6/18/2017 Second Sunday after Pentecost The text is Matthew 9:35-10:8.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
On this choir Sunday, I thought I would begin my sermon with a true music story about the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and a contest it once held. In this contest, five prominent citizens were invited to compete to see who would be the best guest conductor of the orchestra. Now, none of these people were professional musicians and yet they were all to conduct the orchestra and those playing the instruments were instructed to follow their directions.
Well, the big day finally came. And when all was said and done, the winner of the contest was an Air Force General, the commander of Randolph Air Force Base. As he conducted John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the audience broke into spontaneous applause. The applause wasn’t for him, of course. It was in appreciation of the work of the piccolo player who had just finished the little air in the middle of that march that only a piccolo can do.
It was the smallest of instruments that enabled that Air Force General to reach what may have seemed like an impossible goal for a professional soldier, for the task of orchestrating military maneuvers and conducting an orchestra have little in common with each other. He was doing things that he had never been trained to do and yet, that which seemed impossible was accomplished with the help of others.
I remember watching the TV program, Mission Impossible, when I was growing up, long before the Tom Cruise movies with the same title became a vision in a writer, director or producer’s head. Each week, in the program, a difficult assignment (which on the surface appeared impossible) was assigned to a head man who then carefully selected a team to carry out the mission. In the program, you knew they would succeed. The exciting part of watching was seeing how they would do it.
In our gospel for today, it is Jesus who assigns what appears to be an impossible mission to his twelve disciples. Their assignment whether they want it or not, is to go out to the lost sheep of Israel (who, of course, don’t think they are lost at all). Of course, this mission appears to be beyond their reach. They need to team up with Jesus for without the help and intervention of God the task given to the disciples to go and preach and teach, and heal and cast out demons is impossible.
These 12 people who are qualified sinners, but who are unqualified as far as the preaching, teaching and healing, follow instructions. These fishermen, tax collectors and zealots of one kind or another have no credentials and yet, they are hand-picked by Jesus for this seemingly impossible mission. And, they are sent out, armed only with Jesus’ teachings and the authority that Jesus bestows on them. They go, only with their faith in a God who can turn what seems to be impossible into something which can be accomplished in his name.
Go and do…do, preach, teach, heal the sick, cast out demons. Go and do with the power and blessing of God.
We have heard what this group of 12 enthusiastic, empowered and joy-filled people were able to accomplish. The results of their mission are recorded in the scripture for all to read. They were able to perform miracles, not because of their special training, but because God empowered their serving, gifted them with faith and the talents of each other, and set them to task.
We, too, are gifted, empowered and sent. But, I seldom see the joy and enthusiasm for the work that those 12 disciples displayed way back then. They knew that their mission was impossible for them to do alone. And yet, they took it on without hesitation. They went, not knowing how they were going to survive. They went, for they knew that they were not alone. The power and authority of Jesus went with them.
Although I don’t think many of us feel that we have the gifts of healing sickness and casting out demons, we do have the power to change the lives of others in positive ways in the name of Jesus Christ. We inherit the mission and power to do just that. But too often, if we do go and do as we are commanded, it is without the spark of joy and faith. We go and do much in the same way that Holly has done it at dog shows.
Those of you who know my Holly know how enthusiastic a little girl she is. But that is not the Holly that you see in the ring. Instead of bounding around with the joy and enthusiasm of a happy little dog, she looks downtrodden and flat in the ring, like she is being dragged around or beaten into submission. Needless to say, judges don’t give this wonderful little girl that should be an easy champion a second look. And because of her attitude, they shouldn’t. For Holly sends a clear message to everyone ringside…that there is nothing special about her and that she really doesn’t want to be here.
We do the same thing with the message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ whenever we go and do as we are commanded without faith and joy and enthusiasm. When we deliver the message of the good news of Jesus Christ in a dull, ho-hum manner, no one is going to give it a second thought. You don’t tell someone you have good news with a frown. You don’t tell someone that you just won the lottery with the same inflection in your voice as you would deliver the news that your best friend died. You don’t sing alleluia, like a funeral dirge. And yet the message of Jesus Christ is often delivered in that fashion…flat, joyless, and without enthusiasm and zeal…or it is whispered or held as a family secret, never to be shared or acted upon in public.
Every singer knows that in order to be understood, the words of a song must be spoken clearly. Every singer knows that in order to stay on pitch and hit the high notes, a smile is needed…a frown will never do. Why, then, do we, who are gifted, empowered and sent, wear frowns, back away from commitments of time and energy, speak in whispers so as not to offend, and fail to reach out even to those who are hurting in our midst? Is it that we do not know that we have been made children of God through our baptism and therefore, inheritors of the best that God has to offer?
Through Jesus Christ, we are inheritors of eternal life. We are loved, forgiven and gifted people. We are placed in a community with others so that we can pool our talents in order that we can move forward in the mission to spread the good news and bring wholeness to the lives of others. We are set in community to care for one another, to nurture and sustain each other in faith.
This should be old news to most of you, but it is definitely good news which should cause our hearts to leap for joy. Just being in a learning relationship with Jesus caused such joy and faith-filled responses from the disciples that they went out empower by Jesus and did as he commanded. They reached out to others with the gift of peace and joy, the gift of wholeness in body, mind and spirit, which is impossible for us to give, but possible through a relationship with God.
As followers of Christ today, we have inherited a seemingly impossible mission given to the 12 years ago. We are empowered by Jesus and sent into the world to preach and to teach, to heal and to cast out demons, to share the good news of salvation together with the peace of God. We, of course, cannot do these things on our own. But, in the name of Jesus Christ and with his touching of our lives and working through us, that which is impossible can be accomplished.
So, let us make a joyful noise to the Lord. Let the world know that we have something to sing about, something to share. Let us go and do, as the Lord has commanded, and let us go and do in joy through Jesus Christ. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.