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Quotations I love: Richard Halverson on being sent

Lynne Baab • Wednesday December 14 2016

Quotations I love: Richard Halverson on being sent

“You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you there. Wherever you are, God has put you there. He has a purpose in your being there. Christ, who indwells in you, has something He wants to do through you, wherever you are. Believe this, and go in His grace, and love and power.”
—Rev. Dr. Richard C. Halverson’s Benediction, U.S. Senate Chaplain from 1981 to 1994

Imagine hearing this benediction every Sunday. How would it shape the way you go into your week? How would it change the way you view your circumstances?

I first heard these words a few years ago at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Seattle, where indeed the congregation hears this benediction many Sundays each year. I loved it so much I contacted the minister, Doug Kelly, to thank him for it, and he told me that he got it from Richard Halverson, a former Senate chaplain.

Why is this benediction so encouraging to me? The word “sent” is central to the Christian faith, but we often believe that missionaries are the sent ones, and the rest of us are stuck in our everyday lives. There are significant and especially holy Christians, we often believe, like Mother Teresa and people who really do make a big difference in the world, but the rest of us somehow less significant. Certainly, we may be trying to obey God where we are, but we can easily feel that our efforts are so small compared with people whose ministries really matter.

Halverson’s words affirm that every single person has been sent by God wherever they go and wherever they are. If we want to be a follower of Jesus, then we can be assured that wherever we are, God wants to do something through us. God, in fact, has put us in the place where we are and has a purpose in our being here.

These ideas are deeply rooted in the New Testament. In his prayer for his disciples in John 17, Jesus says, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (verse 18). On the day of the resurrection, when Jesus first gives the Holy Spirit to the disciples, he says very similar words (John 20:21).

The Latin word for “send” is “missio.” That’s the word we get “mission” from. Sadly, we have come to believe that some Christians have a mission – especially missionaries and people in paid Christian ministry – but the rest of us somehow live a different kind of life.

A favorite book that addresses these issues uses the word “sentness” in its title and throughout the book: Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians by Kim Hammond and Darren Chronshaw. They argue that all Christians are sent into the world like Jesus was.

The word “mission” gets us into trouble because it evokes missionaries and corporate mission statements. I love the word “sentness” to describe a profound reality for each and every Christian, no matter how insignificant we consider our work or everyday life to be.

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee . . .
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love . . .
Take  my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee . . .
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose. . . .
Take my self and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.
—Frances Ridley Havergal (1874)

(Next week: some Christmas thoughts. The week after that: five quotations about thankfulness, the last post in this series of quotations I love. Illustration by Dave Baab, the view east from Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle. Seattle is the city where God sent us for the most years of our life. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below under "subscribe.")

My short book on holding grief and gratitude in two hands helps us cope in hard times. Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life guides us into experiencing both the brokenness and abundance of God's world with authenticity and hope, drawing on the Psalms, Jesus, Paul, and personal experience. It is available for kindle and in paperback (80 pages). 

This is the 15th post in a series on quotations I love. Here are the earlier posts: 
Secrets and compassion    
Four Quotations about attention            
Breton Fisherman’s Prayer  
Arnold Glasow on feeling at home with people  
A. W. Tozer on worship that illuminates work  
The Jerusalem Talmud on enjoying good things  
Thomas Aqinas on loving people we disagree with  

Paul Tournier on building good out of evil 
Thomas Merton on our transparent world  
Moving from intending to pray to actually praying  
Eugene Peterson on paying attention  
Regret and fear are thieves  
Rick Warren on love and disagreement  
Henri Nouwen on being beloved

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