Reading: Matthew 10. 1-16
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 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; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
This passage seems to give us a clear guideline for mission: what to carry, where to go, where not to go, and so on. To be honest, mission is one of things we find not easy, particularly at this time of pandemic when travelling around and contacting people are restricted. Not only because of those restrictions, but also because of the multi-cultural context of the 21st century, often we feel it not comfortable to share our faith in Jesus publicly, let alone ‘go out and proclaim’ the good news of Jesus. But, this is one of the most important tasks we are called to do, as Jesus said to his disciples ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. You may argue that this is something the people like disciples can do, rather than the ordinary people. But here, we need to notice that unusually all the names of twelve disciples were listed in detail. They were just ordinary people like us, called by Jesus to do the extraordinary mission. Nevertheless, they were to be sent out like sheep among wolves, which was very risky, yet adventurous on the other hand. Perhaps, that would mean what mission is all about: doing something risky, even dangerous, yet fearlessly trusting God alone. It’s tough. Yes, Mission is tough. And, even tougher, when we look at Jesus’ instructions: taking no purse, no bag, nor sandals. What he says is actually “Travel light, with no extra items.” He didn’t want them to take anything for the journey. What it means is that Christian pilgrim should travel light, not burdened by the kinds of things that make progress slow. It may mean a simple life style, giving away generously, not piling up unnecessarily.
And, the final instruction is very interesting: ‘If you are not welcomed, or if they don’t listen to you, then, you should leave immediately. When you leave, shake the dust off your feet!’ What would that mean?
I think it is to show them a clear sign of separation. You don’t need to look back, or linger, but just forget everything about them. Well, it may sound easy, as it asks us to leave simply, but as human beings, I don’t think anyone finds it easy. You may feel a sense of failure. Although they rejected and did not listen to you, you may feel even guilty. And, you may not want to carry on your work any longer. Rejection may leave a deep scar on your memory. But, the good news is ‘that is not your fault’.
In Ezekiel 2, God says clearly, “Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them. But, you must speak my word to them.” What it means is that your job is giving them the message from God. That’s all. Whether they listen or fail to listen is not your responsibility. Leave it to God. He will deal with it. And, that is why Jesus asks us to pray, to pray for the more co-workers, pray for peace to the house we are to enter, and pray for their hospitality. We have to rely on God alone, and fully committed to him only, because it is God’s mission ‘Missio Dei’, God’s mission for His people. Amen.
(This week, I’d like to share with you a prayer written by Chairs of the London District)
God of the persecuted and the bereaved,
Pour Your love upon Your sorrowing servants.
In the sickening and devastating acts of human intent,
Pour out your power we pray, that we may be given hope
and an assurance of Your presence in these tumultuous times.
Open your hand of grace dear God to all the people of the USA
Enable them to find common ground, to yield to justice and to find peace.
Empower them to have compassion through the presence of your Holy Spirit.
Forgive our failing hearts as we allow these tragic events to overtake us,
Forgive our anger as we allow senseless killings to control us
And forgive our fearfulness in remaining silent and doing nothing.
Give us O Lord a glimpse of a hopeful future,
through the presence and life affirming power of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who reigns with You in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and always, amen.
May justice, peace and love be a symbol of our unstinting solidarity.
The District Chairs,
Jongi, Nigel & Micky