Lectionary 11

Introduction
Moses tells the Israelites that they are called to be a priestly kingdom and a holy people. Jesus sends out the disciples as laborers into the harvest. In baptism we too are anointed for ministry, sharing God’s compassion with our needy world. From the Lord’s table, we go forth to proclaim the good news, to heal the sick, and to share our bread with the hungry.

Prayer of the Day
God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself. Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy, we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Exodus 19:2-8a  The covenant with Israel at Sinai
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8  While we were sinners, Christ died for us
Matthew 9:35–10:8  The sending of the Twelve

Sermon
Title:  Green:  The Color of Mission
   Have you noticed how green it’s gotten?  The Summer is definitely upon us – the trees are green, the grass is green. Even the church is green – the altar has a green frontal, Pastor Mark’s stole is green.  Green is definitely the color of the day. That’s a sure sign that we have come to the longest season of the church year, the Time After Pentecost. This season will take us deep into the Autumn months. I hope you like the church in green – it’s going to be that color for a while. The shade of green may vary, but the color will remain the same.

As a kid I used to hate this time in the liturgical year. The lack of festival days or holy days made the season seem to go on FOREVER. Was Advent EVER going to get here? Thirty plus weeks could seem like an eternity to a child. Of course, now as an adult those same weeks seem to just fly by.

As a child I couldn’t appreciate the specialness of the church’s green season, of this Time After Pentecost. But as an adult I have grown to appreciate the true beauty of the season. I have come to appreciate the gift that this season is to us. I once knew a church Music Director who claimed that this was her favorite time of the year because it opened the hymnal up to so many musical possibilities.  It is a time of renewal, a time to refresh ourselves as the Church. To recharge our batteries, so to speak. This season reminds us once again of what it means to be Church, to be a faith-filled people of God.

Today’s Gospel story focuses on the work of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus to do the work of ministry. It invites us as the audience to see the church in the story of the twelve. We’re introduced to each of them by name. Why twelve?  Well, some say that it is to mirror the twelve tribes of Israel. That’s possible. But why these twelve? What was it about these twelve ordinary people that made them capable of doing extraordinary things? Just think of these extraordinary things done by the apostles – the blind were made to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, even the dead were made to live again. All these signs accompanied the proclamation of the good news.  We know that Jesus performed such miracles; we sometimes forget that in Jesus’ name the apostles were also able to do these things.  We may forget that we are also called to do these extraordinary things. But how? Who are we? How are we expected to perform the extraordinary?

Last week we baptized young John Dustin Richardson V. With that baptism John Dustin was anointed for ministry. In the same way we were anointed for ministry at our baptism. We were called to share God’s compassion with a needy world.   We are still expected to answer that call. And how can we answer the call? Well, we can do the work of forgiving others because we have been forgiven ourselves. We can do the work of feeding the hungry because we have been fed at this table. We can do the work of helping the poor because we have been lifted up in grace and joy in the Eucharist. This Eucharist is a significant moral act of the Church that transforms us and the world. From the Lord’s table we go forth!

Green is the color of mission. The mission of Jesus’ followers is to continue the mission of Jesus himself. It is to proclaim the gospel in both word and deed. The Gospel writer Matthew understood that the disciples shared in Jesus’ healing powers. How are we to share in those powers? How do we access the power? What’s the password?

The apostle Paul gives us the password in today’s second reading. Paul makes an astonishing claim – there is only one password you need to remember – GRACE. Through Jesus Christ everyone has access to grace.  We don’t have to strive to reach God, God is already trying to reach us. He reaches us through grace. Grace is not only the activity of God in Jesus Christ; grace is also our own dwelling place. “It is grace in which we stand.”

You see, what counts is God’s access to us, not our access to God. Heaven reaches out to us, we don’t have to reach out longingly toward it.  Grace.

Today is Fathers’ Day. My father died many years ago, but I will always remember how he would end every conversation with me – “Be a good boy,” he’d say. It’s a tender memory. But the truth is, my father had it wrong. I could never be “good” enough. None of us can. And you know what the Good News is? That’s OK! It is not that we are good enough or wise enough to deserve a relationship with God; God has already gained us for himself. God made the choice. The choice is you!

This brings us back to today’s Gospel reading from Matthew. Just as the twelve apostles were chosen, so were you. Jesus has left you with clear instructions – Go forth! Proclaim the message! 2,000 years ago Jesus gave his disciples these very instructions. Jesus sent them. But once sent, they were on their own. They had to assess for themselves the responses of the cities they went to; they had to determine whether to stay or move along. Which poses an interesting question for those of us who are residents of New York City. Why did we decide to stay? Was the response of the city what we expected? Why didn’t we just move along to the next town, to an easier town? I have my own thoughts on that. I think the answer can be found in those famous lyrics: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.” New York, New York. We have chosen to do the mission of Jesus’ work here. We have decided that for us, this is where the realm of heaven is breaking out. And where the realm of heaven is breaking out we find healing and liberation. For us New Yorkers, the healing and liberation is found in crowds. That’s where Jesus found it, in the crowds. When he’d see the crowds he’d be moved to compassion. Remember that the next time you’re in a crowded subway car – remember Jesus’ compassion. See if it doesn’t make that subway car ride just a little bit more bearable.

This is what we need to know.  To participate in Jesus’ mission is to get caught up in the very thick of it – in preaching, teaching, and healing. We have been chosen for this extraordinary work.  We were inducted into this work in baptism.  We’re ready.

And also know this – we don’t have to do it perfectly. Peter – the first apostle chosen – denied knowing the Lord three times. And Judas — the last apostle chosen – betrayed Jesus unto death. Perfect the apostles weren’t. They were just ordinary men. But they were ordinary men who were chosen to do extraordinary things.

So are we chosen. When this Eucharist has ended we will be sent out to do the missional work of the Church. We will be sent out, as we are every Sunday, to act morally and ethically in Jesus’ name.  This meal that we are about to share will bring us to faith in God; we’ll be fed with Christ; and we’ll turn in love toward our neighbor. We will be encouraged to proclaim the good news, to heal the sick, to share our bread with the hungry.  This Eucharist commands us to act justly. Jesus commissions us to do the authentic proclamation of God’s realm. God’s realm is here! Right here in Greenwich Village. Right here, right now, is where we are commissioned to do our work.

This work doesn’t have to be extraordinary – it can be as simple as offering a smile as you pass someone on the street. It can be as simple as giving up your seat to an elderly person on a crowded subway. It can be as simple as saying “thank you’ to that stressed out, hard working bus driver as you get off the bus.  All these simple things – when performed in Jesus’ name with the intentionality of building up the kingdom of God  — add up to something extraordinary. They are healing acts. They are acts of liberation.

Healing. Liberation. These are the fruits of the missional work that we are called to do together. We don’t have to do this work alone, we have our brothers and sisters in Christ shoulder to shoulder to help carry the burden.

So during this season of green, think of healing. Think of liberation. Think of the simple ways in which you can bring healing and liberation to this wonderful, crowded city of ours.  We aren’t asked to make the blind see or the lame to walk.  We are asked to do the simple things, and to do them in Jesus’ name. Healing and liberation. Let these be our goal during this long green season of the Church. See how quickly these thirty weeks will fly by!  Amen.

John Keogh,
Vicar

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