discpl8cMessage for Pentecost 3 on Matthew 9:35-10:8 given on June 18, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

It's startling every time I read it—this list of the disciples whom Jesus calls, and, amazingly, sends out to fulfill his mission. Let’s see, we’ve got Peter who denies him 3 times, and gets just about everything about the kingdom wrong; there’s Judas, who betrays Jesus, always looking to make a buck on the side. We’ve got James and John, with their fiery tempers, who love jockeying for power. Their fishermen’s muscles hide their insecurity. There’s Matthew, the tax collector who supports the Roman oppressor, and then there’s Simon at the opposite end of the spectrum, a Zealot, working for the rebellion to overthrow Rome. When he first heard about Jesus, Bartholomew questioned if anything good could come of out Nazareth. Thomas was stubborn, Andrew disappeared in Peter’s shadow, and one hopes that of the little we know of the others, someone had a level head and was not always shooting off at the mouth with their own plans and agenda. I have a hard time imagining it though. The glimpse the bible gives us, shows them all as so very…. Oh, what’s the word…. human… so very human.

Which is why it is so stunning to read verse 1 of chapter 10: Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them, and to cure every disease and every sickness. Really? These guys?

The last part of the instructions makes more sense—stick close to home while you’re trying this out—don’t make us look bad in front of other nations—the mission to the whole world comes later. No wonder the Gospel-writers mention that some women who traveled with them—someone had to keep these clowns in line!

But Jesus does give theses disciples his power to heal, and to bring liberation from whatever bound people up, be it demons, illness, leprosy, incapacity, addictions, or broken relationships. Why does he do this? Jesus wants to expand the good news of the kingdom and he needs more hands on deck: Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus could only be in one place at a time when he was in human form. To spread the healing and liberation of the kingdom, he needed “apostles” – who are the “sent ones” – on the move, with his power, to encounter and touch to those who were sick or in need.

And guess what? His disciples already knew what it was like to feel harassed and helpless—they felt this way themselves before Jesus came into their lives. The disciples were all harassed and helpless when Jesus called them to follow him. Their lives were not working any better than anyone else’s. They had been like sheep without a shepherd—

• struggling to make ends meet,
• feeling trapped under the weight of oppression,
• wrestling with their own demons and misery,
• experiencing uncontrolled emotions, destructive patterns of behavior and broken relationships.

This is why they are such human characters—because they knew what it felt like to be harassed and helpless and to receive Jesus’ compassion and healing. The disciples themselves had experienced Jesus’ healing and liberating power in their own heart and soul! This is what made them great apostles—they had a Jesus-story to tell already! It is why Peter did not want Jesus to die and became such a mess when he did. It is why James and John want the top position at Jesus’s right and left hands—they could not imagine life without Jesus. Each one of the disciples had an encounter with Jesus that changed them.

It did not make them perfect, but it did make them whole. It released them from shame. Their encounter with Jesus filled them with Jesus’ presence and power and love—enough to overflow into other people’s lives.

Jesus gave them something to share. They were a living example of what it looked like to go

• from harassed to healed;
• from helpless to helpful,
• from confused to clear-headed;
• from fiery to faithful.

For where the spirit of Jesus is, there is healing and liberation. Imagine these apostles going out in all their humanness, filled with Jesus’ spirit, to share their own Jesus-story of healing and liberation. Each one had their own story, making connections with the community in different ways.

Maybe James and John discovered the face of God in the children who climbed their big arms like a jungle gym. I imagine healing little ones became their special gift with kids running to them for piggyback rides as they brought Jesus’ healing and liberation to families like theirs.

Perhaps Peter, always full of bluster, saw the face of God in the elderly who also shared their wisdom as Peter and Andrew brought Jesus’ healing and liberation to widows and widowers. In their presence, Peter learned how to let Andrew shine.

Maybe Matthew saw the face of God in the poor whom he was called to heal and in so doing, made amends, like Zacchaeus, for the taxes he overcharged, and Jesus’ healing and liberation became multi-layered.

Perhaps Simon saw the face of God in fellow zealots injured by violent acts of rebellion, as he brought healing, liberation and a new way of life in the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.

Maybe Thomas and Bartholomew saw the face of God in those who were outcast as the healing and liberation of Jesus worked through them to bring good things to lives that had been restored.

And what about you? The power of Jesus’s healing spirit resides in you. What is your Jesus-story? You are an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent to people who are harassed and in need of healing, who are hopeless and in need of the liberating love of Jesus.

People need to be freed from whatever oppresses, binds, or holds them back from wholeness. You have your own story of how your encounter with God in Jesus Christ has changed your life—how a worship service, or a person, a ministry, the people in this church, or how God showed up and shared the love of Jesus Christ with you and helped change your life. That is your Jesus-story. Part of being a disciple of Jesus is sharing your Jesus-story, your good news with someone who is harassed, helpless and hopeless to give them faith that God is with them, that Jesus loves them, that healing and freedom and wholeness are possible. Being open and noticing who Jesus wants you to serve and to heal--that is where we seek God’s face in discipleship.

And do not worry, for you are not called to be a disciple to everyone or every person you see or know—I know I am not! I learned early on that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Over the years, people have told me to my face they do not like my energy, or they don’t think women should be pastors, or they hear me lead worship, and their like, I’m outta here.

Fine! (Ok, that was not my first reaction when I was younger!) Jesus has somebody else for you other than me. Why do you think Jesus called a wildly diverse group of disciples? Because each of them was going to reach different people. You have an opportunity to reach someone I will never reach, or never cross paths with.

I have discovered that God uses our experience and our story to help people who will relate to us. God keeps putting people with cancer in my path, particularly women with breast cancer—but not just them—and most of whom are not members of the church. I don’t talk with them because I am pastor—but because I am a disciple of Jesus. Jesus sends me to them and asks me to share love, and to be a witness of healing and liberation in the kingdom of heaven.

God has people to send you to—to share your story, to witness to how your life is changed because of your relationship with Jesus, to share the spirit and love of God that brings healing and freedom. God has someone who is ready and hoping for someone like you, that they can relate to with good news of God’s love.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to seek God’s face in discipleship. Who is God putting in your path that you are supposed to help, to encourage, to share your Jesus-story, to bless with healing love?

Ask God this week to show you who is this person God is sending you to? I do not know how they will show up—

• someone may call, and ask you to talk to a friend;
• someone in need may come right across your path,

• it may be a new conversation with someone you have known a long time,
• or it may happen some other way entirely.
• Pray for an open spirit and for God to let you know with whom you are called to be a witness.

If Jesus can grow the whole entire Christian church over the last 2,000 years starting out with this ragtag group of very human disciples, then surely Jesus can do much more than we can ever ask or imagine through the disciples of St. Luke’s Lutheran church!

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