mission of God's—is immense, cosmic, even. The world is hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, lonely, imprisoned and enslaved—because some parts are. The creation is groaning in travail because of our abuse of the garden in which we have been set. The body is ailing. Participating in God's mission is about seeing and responding to that collective suffering, and beginning to understand our interconnection with the other parts of the body”

—from the Introduction

In the Christian tradition, believers are called to do more than sit around and pray. Throughout the Gospel—and throughout history—people of faith have been quite literally booted out into the world to bring God’s love to everybody, not just a select few. That’s the meaning of mission—from the Latin verb mitto, meaning, “to send.” It is the work that Jesus and his disciples set out to do—feeding, healing and teaching.

In an insightful and powerful voice, Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, explores the meaning of mission in the context of contemporary life, reminding us of the Anglican Communion's Five Marks of Mission:

  • Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

  • Teach, Baptize and Nurture New Believers

  • Respond to Human Need with Loving Service

  • Seek to Transform Unjust Structures of Society

  • Strive to Safeguard the Integrity of Creation, and Sustain and Renew the Life of the Earth

“A gift to our worldwide Communion, indeed to the whole church. These gems sparkle with insight and challenge.... A classic for renewal in the church’s commitment as servant to God’s mission.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate, the Anglican Church of Canada

“A love story between the churched soul and the all-consuming work of God on earth. This compilation of stories and commentary, confession and hymning joy, will move even the most recalcitrant of us to greater humility and more gratitude.”

Phyllis Tickle, author, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, Why It Matters

“Teems with the particulars of human care, human contact and human compassion.... Readers will be able to ‘take heart’ and ‘lift up our hearts’ at Katharine’s compelling testimony.”

Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Invites us to gain strength from the stories of courageous mission leaders, listen for God’s call into new and sometimes risky places and to become transformative leaders for the church today.”

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose, Ecumenical and Interreligious Deputy, The Episcopal Church

“Wide-ranging, biblical and creative ... weaves a tapestry of spirituality for the Five Marks of Mission that inspires a discipleship of solidarity and illuminates what the church’s faithfulness in God’s mission means in the twenty-first century.”

The Rev. Canon Dr. Titus Presler, principal, Edwardes College, Peshawar; author,
Going Global with God: Reconciling Mission in a World of Difference

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii

Part I
The First Mark of Mission: To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom Fear Not 3

Proclaiming the Good News Relentlessly 7
Seeing the Face of Jesus 12
From the Upper Room to the Ends of the Earth 15
Archaeology of Hope 20
Blessing and Hope 25
Leaving Home 29
Tweeting the Gospel 33
One Spirit, Many Gifts 38
The Meaning of Martyrdom 42
Looking for Life 47
Living Abundantly 51
Nourished by the Word 55

Part II
The Second Mark of Mission: To Teach, Baptize, and Nurture New Believers Jesus: Our GPS 61

Nurturing New Believers 65
Learning to Be Light 72
Teaching and Learning the Presence of God 75
On the Road 78
The Freedom to Serve 82
Leading into New Waters 87

Part III
The Third Mark of Mission: To Respond to Human Need with Loving Service Salt of the Earth 97

Face to Face 101
Healing and Wholeness 106
City on a Hill 116
Many Gifts, One Mission 120
The Meaning of Mercy 124
Spring Training 128

Part IV
The Fourth Mark of Mission: To Seek to Transform Unjust Structures of Society The Quest for Justice 135

Turning the Tables 139
Building Justice 143
Border Crossings 148
Minding the Gap 153
Living the Dream 157
Enough for Everyone 160
Created for Life 163
Tending the Vine 168
Casting Out Demons 172
Traveling Light 176
Sharing the Wealth 180
Living in Joyful Hope 186

Part V
The Fifth Mark of Mission: To Strive to Safeguard the Integrity of Creation, and Sustain and Renew the Life of the Earth One Body 193

In the Garden 197
Healing the Body of God 202
Transforming the Planet 206
Networks for the Future 210

Notes 215
Suggestions for Further Reading 219


Why did you write this book and who did you write it for?
This book addresses mission in its broad sense because this is a season in which the Church is remembering that its task is to turn outward to do the work to which God has called it. Most of that work is Ťin the worldŚ rather than Ťin the Church.Ś I put those phrases in quotation marks because there is not nearly so much distinction as most people think. The work of mission means what we are sent to do. It cannot have its primary focus on those who are already members of the Church.

