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Beginning Again: Living Our Logo …Online!

4th Sunday after Pentecost, Common Lectionary Year A

Matthew 10, selected verses

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Scripture and Sermon video

Introduction to scripture
Today I’m shifting our attention temporarily, away from our exploration of our Bible’s first book, to reflect aloud with you all on these strange times,
and upon what I believe we are being called to, as disciples of Jesus Christ,
as people committed to the fulfilment of the Dream of God,
particularly as we go into an uncertain summer.
My conversation partner with this reflection
is the Gospel of Matthew,
and that moment in it,
where Jesus, after spending a good deal of time teaching
those who were committed to his Way of living God’s Dream,
gives them instructions on how to go online.
(Well not quite),
rather, to disperse themselves among the villages
to share the Good News, and to heal the sick, and live the Dream of God.
It’s their first time taking on the mantle of ‘gospeller’
without him right by their side;
it’s a bit of a test run.
Some of Jesus’ instructions are very practical,
and some of it is quite theological,
and it’s clear that their task isn’t going to be greeted always
with acceptance or grace.

Let’s listen to Matthew 10, selected verses.

The twelve disciples all gathered, Jesus sent them out with these instructions
“Off you go, dear ones.
Go, but not far. Don’t stray into the land of the Gentiles,
but stay among our own people, the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as you go, proclaim this Good News ,
“The kingdom of God is near.”
And as you do so, remember to cure the sick, raise the dead,
touch the untouchables, and cast out demons.
And as you received this good news yourselves for free,
give it to others just as freely.
As you travel, travel light, accept hospitality and stay where you are welcome,
but don’t linger where you are not.

And remember that not all will accept the truth of God’s Kingdom willingly;
you will feel like sheep among wolves;
so be smart, wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
And when you’re persecuted for this Gospel that you share (and you will be),
trust God to guide your words and actions so that you remain true to the Gospel.
For through all that will happen,-the trouble, the maligning, the impugning of motives, the outright persecution, the personal cost of living God’s Dream,-
remember how precious you are to God your Father in heaven,
God, who knows every hair on your head.
And remember, ultimately whoever welcomes you is really welcoming God; whoever greets you with peace or with a simple cup of water, is welcoming God’s very self into their lives. So go.

This is the good news of God in Jesus Christ
Thanks be to God

Reflecting on the text: Living our Logo

I wonder what it felt like to be a disciple of Jesus?
After months, maybe longer,
of being inspired by his teaching,
and amazed by his ability to listen and to heal,
to then be told,
“Off you go. Get up, leave the sanctuary of this school for disciples,
get out in the neighbourhood to do the same.”
What did that feel like?

What did that, feel like to be instructed to preach the Gospel,
heal the sick, raise the dead(!) and cast out demons…?!
What did it feel like to be warned of the cost,
to personal safety, to relationships, or reputation,
of living the Dream of God?

What was it like to be sent out
feeling suddenly inadequate to the task,
not really having a clue about how to be..
basically be like Jesus in the world?

A bit – or a lot- like this moment, if we’re honest.
I mean, seriously, what are the practical and theological instructions
for being a Church community in a time of pandemic, lockdown,
physical vulnerability,
political polarization, social upheaval and economic storms
the likes of which most of us have never experienced before?

What are the practical and theological instructions for being a
church with a building we can’t safely use?
And why is it, given all that’s going on in the world,
that Jesus is not gathering us like sheep safely into a fold,
but sending us out, even those of us locked down, as sheep among wolves?!

I’ve been mining this book and a few others besides,
for the list, the template, the guidance.
And it comes back to this really.
Jesus laying it out for disciples to do something they
feel like they’ve never done before,
even if they have.

Jesus trusted these disciples with this Gospel,
and he’s trusting us too.
Our heads and hearts, and at least some of our muscle memory
are full enough of echoes and memories
of the things that Jesus,
descendant of shepherds, priests, and prophets
has taught us about God’s Dream,
God’s Dream where the last, the least and the lost of the world
are most fully embraced by the loving grace of God,
so that they too can experience God’s abundant life for all.

The Dream of God that has shaped the
Identity and Values by which we,
as the people of God of Cedar Park United live.
The Dream of God that has guided our ministries
for the past decade to be an open community of faith,
keeping the message of Jesus relevant and real
in a complex and hurting world.
We’ve let this statement and its logo guide our ministries
of refugee welcome, fair trade partnerships,
healing pathway ministries, community programming
to combat isolation, or food insecurity,
becoming an affirming congregation, (the list is fantastic!)
… and everything we’ve done
with our building over the past 8 years, to repair and renovate
it so with it, under its green roof, we’ve been able to
create a geographic locus
where ANYONE who uses it can
“feed your spirit, feel at home and fulfill your purpose”

And maybe not all of you are aware that in the I/V statement that dates back over a decade, there’s even a prescient line in there
about valuing being a church without walls….
well, here’s our moment!

Today, these words of Jesus to us disciples are pretty clear,
it’s time (for a time) to leave the building
in order to be the people of God wherever we are.
Hear it again;
“Go, dear ones, but not far, stay close to the confused and lost of your
own people, proclaim the Good News that God is near,
heal the sick, raise the dead, touch the untouchables,
through your advocacy for forgotten and marginalized people,
and call out all that is demonic.”
Ooofff…. It kind of all makes sense, now doesn’t it?

As I look at the logo, daily, it’s been challenging me to figure out
what to do with it, while temporarily out of 204 Lakeview.
But with Jesus’ “go to where you live”, it’s making more sense.

For now, we’re being called
to make the homes we’re confined to
into places where we feed our spirits;
spiritual oases or moments in our days
bringing worship and faith-feeding practices
to the kitchen table…

We’re being called to fulfill our purpose as God’s people,
proclaiming in simple sidewalk-chalk acts of kindness,
mask wearing acts of kindness,
grocery delivering, justice advocacy working,
home-schooling, working from home,
pitching in to help act of care,
cluster emailing, phoning,
grow- a-row gardening acts of care,
climate action care for the planet…
those telos/sweet spot things everyone of you do,
often quietly without much fanfare
to proclaim in action
that God’s abundant life for all includes all,
and precisely those lives that haven’t mattered enough until now;
the LGBTQ2 community, and black lives and indigenous lives ,
and non-Christian lives and refugeed lives,
and mentally ill and emotionally wrung out lives.
And if that raises the hackles or ire of others,
Jesus reminds us that it was ever thus when the Kingdom of God
meets privilege and empire, complacency and complicity.

Right now, disciples,
we’re learning, as generations have before us,
that it is us, not the building
that is the life-blood and soul of our church
in its witness to the neighbourhood and world.

And if that feels daunting, I agree!
But then I remember:
this may be our first time living through what feels
like the 10 Plagues in Egypt,
the fall of Jerusalem, the sack of Rome,
and a falling house of cards all rolled into one,
but it’s not God’s first rodeo.
And nor is it the first time that
the people of God have been
commissioned to live the God Dream
outside the walls, outside the lines,
in the midst of our own and the world’s nightmares.

It’s just our moment to be written as pilgrim people
into the Gospel story.
It’s our time to reach beyond the wood and stone,
to be God’s bearers of hope.

Amen.

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