June 14, 2020

Sunday Online Worship June 14, 2020

Passage: Matthew 9:35-10:23

You know at this point we may be saying, “Well, if Jesus is giving me that kind of authority, I could probably handle that.  It reminds me of a story in the Old Testament which is our Old Testament lesson for today that we did not read.  It is Genesis chapter 18.

It’s where three strangers come to visit Abraham and he invites them to stay and shows them extraordinary hospitality.  He gets water and washes their feet.  He has a servant select and prepare one of the calves for a meal.  He runs in the tent and he tells Sarah to get the flour and the water and to start preparing freshly baked cakes for these his guests.  It turns out that these guests are God.

Some suggest it may be God and two angels or God in three persons, I don’t know.  But in the midst of that as Abraham is serving them, they ask if Sarah is around and he says yes, she’s in the tent, she’s preparing you cakes.

And the one, I guess it’s God’s voice, one of the three that are there say to Abraham within earshot of Sarah says these words, he says “in due season when I return, Sarah will have given birth to a son.  Now you’ve got to understand, they are in there eighties or nineties and they understood that they were long past childbearing years.  Especially Sarah.  How could that be?

And Sarah laughs.  And God hears Sarah’s laugh.  And God asks Abraham, “Why is Sarah laughing?”  And God says this wonderful thing, “Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?”  The word wonderful in the Hebrew can also be translated elsewhere as “Can anything be too difficult for the Lord?”

Too wonderful or too difficult.  You know when something is really hard to accomplish, it’s a wonderful thing once it’s accomplished.

So, when we hear these words, “is there anything too wonderful for the Lord”, we step back into the gospel lesson and into this place where Jesus is sending the twelve out.  Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord to accomplish, not just through Jesus the son, God incarnate living and working and preaching, healing and curing and casting out demons and raising those from the dead among us.

Is there anything too wonderful that the Lord can’t do through Jesus who can give such authority to his disciples.  And make them apostles, sending them out.  Is there anything too wonderful?  And we hear this and we’re thinking at this point in the story and the gospel lesson, wow, is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?

And then in a Paul Harvey moment we get to page two, Jesus gets to page two and the story continues.  Jesus is saying to the disciples go and 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 bags 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 is in it is worthy and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it, and 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, 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 judgement than for that town.

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?  So be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

Be aware of them for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in there synagogues and you will be dragged before the governors and kings before the son of God comes.  This is the word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God.

Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?  This picture is still the same, Jesus sending the twelve, but that picture has taken on a different hue from page two of the lesson.  Yes, you have this wonderful power to heal and to raise the dead, and to cleanse the lepers, but Jesus is telling the disciples, you are going to have to do so in material poverty.  Don’t take anything with you.

Don’t even take a change of tunics.  Don’t take a second pair of sandals.  If the old pair wears out, rely on the hospitality of those you encounter.  That’s what he’s saying.  You’re going to have to rely on them.

But more importantly, you’re going to have to rely on God. Because Jesus is, by giving them authority, is giving them the sustenance of the Spirit to help sustain them through this mission trip.

Now there’s good news and there’s bad news in this.  The good news is that Jesus is not sending the twelve abroad, they don’t have to get a Passport, there’s no visa that will be required, they don’t have to get their shots.

They’re staying home.  They’re among the people who worship as they worship, who pretty much believe what they believe.  Maybe they haven’t heard about Jesus, maybe they have.  Maybe they may be receiving and maybe they may not.

And that’s where the bad news is.  You’re staying home.  The truth is that Judea was not a homogenous place, there were in different sects of Judaism…

Pharisees, seduces, and others.  There were different political persuasions.  There were different points of view politically.  And that was reflected even within the twelve.  Matthew was a tax collector.

Matthew was collaborating with the occupying Romans, being a tax collector for them.  Tax collectors were not well thought of but there was that group of folks who tried to get along and make the best of a bad situation.  There were others like the Zealots.