In the Christian tradition, ŤmissionŚ has often been understood in terms of proselytizing. How does your definition differ˘or resonate˘with that?
Mission work is not so much about proselytization as about transformation. Counting conversions is not the point, changing the world is˘and it often happens one person at a time.

Do you expect this book to change anyoneˇs mind? about what?
I do hope this book expands how people understand mission. The fault line between at least a couple of Christian ŤcampsŚ is whether mission means evangelism or social justice work. I donˇt think you can separate the two, and I think mission is actually broader than both together. I also see signs that the wider Church is beginning to heal those divisions in the hope that together we can do far more than any of us alone.

What is the biggest challenge to the Church for living a more mission-focused faith? And whatˇs at stake if we fail to embrace our role in this work?
Part of the difficulty in most western parts of the Church today is the intense self-focus. Mission invites, encourages, and prods Christians to recognize that they donˇt exist for themselves but for the world. To many people it feels safer to stay inside and focus on people who are already ŤinŚ the church, but that is not the way of life. Education, formation, and worship are essential parts of the inward work, but they rot if they donˇt put all of that to work in serving, in ministering to the people beyond the in-group. Missionaries put their gifts to work in Godˇs mission to heal and transform the world˘and we have countless missionaries doing that in their daily lives, without leaving home.

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PART I : The First Mark of Mission

To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

Fear Not

  • What are you most afraid of right now? a loved oneˇs illness, your job or lack of one, what the country or your parish church is going to look like next year or ten years from now?

Proclaiming the Good News Relentlessly

  • Where and how is your faith challenged? What ways of faithful living have brought amazing possibilities to your life? How have these possibilities allowed you to proclaim the gospel to others?

Seeing the Face of Jesus

  • Do you have as urgent a hunger as those Greek tourists that fateful Passover week in Jerusalem? Think about your own desires. Where have you gone looking for˘or discovered˘Jesus recently?

From the Upper Room to the Ends of the Earth

  • Where is your upper room? How does it nourish you for the mission of proclaiming the gospel?

Archaeology of Hope

  • In what ways have you engaged in the creative art of sharing the hope planted in the gospel of Jesus?

Blessing and Hope

  • What are you most grateful for? What unwelcome surprises have become blessings?

Leaving Home

  • Where and how are you answering that call to Ťgo, leave your family, home, and nationŚ?

Tweeting the Gospel

  • Whoˇs tweeting the gospel in your life, in your parish, in your community? Whoˇs rapping the good news of Jesus? What new form or language will you use to tell the good news of a God who loves us enough to enter the world in human flesh?

One Spirit, Many Gifts

  • What is your part in preparing the banquet?

The Meaning of Martyrdom

  • What sort of martyrdom are you being invited into?

Looking for Life

  • Where have you seen newness in your life recently? Did you reconnect with an old friend? hear from your children? meet a new friend? learn something new?

Living Abundantly

  • What do you find when you go out that door at the end of worship? Has your vision and understanding shifted enough that you can see rich and spreading pasture? Does your heart sense abundance rather than scarcity?

Nourished by the Word

  • How do you find nourishment in the company of others? How does this feed you for the work of proclaiming the good news of the reign of God?

PART II: The Second Mark of Mission

To Teach, Baptize, and Nurture New Believers

Jesus: Our GPS

  • What does your road look like? What does the Jesus road look like in the life of your community? Who is your companion on the Jesus road? How will you help to nurture others on that road?

