The Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:23
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Today is the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost and the second Sunday in Ordinary time.
Our Old Testament Reading should have sounded very familiar to us all. I referred to the passage when I spoke about the Trinity on Trinity Sunday. You will see I am again using the image of the “Troitsa” which is the Russian name given to this icon by the famous Russian iconographer, St. Andrei Rublev. This Icon has the dual meaning of representing the visit to Abraham of the angelic figures but has also come to represent the Trinity.
An interesting part of the story of the visit to Abraham is Sarah's reaction to the news that the angelic figures bring to her and Abraham. She laughs.
I wonder how many of us read that story and wonder: "How could she possibly have laughed at God?"
Well, we are back to talking, as we did last week, about ordinary people who are called to live out their ordinary lives, aren't we?
As I said last Sunday I really appreciate the definition from the Episcopal Dictionary which defines Ordinary Time this way: "Ordinary time can be understood in terms of the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life."
You will remember that last week I suggested that we should stop for a moment and consider how we understand ourselves as Christians.
I suggested that most us, as Christians, are tempted to say we are ordinary people who are living our ordinary lives. That may be true, but we are missing a great deal if we just leave it there. After all, Jesus did say he came to give us life and to give it to us abundantly.
Can I remind you of what I said last week about how important is to say we are ordinary people who are living our ordinary lives in relationship with, and under the influence of, an extraordinary God.
This morning I am going to start, in a similar way, to the way I started last Sunday. I am going, to begin with the Collect for this morning. Let me read it for us:
"Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
From the center of that Collect this morning comes this thought:
"we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion "
Like I did last week I would like to take some time this morning to unpack those two sentences and then to look and see how they may relate to the Scriptures that we have in the Lectionary for this morning. What can we learn about an Ordinary Christian Life from the Collect and the Scriptures today?
So, the Collect says: "..we may proclaim your truth with boldness" What stops us from laughing when God asks something of us? How do we get to the point of being able to proclaim boldly the truth that we have heard from God?
Well, first of I believe there are two aspects to the word proclaim. One is the actions of our lives and the other is the action of how we share the truth that we have heard and know about the Gospel.
So when it comes to the first one. Sometimes it is how Sarah learned and proclaimed. It is through the hard moments and joyful moments of the experience of our lives. It was only after Sarah began pregnant and then gave birth to her son that she was truly convinced of the word that she heard the angelic figures share with Abraham.
Don't we find that to be true in our own lives? We can give intellectual assent to the things of faith. But, in reality, it is only when we experience something of faith come into reality in our own lives that we can proclaim it is a truth for ourselves.
I hope as we consider the Collect and our scriptures this morning we can be encouraged to be more willing and more open to seeing the things of faith become things that are truths for us as well.
The other aspect of "proclaim," that we heard in the Collect, is what we find in the story of Jesus and his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus calls his disciples together and he commissions them to a very specific task. For the first time, they are sent on his behalf to share the good news. So, we may read this account and think to ourselves: "Well, that is all very well, for the disciples. That was then, this is now."
We may have good and well-intentioned reasons why it would not be possible for us to take part in that kind of activity. I wonder if I can draw your attention to what Prayer 8 - For the Mission of the Church - from the Prayers and Thanksgivings in the BCP says: "Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
What is our part in proclaiming the Gospel in the world we live in? How do we share the power of forgiveness and the hope of the resurrection with our friends and neighbors?
Then we get to the next section of the Collect: "and minister your justice with compassion"
Perhaps we can look to the second Lesson for this morning for some guidance and instruction here.
Romans 5 says: "..we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us"
Suffering is not a sign of the hope of the Gospel that many of us are looking forward to or hoping will come our way.
But it is how we deal with or manage that suffering that may be the way that we get to witness to the power of the hope we have. As it says in 1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
So, as we look at the Collect and the Scriptures for this morning what do we learn about living our ordinary lives as examples of "the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life?"
Once again all of the ordinary people we have heard about this morning have found themselves, found their lives, changed because of the Lord.
Can I ask that question I asked last week again? How open are we, how ready are we, to hear the words of the Collect, and the Scriptures this morning, and to claim them for ourselves?
In this period of Ordinary Time are we willing for our Ordinary lives to be examples of "the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life?"
May the Lord bless our endeavors for him this coming week.
Bishops & Father Mike