By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
June 15, 2008
Read: Genesis 18:1-15;21:1-7 and Matthew 9:35-10:23
This morning Jesus tells the disciples to go to the lost sheep…the harassed and helpless ones…the ones without a shepherd, and give them good news. It starts with compassion – feeling another’s pain – and responding with hope. It’s the essence of doing ministry.
But doing ministry the way Jesus tells us to do ministry is dangerous, because these “lost sheep” are the dangerous ones who expose the evil of the world we have created. The harassed and helpless ones remind us how cruel people can be to one another. Their hurt reveals the consequences of injustice. Indeed, it would be better if these “lost sheep” disappeared. Then, we “found sheep” could go on living in the deceptive comfort of our illusions.
But Jesus says, go to them. Go to them and confront their pain with them. Tell their illnesses and diseases, “You have NO power!” Tell the unclean spirits that torment their minds and distort their self-image, ”You have NO power!” Tell the religious elite and scripture shouters who are quick to judge and slow to serve, “You have NO
power!” Tell the politicians who court the votes and resources of the rich and ignore the poverty and desolation of the poor, “You have NO power!” Tell the presidents and kings of this world who are obsessed with making war at the expense of those with no voice, “You have NO power!” Tell those who secretly laugh and scoff when humanity cries out for peace, “You have NO power!” Tell those who preach a message of fear and hate, “You have NO power!”
Going to the “lost sheep” is dangerous. Preaching good news to these dangerous ones is dangerous. Acknowledging these powerless ones is dangerous. Jesus said so. He warned his disciples, and he warns us, too. (Based on the words of Glenn S, Desperate Preacher site)
As my friend, Barbara says, “What keeps nagging at me, though, is the way he sent them out—no money, no shoes, not even a walking stick. Why send them out with so much power and so few accessories? Wouldn’t they have had more impact if they had arrived in style, in a stretch limo or a long, sleek bus with something catchy painted on the side, accompanied by their own driver, caterer and publicist? That would have had some authority to it, some prestige appropriate to their task…but apparently that is not what Jesus wanted for them. Because the way Jesus set it up, they could not provide for others out of their own abundance, they could only provide for them out of their need.
There they were, vested with the authority to heal the sick and raise the dead, going barefoot from house to house, saying, “Excuse me, but may we stay with you? We can’t pay you anything, I’m afraid, and we don’t have anything to barter, but perhaps you could see your way clear to giving us a bowl of soup and a slice of bread?” There is tremendous paradox here. Are they beggars or miracle workers? And if they are miracle workers, then why must they depend on the kindness of strangers for a cup of water or a corner in which to sleep? (Barbara Brown Taylor – Bread of Angels)
There is a Buddhist custom that seems to have something to do with this story, this piece of scripture. As shared by someone who visited Cambodia, all seekers of the truth there spend at least a year of their lives as beggars. They go from village to village wearing nothing but a saffron robe and owning nothing but a begging bowl, asking perfect strangers to supply their most basic needs. After that year is over, they are free to return to their former ways of life, but none of them returns the same person.
What it must be like to own nothing, to have nothing but your own need, and to understand that the only thing you have to offer anyone else is what you yourself have been given? That whatever they give to you comes from what has been given to them? What must it be like not only to talk dependence on God but to live it everyday for a year, understanding that reliance on God equals reliance on the hospitality of others? In this dangerous world. That kind of knowledge could change a person for good.
After a year like that, you could hardly take your turn at a soup kitchen and hold yourself apart from the person on the other side of the counter. When you looked at her you would see yourself, or you would see God, but either way whatever you offered her would be offered not out of your abundance but out of your need. It would be offered out of your need to be related to her, your need to know about her life and to let her know about yours, your need to give her a portion of what has been given to you and to receive whatever she has to give you in return without thinking that makes you a hero.
It is simply what you do, when you know who you are and who you are working for, when you are sent out to proclaim the kingdom and to act it out with no money, no shoes, not even a walking stick. Because when it comes down to being a provider of God’s love, there is really only one provider, who sends us out with nothing at all and with everything that we need: healing, forgiveness, restoration, resurrection. (Barbara Brown Taylor – Bread of Angels) That is all we really have to share with others.
But when we are out in the field of harvest, which is our every-day life–Jesus says to us: “go and be healers–all of you!” The Spirit of God will empower you as you need it.
A neighbor may share with you: “I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t even want to live another day . . . my ex-husband is suing me for custody, I am three months behind with my bills, my kids cry themselves to sleep every night. . .”
And you may sit down with your neighbor and the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts, and you will hear incredible words come out of your mouth–words of life, of hope, of encouragement. And as you touch this woman and pray for her, tears may run down her cheek and next she is thanking you for the words of life you have shared with her. And you’ll think: “this wasn’t me talking. This was God talking through me!”
Jesus says to his disciples: “you don’t need schooling, you don’t need a special gift, you don’t need to wait until you’re worthy, until you are perfected in this life. I am giving you a license –a license to heal! Go to my lost sheep and heal them. Give freely as you have received freely. And I will be with you every step on the way. Trust me . . . just go–you’ll see.”
And the disciples came back and reported to Jesus: “wow!! God healed the people we prayed over …and even demons were under our authority. And Jesus probably thought: “I told you, didn’t I?”
And Jesus says to you and me: “I give you a license to heal . . .freely you have received, freely give. Go to my lost sheep . . . and heal them. And I will be with you every step of the way. Trust me . . . just go–you’ll see.”
Dennis Folds tells the story of a damaged Jesus in London. The city had been devastated by the bombings during World War II. The bombs that dropped on the city struck and destroyed buildings of every kind: office buildings, factories, apartments, homes, museums, government buildings, churches.
Soon after World War II, a group of German students, through kindness and love and a deep desire to return Christian love to those who had lost so much, volunteered to go to London to help rebuild an English cathedral that had been severely damaged by German bombs.
As work progressed, they became greatly concerned about a large statue of Jesus Christ, whose arms were outstretched and beneath which was the written inscription from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The student volunteer workers had great difficulty trying to restore the hands, which had been completely destroyed. They worked and worked and tried and tried, but nothing seemed to successfully replace Jesus’ outstretched hands.
Finally, after much work and much discussion, they decided to let the hands of Jesus remain missing and they changed the written inscription to read this way: “Christ has no hands but ours.”
This morning, God is calling us to have an active faith. God is calling us to refocus–away from the causes of our problems or illnesses and focus on our healing. Whether you need emotional healing, healing in your relationships, or a physical healing, God is encouraging us to look for healing, to walk toward healing, to expect God to come through in some way to heal us and /or help us cope. We as Christians have every reason to look to our future with confidence and courage. For our Healer, Jesus Christ, is active in our lives always, no matter where our journey takes us. Amen.
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