We take a break from our summer sermon series Judges and Kings to share and celebrate our recent mission team’s week with Appalachia Service Project (ASP) in Johnson County, TN.
Scripture: Isaiah 52:7-10
In a few minutes we will get to hear from some of the people who went on this summer’s Appalachia Service Project mission trip. Appalachia Service Project is a thing Arlington Temple does every summer, led by Pat Booher for 19 years now, and Arlington Temple acts as a kind of anchor church, bringing people from lots of different small churches or other various connections, who might not have enough people to form their own group, together into one group. This year we sent a group of 26 people to Johnson County, TN, for the week of July 16-20, and they spent that week helping making homes in that area safe, warm and dry. If, after today, you are interested in going on ASP next summer, Pat would be overjoyed to talk to you.
“How beautiful,” says the prophet Isaiah – “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news; who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who proclaim to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
I was not part of this year’s ASP team, but I have been several times in the past, and I know my feet have probably spent that time being a lot more dirty than beautiful – but there is something beautiful about going out into this world to bring good news.
Back in Isaiah’s day, this good news meant that people who had been sent away in exile from the land they called home were allowed to return. It meant they could rebuild and repair everything that war had left in ruins – their city walls, their homes, their Temple. It meant that after everything they had been through, they could see now that God had been with them through it all and had managed, in the end, to bring redemption and salvation out of the whole mess.
The kind of good news we have to proclaim today might be a little different, but maybe not really so much. When our feet go out in mission today, our good news might be that God hasn’t forgotten people, even in one of the poorest regions of our country where people might often feel like the rest of the country has forgotten or misunderstood them. Our good news might be that God is always at work repairing and rebuilding, not just homes and buildings but hearts and lives as well.
When our feet go out in mission, there is always the danger of being presumptuous: of thinking that we alone have good news to bring to people who don’t have any. It’s true that we may have some time and resources that others do not, and we can use those to help. But the people we meet and serve tend to have some good news for us, too. They share with us the good news of trust – they trust us with the safety of their homes. They share with us the good news of hospitality – they let us enter into their place and their homes and their lives, maybe bringing tomato sandwiches or lemonade, maybe bringing company and conversation, maybe sometimes, according to their ability, even working alongside the rest of the group. They share the good news that we are welcome, even in this place where we are strangers, and where we shouldn’t take that welcome for granted.
When our feet go out in mission, my hope for our missionaries is always that they do good and faithful work, sharing the good news that they have to bring, but also that their eyes will be open for the good news that God has given other people to bring to them.
That’s also my hope for all of us. The best mission trips aren’t just about one week each summer. They’re about reframing things so we’re more ready to be in mission the other 51 weeks of the year. They’re about opening our eyes and our hearts to all the opportunities around us to share good news in our everyday lives: with people in need of food or shelter in our own communities, neighbors who are sick or lonely, or someone at school who needs a friend.
And for those of us who didn’t go on this particular trip, I hope that hearing the experience of our mission team can also reframe things for us. You may not have been out there with a hammer or a Sawzall this week, and you may or may not have the physical stamina or vacation time to do so next year, but you can still go out there and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, welcome the stranger, and in doing all these things bring to others the good news that Jesus first brought to us. AND, you can be ready to receive hospitality and love and mercy and generosity from those same people who have good news to bring to you.
When we all have beautiful feet ready to share the good news God has given us, and we’re all waiting on the footsteps of those who bring the good news God has given them, then “all the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”