Sermon, Pentecost 3A, 21 June 2020, St Petri

Matthew 10:24-39

Do not be afraid; take up your cross and follow Christ

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

As Jesus addresses the team before they take to the mission field, he makes it clear that being his sent person won’t be all ‘beer and skittles’!

It is not all ‘beer and skittles’ for us at the moment. Seems to be way more of the ‘sword’ being wielded in the world than there is peace being brokered.

As I hear Jesus sending his disciples into their troubled world I hear him sending us out into ours with this team talk, and I wonder…..

I wonder if the we are exactly where the Holy Spirit wants us to be in this restricted time? Has he got us where Jesus sent these disciples: right out into the community.

We are right ‘out there’ now. Even the very thing we all enjoy, have great respect for, hold as dearest and put most time into – worship: is now being done right out in the streets and homes of this Valley.

Is this COVID time how Jesus has got us back where he has always wanted us to be; with people in homes, streets, workplaces, recreational spaces – and not just for some of our life but all of our life?

Our text is only part of a much longer stirring and troubling team talk that runs right through Matthew chapter 10.

All of a sudden, the disciples have been changed from watching the “Jesus Show’ to doing it; from students (disciples) to practitioners (Apostles) of this new movement of God.

Is this what COVID time is teaching us? Are we being changed from watching the “Jesus Show’ to doing it; from being junior students (disciples) to practitioners (Apostles) of this new movement of God now?

Being Jesus’ sent people puts us right in line with Jesus. He got right out of his comfy ‘heaven’ and on to the stone road of the Via Delarosa up Calvary’s slopes with a heavy, brutal cross on his shoulders.

Being sent is carrying that cross. If Jesus, the Master Teacher or Head of the House, copped this abuse and suffering for his love of his Father and the love of the people, so will we because;

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul (evil), how much more the members of his household!

It is crystal clear. His team are to share in his poverty and homelessness, taking with them no money or extra clothing, and depending solely on the hospitality of others for shelter and sustenance (10: 8b-13).

They will not be welcomed everywhere (10:14-15), and they can expect to experience the same hostility Jesus often does, for he is sending them out “like sheep into the midst of wolves” (10:16).

They can expect to encounter persecution and trials (10:17-23), for “a disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master” (10:24-25).

They need also be prepared for painful division within families, and to be willing to put Jesus’ mission above family loyalties (10:34-38). For all of this risk and suffering, Jesus promises, “those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (10:39), and this is their ‘cross’ – their burden (10:24).

Friends, is this a time when we mind ‘find our life’ again, as church? Will we find life and love and joy again anew because we have ‘lost’ being church the way we have gotten very used to and very comfortable in?

Is this the Spirit teaching us that we can learn to work with people, listen to and be with people different to us, even when the welcome is not warm and the situation not easy to control?

Whatever you make of this time, we are definitely ‘out there’ now. At least more than we have been. We have always been a church who cares, and we have done and now do some fantastic gathering of people – not for our sake but for theirs. But has the Lord shown us how to do this for the current times by kind of ‘forcing’ us to see some things? Feels like that to me.

We are feeling plenty and learning plenty too. I have had some excellent conversations with our people in homes these last weeks.

No one seems to be wanting or expecting that we can or should simply ‘go back to normal’. People generally seem to be OK knowing that ‘normal’ has just changed. I hear people saying that we need to adjust, learn, pray, seek God’s direction for what worship and what St Petri (or any congregation) needs to now be and do post COVID.

What a church to be a part of! People are not asking ‘what is normal’ but ‘what is next’, and I love it. I think it is the right question for the sent people of God.

Yes, people miss seeing others. I have heard that. I do miss shaking your hand and connecting with you on Sundays. I miss the gathering, the song, the prayer, the space, the chat.

The disciples may have been the same as they stayed out in the streets for extended period. But how good was it when they eventually gathered and shared their stories of what the Lord had done through them. Jesus said as they shared their stories, he ‘saw Satan fall like lightening from the sky”! (Luke 10:18)

And that is the good part about this team talk from Jesus. There is reward in this time too.

Those sent disciples, despite the difficulty and the weight of responsibility (the cross), got to be part of extraordinary moments of transformation – and not just watching it but doing it, and doing this together.

They lived beyond any fear because the One who actually holds their life and death in his hands had already made them live like they could never live before his love came to life in them.

As they got wrapped up in going where he sent them and spoke what he spoke they were transformed from spectators to practitioners, from receivers to givers; from mere ‘church members’ or ‘worship attenders’ to disciples, apostles, doers of God’s grace.

Same for us. We will gain everything needed for life and love as we give up everything for his life and love, as he does for us.

This disruption to our lives now is worth it. Following Jesus where he goes and going where he sends is worth it at this time, and at any time.

It is worth the difficulty, the loss of some loved thing, the effort to think differently, to pray, to take a risk and invite a conversation with a friend, to welcome a stranger, to care for a fellow saint; to take responsibility for being a church; to be more of a practitioner of the good news than a mere spectator or the ‘Jesus show”, lovely though it is and beautiful though the praying, singing and sharing be.

I am not too concerned about not gathering for large public worship in our building for at least two reasons;

  1. Jesus is with us wherever even two or three are gathered in his name for his work and will.
  2. Jesus does not just send us out he stays out with us. He gathers with us in homes and streets and other places. He always has.

I believe the Spirit is saying ‘Pick up that burden of ‘sentness’, St Petri. It is worth it’.

Find your life in what’s next. Find your mission in him again at this time.

It is only as we give up things, lose things that we find him and his life right here.

Hear the Spirit speaking to us as a church in Jesus’ mission in this Valley:

“whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”.

May it be so.

In the name of Christ. Amen.