Sunday, June 18, 2017

18 June 2017 ~ Sermon by The Rev. Peter M. Carey at St. Mary's Episcopal Church

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
18 June 2017

Almighty God, you sent out your apostles to heal, to teach, to bring life, and to spread the good news.  Give us an awareness of your ever-present grace and love so that we too may share this good news near and far.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends out his disciples to spread the good news of God’s kingdom breaking into their world.  In his charge to them, he lays out some rather timeless and helpful advice.  Living in the first century Palestine, the disciples were without the blessings of dozens of self-help books which can be found at Barnes and Noble or online at Amazon, so it makes good sense that the Master would need to not only inspire them, but also give them some tangible advice.  I am amazed at the timeless quality of Jesus’ advice, recorded by Matthew in today’s Gospel.  

As I have just now completed my first week or so at St. Mary’s, I am in the midst of being “sent out” in a new and amazing way to serve God’s people in this remarkable place, among you lovely people.  You may even remember that the title “apostle” means “one who is sent out” - “apostolo,” and I must confess that I feel extremely blessed that the Spirit has moved me to be sent out among you, and also alongside you as we spread the good news of God’s kingdom breaking into our world.

Three aspects of Jesus’ advice

What should we do - what are we required and empowered to do (with the reminder that God is with us- Emmanuel).  

“Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, let’s work on getting healthy, getting ourselves into correct relationship with God. We have work to do here.  Go to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim the good news, the “Gospel,” “the kingdom of heaven has come near,” or, if you like “ the kin-dom, the family of God has come near, and includes even the likes of you!” “Cure the sick - help people to embrace health.  Raise the dead, proclaim the fact of life after death, and life even in the midst of hopelessness, and darkness! Cleanse the lepers, and all those who have been neglected.  Cast out demons, love the people, pour out love on the negative and life-denying attitudes of so many!”  This is GOOD NEWS, people! Don’t be so sullen.  Don’t concentrate on the fear, the anger, the disappointment.  Embrace the day.  Get out and preach it, go out and live it!  God is with you, always.  

“Always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within you!” ~1 Peter

Where is the hope that is within you?
What is the Bible text that you “carry around with you”?  If you don’t have one, or more, I would suggest that you have one!  And, let me know what yours is!

Secondly, Jesus lays out a list of what to bring.  This list reminds me of the list I would receive in the mail as a child from the summer camp of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, Rock Point.  Flashlight, sleeping bag, raincoat, extra shoes, hat, books, a Bible, no electronic equipment, no radios, no tape players, a little money for “candy store” in the afternoon.  I loved receiving that list.  And, I still have my “denim Bible” that I brought to Rock Point four decades ago.  Jesus says what his disciples should bring on this mission.  Essentially, not much, bare bones living.  

“Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff, for laborers deserve their food.”

Just enough for the journey, and no more.  I have an image of these disciples, these apostles - who were sent out, walking the roads of Palestine.  Not carrying much but the love of God in their hearts, and a ready willingness to share what they have heard, what they have witnessed, what they have experienced.  The ever present love of God, the throwing open of the doors of God’s household.

So, what are you carrying around that you need to set down?  Literally, perhaps (decluttering!), but also figuratively.  What past fears, angers, resentments can you lay down (at the cross), and move on feeling lighter and more willing to share the good news!? (this is what confession-> absolution should give us…)

Jesus also sends out his disciples with instructions for where they should go, and how they should comport themselves.  I love the instructions that Jesus gives, because they show his own savviness and awareness that not all will be easy.  These instructions show that he knows that this calling is a blessed one, but is not all going to be tip-toeing through the tulips.  

“Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  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 or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town . . .  I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and  innocent as doves.”

There is no need for banging your head against a wall.  Jesus recognizes that there may be times when the Spirit may not be moving that place to be receptive to the message.  

What is the “Take-Away”  What is our job, what is our work as disciples? How do we understand this? God has made us a royal priesthood? A priesthood of all believers?  We are the apostles that are sent out! We have experienced God’s love, and we are called, and also empowered to share this message! “Always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within you!” God knows us, down to our very bones, and loves us anyway! This is the love we are called to share, this is the good news that we should share with the world.  

Life is short, and we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love, make haste to be kind,
And as we go, may the blessing, the love, the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One Who is in the midst of us
Be among us and remain with us  Always. Amen

(adapted from the French Poet Henri Amiel)

God our Father, you have blessed us with so many gifts, help us to be aware of our blessings, and find the strength to share the love that we have been given unconditionally.  Help us to spread the great news of your kingdom, and allow us the courage to always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within us.  Amen.

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