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June 18, 2017, 12:00 AM

The Summons 1

by Sandy Bach

Matthew 9:35-10:23

So much work. So little time.

Jesus moves through one city or village after another. All he sees is need. He heals one and five more get in line. Life is hard under Roman rule, especially for the occupied Jews. Tired and ready for rest, Jesus looks up and sees trouble and sickness.

I can hear him commenting to some of his disciples near by, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray for help."

I think I know what he means. And I wonder if you also understand.

The church has seen decline since 1965. Mega Churches have stepedping into the breach; new faith communities have begun to reach out to a variety of needs; some of the mainline churches have managed to remain relevant in this new age. Still, we see too much poverty and disease; the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor; rage and antagonism that leads to hurt, even killing.

Jesus hits on a creative solution.  His disciples have been watching, probably helping.  It's time to send them out.  So, he designates 12 men, and promotes them to apostles ("sent ones.")  He commissions them, possibly with a laying on of hands.  He gives them authority over unclean spirits and to heal disease and sickness.  No mention of evangelizing.  No plan for growing the church.  No altar calls.  Just get out there and heal.

First, they'll need some training.  Start close to home, by working only with the house of Israel.  Don't pack a suitcase.  You won't need it.  Time is of the essence, so get to work.  God will provide folks to feed and house you.  And remember.  No matter how great the job and the awesome works you perform, some will come after you.  Others will reject you.  Shake it off.  Move on.

I believe we're summoned today to do the same.  We are commissioned to heal and cast out demons and set people free.  Though I've heard that exorcists and faith healers exist, I'm not one of them.  All I can do is pray and reach out, depending on the Holy Spirit for words to express healing and love.

Can we do more than that?  Yes, prayer is powerful.  More powerful than we can imagine.  But, Jesus needs us to be out there, as well.  Where do we begin?

Maybe by pointing out that which is toxic.  Rage that leads to killing.  Hatred of those who don't look like us.  Lies and deceit.  Point to it while affirming that God is already at work, healing and curing.

Maybe by being aware of those who live in the tombs of illness, abuse, and pain. Of depression and anxiety and worry.  Affirm God's resurrection power.  Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you.

Maybe we can connect with the untouchables: those in poverty, who are mentally ill, who are diseased.  Remind us that God intends for all of us to be in community, not just a few.  There are no outcasts in God's kingdom.

Most of all, be aware of evil and its power, even as we sing praises to God who is more powerful than any evil we may encounter.

Sound easy? No, it's hard.  It requires us to travel light and keep alert.  It means that we focus on those who God causes to cross our path and we say or do what we feel compelled to say or do.  After all, those may be the words and actions of the Spirit.

Don't be surprised at who crosses your path.  None of us can say that we don't ever feel toxic rage or hate or feel anxious and depressed.  Many of us have been struck with an illness that kept us separated from others for long periods of time.  And we need only turn on our TV's and radios to know that evil and its power exist.  Sometimes we are the ones who reach out and some days we need someone to reach out to us with the reminder that God's got this.  Whatever it is.

Jesus calls us and sends us out.  That's the heart of Christianity: that we are saved by grace through faith and then we go into the world to proclaim it.  We are disciples who sit at the Master's feet and we are apostles, the "sent ones" who see illness and evil and abuse and pain for what it is.  And we state with utter confidence that, "God's got this!"  Even this.

Now here's the question and the charge: Jesus is summoning you.  Yes, you.

How will you respond?

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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