June 18, 2017 Sermon

Second  Sunday after Pentecost, June 18, 2017, Lectionary A, Proper 6

The Rev. C. Clark Hubbard, Jr.+ Rector                                Scripture: Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-15)

 

“Stretch out your hand [Oh, Lord] to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  Acts 4:30

Raise the dead

 

Let us pray.  Heavenly Father, powerfully send the Holy Spirit to equip and embolden us to share what you have personally done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Play video clip at https://www.facebook.com/StFrancisChurchCibolo/videos/1745381885746733/.

 

 

In today’s gospel we heard Jesus say to His disciples “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”   These lines, which I just repeated from today’s gospel, are a preamble to what we heard last week on Trinity Sunday.  Jesus, before ascending to heaven, said to the eleven “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  Whereas we might wonder about Jesus placing a priority on the Jews, that was then during His time here on earth.  Putting that aside, there is something more we should be listening for not just in today’s or last week’s scripture readings, but every time scripture is read.  Let me explain.

 

Sometimes when I hear scripture read aloud, particularly when it is in public, such as church, a Bible study, or a vestry meeting, I get a little bit uneasy.  Though we emphasize the importance of personally reading the Bible on a daily basis, it is when it is read within a group that scripture’s voice even more takes on a life all its own.  The words are not just mere word, but words addressed to us by God.  Now, you may argue with that, thinking I am supposed to say that, but I ask you, is there not something different about hearing the Bible read to a group of people that is unlike hearing anything else read?

 

Because of this “out of the ordinary feeling” evoked by reading the Bible aloud in public, especially at church, at first we might want to look the other way, shut it out, or think of something else altogether.  In other words, could God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit be talking to you and me, to us through the words we hear read from the Bible?  Could God be talking to you and me this morning whether through the Old Testament, the psalm, the New Testament epistle, or the Gospel?  It is an unsettling question.  It can also be a comforting question—God is speaking to you and me, to us directly through His holy scripture.

 

Either way, we are put in a dilemma.  If God is speaking to you and me through the Bible, then how shall we respond?  Remember it is God speaking, not a spouse or a friend.  It is our Creator speaking.   Do you hear what I am saying?  Look at this way.  Don’t we usually take what the doctor says to us seriously? We might even do what he says.  Should we listen any less attentively to God or do any less?

 

Let me offer an example of what I am talking about—the seriousness of it.   Some years ago when Emily and I were still in seminary, Leanne Paynne, who has a healing ministry, came to give a week long teaching on Healing.  Before each teaching there was a time of worship, of singing.  Each teaching session would begin with 30 minutes of praise music with everyone singing.  Now, as one night moved to the next, it was becoming apparent that the Holy Spirit was increasingly present.  You could feel Him.  On one night His presence became so strong that people began to prophesy.  After several individuals had prophesied, one stood up with this word of prophecy from the Lord.  “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

 

Now, the message here is clear.  God told those of us assembled there to do what?  He told us to be silent, to be quiet, don’t say anything.  Right!  If we are to believe the person prophesying was indeed speaking a word from the Lord, then silence should have followed after this person spoke.  Right!  So, what happened next?  Other people began to prophesy despite having just been told to do what—shut up in effect.  Of course, we might ask why one word of prophecy should hold other subsequent prophesies hostage.  Who’s to say?

Regardless, the most extraordinary thing then happened.  Coming from the back of the church (it was a large one) down the middle aisle was this young woman, who began to say in a loud voice, “I have told you about this before.”  In other words, the Lord was chastising that assembly for not being obedient to His message, His message, which at that moment was to be silent before Him

 

So then, reading scripture, the Bible, whether privately or publically can be a serious matter.  Obviously, it is not like reading a novel or magazine.  Recently, in my reading I came across the following, which highlights another important dimension to scripture, being read aloud.

 

Dr. Ephraim Radner writes that the desert monks of the 4th and 5th centuries AD vocalized, said aloud, scripture as a defense against demonic temptation.  We might remember that this is exactly what Jesus did when tempted by the devil in the wilderness after His baptism.  The monks believed that there was power in the scripture’s words, an almost (and I quote) “brute power,” capable of exercising authority on its own by being set loose (said aloud) within the world. (Time and the Word. p. 276, 277).

 

So, how then might we transition into putting into practice what we hear in scripture (that is God speaking to us; telling us what to do), in respect to this morning’s gospel for example?

 

Play video clip at https://www.facebook.com/oneforIsrael/videos/1009174195767206/.          

            

When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  There might be any number of things that caught our attention about the video clip we just saw. Certainly, it is a great witness.  Here was this Jewish woman, a lawyer, very involved in her synagogue.  Here also was a woman, who after twenty-eight years saw her marriage collapse in divorce.  This was a deeply wounded woman.  I would suggest to you that Jesus came to her at that time in her life because He had compassion for her, just as we heard in this morning’s gospel that “he had compassion for them.”

