Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service 

June 15, 2017

Dear Friends,

This week’s Thursdays Thought for Sundays Service is based upon Matthew 9:35-10:8:

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message:’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

                                        (Matthew 9:35–10:8, NIV)

     

“…because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

What is unusual in life?  Do we not become inured to the constant flow of consequential news stories? How do they affect the definition of “ordinary?”  It sometimes seems the only thing that gets our attention is a sharp riposte within passionate debate or the unnerving crack a rifle.  Is this normal?  I wonder if these kinds of questions make our journey together feel like we are bounced and jostled from day to day, reeling and stumbling through life … even within the church.

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

Jesus calls us to not only a countervailing, but more effective way.  It requires responding to his invitation for a selfless approach.  Although the names have changed through the centuries, we understand it as “discipleship.”  Who might we define as disciples for us?  Can we name them?  Why might we refer to them in this way?  Is it because we associate them with some form of healing in our life?  Do they not at least represent a more powerful postulation, a more peaceful presentation?

 

“…Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Even for those who practice faithful discipleship within the context of church life, an awareness of problems and struggles much bigger than ourselves can be a prevalent feeling as God’s grace is channeled through our unique circumstances.  In other words, if you’re reading this, I dare say that you are a disciple …and one who also probably feels harassed and helpless, at least in some ways.  Our practice is to serve, and yet it is very difficult.  We need help.  In this, I continue to learn something which stands as a contrast to my pride (especially when I must admit to myself that I am lost and hurting.)  It is how help can come from other, contemporary disciples in ways that defy explanation – in ways that not only teach and guide, but also reach deeper – and heal.

“‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

There’s something about giving in the name of Christ that releases us for a much grander idea, one that has eternal consequences with a stabilizing influence on our outlook and attitude.  It means many things including how help is never far away.  The best way to describe it is naming the Holy Spirit expressed through the practice of discipleship.  Although impossible to define at least more broadly because of infinite possibility, I believe in the kingdom of God, nonetheless.  The example of Christ’s teaching in context where the sickly are healed, the dead are raised, the lepers are cleansed, the demons are driven out… offers a new direction by pointing to the kingdom of heaven.

“Freely you have received; freely give.”

 

Pastor Rich Wagner