June 18, 2023
3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 6) – Year A
Exodus 19:2-8a; Romans 5:1-8; Psalm 100; Matthew 9:35-10:8-23
Holy One, may my words be your words and may we have ears to hear. Amen.
I had to chuckle to myself as I began putting together my thoughts to share with you this morning. When I preached in January we heard the first of the five discourses from Matthew’s gospel – the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount – the message of the Beatitudes. This morning in our passage, we heard the fourth of Jesus’ five great discourses – which has a focus on Discipleship and Mission. Umm…. Ever wonder why that might be.
Well, let’s take a moment to review what Matthew laid out for us in the Beatitudes. First, Jesus meant the Beatitudes to be for everyone – for you, for me, for us, not just for the people of his time. They are also part Christian discipleship. Second, to live into the spirit of the Beatitudes as a part of our daily lives means looking at them as a whole, not looking at them each individually. Each are related to the others, and they build on one another. Those who are humble or meek may hunger and thirst for righteousness, as they remain open to gaining more knowledge of God. By approaching the Beatitudes in this way, I believe we can see that all are being invited into a new way of being in the world. What would the world look like today if we did try to live with the values of love, mercy and compassion in our everyday lives?
So, what is our connection to what we are hearing today? Well, the Beatitudes gave the people then and today, a set of guidelines to live by which I say is a part of discipleship and mission, our focus this morning.
As the gospel begins Jesus summarizes for us the substance of Christian ministry: teaching to the faithful in their synagogues; proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and every sickness. While, also, showing compassion to the crowds as they were helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd. So, he says to the disciples, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Go therefore and ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” At that point, Jesus summoned the disciples and granted them authority over the unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. He named them as they were summoned, and they were now called apostles. They were twelve in number – Simon, also known as Peter and Andrew; James and John; Phillip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. As apostles, they were sent out in pairs, to do Christ’s mission work. Two things to notice here: they were named in pairs, and they were sent out in pairs. Ministry is never done in isolation, even today.
Jesus is their model for ministry, and he is our model, too. How difficult can it be to do all that he gave them especially after bestowing his power and authority on them. Well, it isn’t just the power and authority, it becomes a little more complicated. Jesus sends them out with explicit instructions – to only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as they go, to cure the sick, proclaim the good news, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. However, all this is to be done without payment. They are to take no gold or silver or copper in their belts. No bag, staff, tunic or sandals for the journey. When they enter a house greet it, if it is worthy, they are to let their peace come upon it. If it is not worthy, they are to let their peace return to them. Beware of how you are being treated. Know this, that when you are in a difficult spot, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for when you do the words will be given to you for the Spirit of the Father will speak through you.
As you can tell, there is a cost to all the apostles are being asked to do. As we are being asked to be Christ’s disciples in the world today, it is not without cost. However, we too, have been given the assurance that when we find ourselves in times of persecution and trouble the Spirit of God will be with us and give us what we need. I don’t know about you but just knowing that the Spirit of God is with me as I step out in action gives me a lot of comfort.
Jesus did not send the apostles out into the mission field without support – the Holy Spirit was there. He is not sending us out into the mission field without support either. Jesus is sending us out to do the work that springs forth from a heart filled with compassion and empathy.
So, how might you, the people of Christ Church Tacoma move out into the mission field with a heart filled with compassion and empathy.
Today I want to leave you with this challenge: Two weeks ago, The Rev. Jonathan Weldon with the assistance of Deacon Donna, offered a presentation on One Parish One Prisoner. Several of you were present for this presentation. Deacon Donna has also offered a couple of articles in the weekly to help educate you.
In case you aren’t aware or are new, in a few words this program offers support for individuals who have been incarcerated and are being released back into society. At the parish a team of six plus an identified leader, in this case here, Deacon Donna, are trained. Once trained this team becomes the support system for the individual as they are preparing to be released and then also continues to support them after they re-enter society. This training and relationship building generally begin a minimum of a year or maybe longer before the individual is scheduled to be released. Before this even happens the person who is incarcerated must apply to become a part of this program.
The first BIG STEP for both sides to become involved is to commit. To commit to being in relationship – the individual with the team and the team with the individual. Remember, I said no ministry is done in isolation so anyone who is involved have a support network. This network is not just here at Christ Church but also includes other churches involved with the same program in the Tacoma area as well as with other congregations in the Diocese.
If we are truly living our baptismal covenant, we all are being called to help those in need, sometimes they may seem unworthy, however, we are merely the vehicles for Christ’s healing touch, his saving grace and his word of hope. Especially these two promises we made and continue to make when we renew our Baptismal Promises:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? And,
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Our response is: I WILL, WITH GOD’S HELP.
If we are to live up to our Baptismal Promises, and care for all, then stepping out in faith to participate in One Parish One Prisoner, I believe can and will transform Christ Church to a new level of being. It is an opportunity to enter the mission field with Christ at our side and the Holy Spirit guiding us. May it be so.