So, how then might we put this into practice?  How do we get to that place of feeling compassion and doing for others?

 

We probably have not heard of “tuttleisms,” a term I recently came across. They are nuggets of spiritual insight named for Robert Tuttle, a professor of evangelism at a seminary in Florida, who is known for his passionate teaching and his love of people. “Tuttle stories” are legendary among people who know him. A favorite tuttleism is this brief prayer that he regularly challenges others to pray: Lord, give me eyes to see and love others as though they were my own childrenAmen.

This provocative prayer gives us an important insight. We tend to treat others based on our perception of them. If we see people as evil, we treat them accordingly. If we judge a woman to be greedy, we are unlikely to extend aid to her. If we interpret a man’s actions as arrogant, we will probably keep the fellow at arm’s length.

 

What, though, if we were able to perceive others as God does. This is the intention of Tuttle’s deceptively simple prayer. It is a prayer that asks God to give us a new lens through which to view the world and to change our feelings toward people.  Indeed, it is the very lens, a human one actually, through which Jesus saw and sees, as we heard in the gospel reading.

Obviously, we love our children. So, to see others as our own children is to extend toward others the same feelings and sentiment that we do to our own sons and daughters or grandchildren. Certainly, our feelings toward our own children spill over into acts of love and kindness, usually.

 

So, the call to evangelize, to invite others into a relationship with “compassionate” Jesus, is really a call to love others, indeed, to love others as Jesus loves us.  Isn’t that what He tells us to do in John 13:34?  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

 

Perhaps, then, we are asking ourselves (it is a practical question) what might it look like to love others as Jesus did, as Jesus does?  What would Jesus-type love look like?  It is hard to do it without some kind of specifics.  Don’t you think?  What did He tell the twelve disciples to do?  Well, we heard in verse 8 of today’s gospel these words of His:  “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.

 

What, pray tell, do we say to that?  It might sound as if we are not going to able to love others as Jesus did (Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons) despite the fact that the original twelve disciples did.

 

We need to pause here to realize something.  The twelve disciples were no different, no better than you or I—seriously.  Rather, what made them different was their relationship to Jesus.  That made them different, not some superior character quality, as scripture makes clear, they all had their flaws—fear, doubt, confusion, betrayal, and denial.  In other words, curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers and casting out demons are not bygone ministries.  There are places in the world today, places where faith and a strong belief in the spiritual make it possible for those ministries to flourish.  Even so, where does that leave you and me until such time as those ministries reassert themselves into the western world?

 

As an aside, though worth considering, what if those ministries of curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers and casting out demons among others were to suddenly become a real functioning part of our community of faith here at St. Elizabeth’s?  Do you suppose Sunday attendance might increase? Until then, how are we to love others as Jesus loves?

There is an answer to this and it is found in these words from today’s gospel, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”  We may not have realized it, but we saw an example of this in the video clip about the Jewish woman, coming to Jesus.  She had proclaimed the good news when she shared how Jesus came into her life.  She had experienced this.  In other words, she gave her personal testimony of how the kingdom of heaven had come near her.  You see, there is something miraculous in and of that.  No, with her it was not a matter of her having been cured of some sickness, raised from the dead, cleansed of leprosy, or delivered from demons.  Even so, the sovereign hand of God in her life through compassionate Jesus was no less apparent and miraculous.

 

And, this is something we can do and share.  This is the way we can love as Jesus loves.  We do so by sharing how He loved, how He loves us. That in itself, that witness is a statement of God in Jesus loving others.  By telling others how God, how Jesus loves us, we are, loving them, as Jesus loves.

 

Here is what I would like us to do.  I would like for each of us to consider making a short video, as the Jewish woman did, of how we became a Christian or how God, how Jesus, how the Holy Spirit did something special in our lives—a few minutes worth. That video would then be posted on St. Elizabeth’s Facebook page and website.  For those who are shy, the video could even be made with no one else in the room.  However, that video would be seen by any number of individuals.  This means that each of us, individually, can, as Jesus told us in last Sunday’s gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” How’s is that possible?

 

Last Sunday I shared how St. Elizabeth’s website has been visited by people all over the world.  If you do Facebook, you know that if your picture or name pops us, then any number of your friends will see it.  So, pray about it. Then let me know when you would like to do the video clip.  It would be helpful if someone would volunteer to help with doing the video.  Lastly, can you imagine a more non-threatening way of sharing our faith and reaching a lot of people in the process?  I don’t think there is one. This God-given opportunity is exciting.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.