Gathered and Sent
Sermon: June 14, 2020: Second Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 11
35Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10:1Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]
In a little less than two weeks, I will be marking the 15th anniversary of my ordination into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. On the day of my ordination, my call to follow Jesus changed. We are all called to follow Jesus, and I knew that then, and I know that now, and I thank God for that call for each one of you. But on that day, and every day, every moment since then, my call has been tied to a series of promises that I made.
I promised: to preach the Word, administer the sacraments,
conduct public worship, provide pastoral care,
seek out and encourage persons
to prepare for the ministry of the Gospel,
impart knowledge of this church and its wider ministry,
witness to the Kingdom of God in the community,
in the nations and abroad,
speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love for the world.
On my good days, I think I have been faithful to these promises.
And then, if I am honest with myself, I know that this call to be sent forth by Jesus is hard at times, and the only possible way that any of this can happen is by the grace and love of Jesus. And looking back,
I could never have guessed that I would be a pastor in times such as this.
Some of us here at Trinity have been following Pastor Ingrid Rasmussen on Facebook. Ingrid is a pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. She and the congregation she serves found themselves at the very epicenter of the protests over the death of George Floyd. In the midst of pain and violence and anger, this pastor and this congregation have provided a powerful witness to the call to serve Jesus, in the midst of change that could not have been expected. I would like to share with you some of Pastor Ingrid’s sermon for today:
Life changes quickly, doesn’t it? Sometimes for good reasons. Sometimes for hard reasons. Sometimes for painful reasons.
Sometimes for no good reason at all.
The other pastors and staff members and I have said that, if asked three weeks ago, we couldn’t have imagined that today’s reality would be ours. We couldn’t have imagined that many of us would jump out of quarantine and into the fire. We couldn’t have imagined that the brutal murder of George Floyd would turn our neighborhood upside down. We couldn’t have imagined that our church doors would swing open to shelter those tear-gassed by authorities. We couldn’t have imagined that news crews from around the world would take up residence on our front lawn. We couldn’t have imagined that we’d be feeding eight thousand precious families each week. We couldn’t have imagined that our fair city would announce the end to policing as we know it. We couldn’t have imagined.
The story we hear from Matthew’s gospel is about the sending of Jesus’ disciples into a world shaped by empire values. I imagine the disciples were like deer in the headlights; after all, they were common fishermen and tradespeople. They had been following Jesus for some time, but that didn’t mean they were prepared to embody the revolution in an empire that had already deemed them a threat. I suspect that these unlikely emissaries, too, sat together at the end of long day of curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, and casting out demons and reflected that they were living a life they too wouldn’t have imagined for themselves.
But there they were, without a cent to their names, no bags for the journey. They didn’t have an extra set of clothes or a pedometer to count their steps. They were sent out, not knowing the ending, but instead trusting in the call to begin.
As we prepared to open Holy Trinity’s food distribution earlier this week, there were hundreds of people in line. These were neighbors with real needs. We could feel the energy of the crowd rising.
You know the energy that I’m talking about—competitive energy that tells us that there isn’t enough. One of the English-speaking volunteers jumped up on a table to address the crowd. Another Spanish-speaking leader stood to his left, and a Somali-speaking volunteer stood to his right. The English speaker addressed the crowd, yelling, “There is enough.” The Spanish speaker offered the promise in Spanish. And then the assurance was spoken in Somali. And then each of them said it again. Then the crowd gathered began to repeat it back, each guest in their own language. It took on the form of call and response.
I could feel competitive, empire energy transform into something new—something that felt like community, something that felt like the commonwealth of God.
Jesus knew the powers of the empire were unrelenting. He also believed they could be overcome, which is why he sent disciples into the field to come face-to-face with their neighbors to imagine a different world—a world where the sick find healing, the dead are raised, the outcast find community, and those held in bondage are set free. Even now, we know the powers of the empire are unrelenting. But we hold on to the promise that they can be overcome, which is why we are sent out to build a world where those previously silenced stand at the center of the conversation, a world where scarcity is eclipsed by abundance, a world where no one’s comfort takes the place of another’s liberation, and a world where new life makes its home with us, through us, in us.
We couldn’t have imagined.
A couple of other things about the gospel for today:
First, did you notice that the writer of the gospel called the disciples “apostles?” To be an apostle is to be one sent out. And Jesus does just that, he sends out the disciples to be about everything that he was about himself: proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, healing the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, even raise the dead!
And second, we are given the names of the disciples/apostles; the ones that, as Pastor Ingrid mentioned, “were like deer in the headlights . . common fishermen and tradespeople” called to be part of something extraordinary, something completely unexpected, something they could not have begun to imagine.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, fellow children of God called and sent to be disciples and apostles, you too are named. In your baptism you were named and claimed as a child of God. You were joined together with Christ forever, in life and in death and in life once again forever.
And you too, when you affirmed your baptisms made some promises as well: you promised to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
Those are some serious promises, and if we had to go about living into them on our own, we would be lost. But when asked if we would live into these promises, we responded, “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.” And there, dear friends, is the hope that we live in.
For you see, God does help and guide us in everything we face.
And what we are facing in our lives right now is really something.
It is hard. I don’t think any of us could ever have imagined living in a time of pandemic, and unrest, and uncertainty, and loss.
And yet, we are still called to follow, to love, to speak.
And we do so, living into this promise of Jesus:
“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Thanks be to God.