Some suggest that maybe even Judas Iscariot was a Zealot.  They were about revolting and trying to throw off the Roman Empire and kick it out of Judea so that they would not be under the thumb of the Roman Empire.  There were others.  There were the Sanhedrin was the ruling body and they worked alongside of the Romans just so they could exist.  So, they could survive.  They were just trying to survive so they would not be disbanded or wiped out.

There are so many different things going on here.  They went from village to village and Jesus said to be smart about it.  Be prepared, you might get beat up.  You may be persecuted.

And we’re not just talking about the Romans; we’re talking about your own people.  Not everybody was into the Jesus thing going on here.

Some of them were skeptical of that.  Some of them did not want to hear that news.  Some of them didn’t understand it and didn’t want to receive it.  Some may say no thank you, or they may be a little bit more belligerent in their response to hearing that the kingdom of God had come near through the life and the ministry and the mission and the work of Jesus in that time and in that place.

But one of the things that this lesson starts out with is it says, what motive did Jesus have to send the twelve out to begin with?  Jesus had been doing all these things.  He had been curing the sick, he had been healing the blind, he’d raised a child from a deathbed.  He had been casting out demons, he’d been making people well and he had also been teaching.

Now that’s the one thing that he did not send the twelve out at this time to do.  That was reserved until after the resurrection.  You may have heard a little bit about that last week.

But this week, Jesus has not gone to the cross yet.  And he doesn’t ask the disciples to teach.  There are all these things, but when Jesus looked out on the crowd it says that he had compassion.

He had compassion for the crowds because they were harassed and they were helpless.  He saw them through the eyes of his compassion that was born out of his love, mercy and grace.

Jesus heard and saw that the crowds and the condition in which they were so he gave authority through his power to the twelve to go out and do these wonderful things in his name.  Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?

But then Jesus also says there is the harvest but the laborers are few.  One of the things that Jesus exhibited here in his compassion was that he was listening.  He was listening to the cries of the people.

He could see how harassed they were by the Romans and just by the rigors of life and that life was not fair.  For some of them, especially the poor, or the disenfranchised, were helpless to try to change the way the world treated them.

The word compassion literally means “suffering with,” especially when we translate it in a context like this.  Jesus felt and knew the suffering of the crowds that he witnessed.

So, he gave authority to the twelve to got out into the crowds to cure, cast out demons and to share the good news that the kingdom of heaven had come near.  That was a word of hope.

That was a word of promise that the day was coming when they would no longer be harassed and helpless, but would be able to live into the full citizenship of the kingdom of God.  There are people now who are crying out who are harassed and feel helpless in this world here on our shores, in our cities and towns and all over the world.

Jesus is calling for his followers to take up their cross and go out, not across the globe, but right here and to look with his eyes through his lens of compassion and see the harassed and the helpless.

Hear their cries just as Jesus hears their cries and be a word of hope not just through words, but through behavior, action and the way we work in the world.

When we see harassment and someone putting their thumb on someone and pressing them down to call it out and say that it is wrong and needs to stop.  What did Jesus say to those disciples whom he sent forth?

He said it’s not going to be easy.  Even in your own backyard, it’s NOT going to be easy.  There will be those who will persecute you, be angry with you, pull you in before the governors, leaders and synagogue, and try to hold you accountable.  I’m not sure to what.

The truth is that I’m pretty sure that in the harvest, which points toward the final judgement, there will be an accounting there.  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

To open my ears and hear the calls and the cries as Jesus hears and look through that lens of compassion and to see what Jesus sees.

Dust off the self-righteousness and anger and seek understanding.  Is anything too difficult for the Lord to do?  That he might transform lives and that we might be able to see through his eyes.

To hear Jesus whisper even as we try to stand and do what’s right, what we believe his will is for us as those who are sent into this world as followers of Jesus Christ our Lord.  To stand and hear him whisper in our ears, “Is there anything too wonderful for me?”  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.