Nurturing New Believers

  • Where have you helped mentor or nurture new leaders? How are you developing as a leader?

Learning to Be Light

  • Where are you becoming light to those around you? How might you help others be light?

Teaching and Learning the Presence of God

  • In what unexpected ways have you discovered Godˇs presence in your life? Have you ever gathered with others to share some of those stories?

On the Road

  • Where do you find companions who can offer confidence and courage? Correction or critique?

The Freedom to Serve

  • What are the prisons we see around us? in our own lives? Which of them are self-imposed?

Leading into New Waters

  • What creative ways of forming new leaders have you found in your faith community?

PART III: The Third Mark of Mission

To Respond to Human Need with Loving Service

Salt of the Earth

  • How have salt and light played a part in your response to human need?

Face to Face

  • Think about the ways youˇve come face to face with God in your own community. How has that experience influenced your response to serve others?

Healing and Wholeness

  • How is the community you live in affected by connections between health, systemic injustice, and violence? How might your faith community respond?

City on a Hill

  • What do we do in our own faith communities to live out this healing mission? How are we giving glory to God?

Many Gifts, One Mission

  • What unexpected gifts have you discovered in others˘and in yourself? How have you seen these gifts used for the good of others?

The Meaning of Mercy

  • Loving our neighbors means recognizing the body by the side of the road as a dignified human being, in need of mercy. What sorts of bodies are especially hard to recognize? Instead of just praying, ŤLord have mercy,Ś let your prayer be, ŤLord let me be mercy; let us be mercy.Ś

Spring Training

  • Where and how is self-concern getting in the way of serving neighbors?

PART IV: The Fourth Mark of Mission

To Seek to Transform Unjust Structures of Society

The Quest for Justice

  • Where is compassion moving in your life? What injustice is challenging you to act?

Turning the Tables

  • What are you doing to transform injustice in your neighborhood? your city, state, and nation? What connection do you make with the reign of God?

Building Justice

  • Where has creativity fostered healing in your life?

Border Crossings

  • What borders have you crossed in seeking justice in your community? How has gratitude motivated you?

Minding the Gap

  • What gaps are apparent in your community? Where do you need courage to reach across?

Living the Dream

  • What part of Godˇs dream for a healed world most needs to be heard in your own context? Where do your own gifts connect?

Enough for Everyone

  • How will you help fill the hunger for justice and peace?

Created for Life

  • For what special purpose have we been set apart? What gifts do we bring to this journey toward abundant life?

Tending the Vine

  • What branches can you see that have been lopped off? How might you and those around you help grafts to grow and heal?

Casting out Demons

  • What demons of injustice need to be cast out in your community? What demons of injustice threaten our larger communities˘our nation and our world?

Traveling Light

  • What baggage needs to be unloaded by our communities˘and society at large˘in order to break down the prejudice that underlies injustice? How can you personally travel more lightly to come closer to God and others?

Sharing the Wealth

  • What are you doing at the very local level to feed the hungry? What can you do at larger scales, through your work as a citizen˘in advocacy with legislators, organizing with others, and with your vote?

Living in Joyful Hope

  • What signs of hope for a transformed world˘both large and small˘have you encountered?

PART V: The Fifth Mark of Mission

To Strive to Safeguard the Integrity of Creation and Sustain and Renew the Life of the Earth

One Body

  • What bodies are you a member of? Which ones need healing? Where do you see allergic reactions to other members of those bodies?

In the Garden

  • Where have you seen the glory of God passing by? What garden are you being called to work in?

Healing the Body of God

  • Where do you see the body of God in need of healing? Where might you look for partners in that work?

Transforming the Planet

  • What sorts of organizing are needed to address the differential vulnerabilities in our cities? What can you be doing in your own city?

Networks for the Future

  • Where are you discovering connections you were unaware of last year, or five years ago? How is that growing interdependence a gift for the transformation of Godˇs world toward shalom? Who needs to be part of your ongoing discovery?