The GospelMatthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)
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.”]
Jesus sent his followers out to spread his message of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was a realist. He knew there were those who would reject this message and possibly harm them. He told them to be brave and vigilant. Jesus knew that his followers would have been comfortable staying with him. Today is not that different.
Sherry and I attended the Episcopal State Convention a few years ago and at the convention there was a guest speaker who said some things in his keynote address that stuck with me and I believe what he said fits nicely with today's gospel reading.
He said Christians are very good at gathering but not very good at sending. Gathering at church and celebrating the Eucharist is important. It satisfies many of our spiritual and social needs. We sing hymns of praise. We listen to God's word. We share the peace and we take part in communion. For many of us the service is a time of deep reflection and joy. I haven't even mentioned the delicious treats and great conversations we have after the service.
This convention speaker reminded us that sending out is just as important as gathering in. He talked about a church in Oklahoma that claimed it was doing plenty of outreach in their community. Every year they would write a check to help the people who lived on the poor side of town. He said that finally they came to the realization that unless the parishioners really left there comfortable surroundings and spent time working alongside the less fortunate in there community their Christian obligation was not being fulfilled.
There is comfort in our the Sunday service but it is just one part of practicing our Christianity. Just as Jesus sent out his followers to heal and spread his message, he sends us out as well. I am not proposing that all of you go out two by two and start knocking on doors. What I am suggesting is that you spend some time this week thinking about how you practice your Christian faith. Reflect also on your gifts. What has God given you and how can those gifts be best used in your life as a Christian.
The bedrock of our faith is Love. How do you show your love for the people whose lives you touch.