July's message from our pastor.
This article will contain a lot of reading from your bible. I encourage you to take time, when you do, to digest and reflect on the words of the texts…they are all familiar. This month I would really like you to study the texts highlighted. I will also be preaching on the texts for the next 5 Sundays.
I would like you to read Matthew 10. Please, all 42 verses and maybe the first of Chapter 11.
(pause) about a 3-minute read
Jesus is, I believe, at the precipice, of his ministry. Now ready to give the ball to his disciples; but only on a limited basis; things will begin to get messy. In fact, did you notice the change in their titles: disciples to apostles…students/learners to messengers/delegates? Jesus knows the on-the-ground training must commence because his time is short. The kinks in the ministry process must be ironed out and the twelve, like it or not, must be prepared (prepared for the best and the worst).
Jesus is, I believe, painting a picture for us future believers, to know what is being required of us and the expectations of what will be in store for us as well. He knows that things are really not going to change all that much, even 2000 years later. Yes, he is the Prince of Peace, but he doesn’t bring peace. His message is one of radical transformation. It is as radical today as it was when the twelve received it.
Answering the call that is made of each of us sounds sweet and innocent. I can assure you it is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life but it is also the hardest, demanding, frightening, and abusive thing I’ve done as well. Yes, abusive. The battle scars are deep and painful, but the reward is as high as the heavens and oh the joy that fills my soul. Most everyone believes they listen to God and know what is right or wrong, what to do and what not to do. I have never met a Christian that doesn’t have an opinion.
Matthew lists the twelve chosen ones, THE disciples. He even gives a little commentary that includes Judas Iscariot. Matthew sets the tone, that “every one of us must be a reaper, because there is someone each of us could and must bring to God.”(Dr. William Barclay). As every good harvester knows…To everything there is a season….(ok you can sing along with the Byrds and David Crosby and Roger McGuinn) but there is so much more. Yes, we know verses 1 through 8 of Chapter 3 in Ecclesiastes but what about 9 through 22 or chapter 4? The time has always been there, the harvest has always been ripe.
(pause… 5 minutes read, unless you listen to the song!)
Jesus sends them/us out to proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons - and yet it seems we do not know how to do what we know to do or how to be what we know to be. The harvest is so ripe for the life-giving, justice-bringing, sin-freeing, evil-obliterating Word of God, but many of us Jesus workers refuse to go to the fields and fail to be what and who we know to be. And the harvest won't wait forever. It will fester. It will rot. It will explode. Notice Jesus’ emphasis on continued mission as well (giving a cup of water as needed vs. 42).
The Apostle Paul in all his letters brings home the reality of how hard this kingdom-harvesting work is. We cannot expect to be about casting out evil without real pushback. Be it from demonic forces or well-intentioned peace makers. We cannot expect to help heal deep, open, and life-threatening wounds without putting ourselves in harm's way and going to places where they are continuously inflicted. We cannot expect to cleanse lepers from a safe distance. We cannot proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ from a sound-proof bunker of personal protection. We cannot raise the dead without spending time in graveyards, morgues, and streets. We cannot do any of this without a willingness to suffer with those long oppressed and facing injustice.
Jesus did just that for us because he didn’t want pain and suffering, hate and despair…the voices of condemnation to have the last word. Jesus was not afraid to stoop down and take a knee for us, to reach down for us. Friends, he wrote in the dust for us, even as we stood as sinners, he reached a hand down for us when we sank and took our eyes off of him, he was down with us as we were enveloped in condemnation, he looked down on us as he hung on a cross and suffered for the world to see. Hour by hour, day by day, he continues to lift us out of personal wars, our doubts, our past. Regardless how loud or often people harass or put us down, he builds us up because he acts on our behalf.
He shares his authority with us, so we too may stoop, may kneel, may sit, may walk, may be shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters, regardless of age, gender, sex, sexuality, status, and especially race. We are called to endure to the end and to have no fear.
Jesus would go into the very trenches of life on our behalf and we must, as followers of Christ. He came to us in a cattle trough, he worked as a laborer in carpentry, he associated with lepers, tax collectors, heretics, the people society turned away… he turned to! He got up and stood tall for us and he stands in the presence of God at this very moment to stick up for us, yes, right at this very moment he fights just for us so we can do the work and ministry he calls each of us to do.
Oh, we aren’t restricted to staying in our place, our neighborhoods, or our circle of friends no….quite the opposite…. we have been commissioned to go to the world and preach the good news and make disciples of … ALL (you will hear me point out the word PAS/PASASS)….entire nations and peoples. Even in these days, you can share our worship, our classes, our concerts with not only your friends and family but … ALL the world.
It isn’t an easy task. It takes enormous faith to labor for an abundant, life-saving harvest of justice and love, peace and reconciliation. We will need an arm to lean on and perhaps a hand to be carried in to boldly ask to be among the reapers. We are going to need a lot of faith and courage, endurance and mercy. We are going to need to extend and receive radical hospitality from strangers who may well be our angels. We are going to need to trust that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character calls forth no small amount of hope. We need all of the above and then some in order to go into the fields of God’s world and bring in a heavenly harvest on earth that feeds and sustains us all. I pray you will join me!