Genesis 22 v 1-14
Matthew 10 v 40-42
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Our Old Testament reading – the almost sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, is always a very difficult passage to preach on, so, although I left it in the readings this morning, I’m going to just let it sit there – as an ancient story.
And give thanks for the gospel.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s OK to wriggle out of hard tasks and give ourselves a break.
Today, I’m going to take the easier road – and go with the gospel.
The gospel that, for me at least, speaks more clearly into our lives today and to which we can relate more easily right now.
Especially in these weeks after Pentecost.
When we still have our Pentecost rainbow gracing the sanctuary, naming our hopes and dreams and something of our vision for this parish and for this community.
Let me read to you this morning’s gospel from The Message version of the Bible:
We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."
The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice.
What an affirmation – the smallest act of giving or receiving makes us true apprentices.
A gospel of hospitality and service.
A gospel that affirms that each of us has it in us to be God’s messenger.
We are equipped.
This reading comes hot on the heels of Jesus sending out his disciples.
Jesus is still outlining what’s what – the important things in the service of the kingdom.
But, just for a moment, I want to take you back to the way the gospel writer tells us of Jesus commissioning the disciples – the passage leading up to today’s teaching.
A passage that has become my favourite passage in the gospels and that I use often to encourage others in mission.
It starts at the end of Matthew 9, and continues on into Matthew 10, from which today’s reading comes.
This is the story of Jesus sending out his disciples:
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"
The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives…
Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.
It is with that same charge that Jesus commissions us, his disciples of today.
With the charge to travel light, remembering that WE are the equipment.
That, in God, we have all that is needed to go and care.
In God, we have the power to kick out the evil spirits and tenderly care for hurt and bruised lives.
Dare we believe that today?
Dare we believe that, right now, right here in this neighbourhood, we can make a difference to folk who are lost and confused, we can bring health to the sick, convince people that the kingdom is here.
That it’s not just some high flying notion.
And it’s not about being overly dramatic.
Rather, it’s about living generously with all that we have been given, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to make a difference right here where we are.
Dare we believe that?
And, supposing we dare, do we welcome that kind of power – power that will change lives, power that will love our community into health and wholeness, into a different, just way of being?
Is that the kind of power we would welcome.
Are those the kind of changes that we look forward to in our community?
I’ve spent some time this week, praying through our Pentecost hopes and dreams that we posted on our rainbow of hope.
Hopes and dreams that we can be a community of love in action, a community that wants to be welcoming, affirming and accepting.
A community that longs for peace.
A community that radiates warmth and extends hospitality.
In the words of this morning’s gospel, a community that offers a cup of cold water – and receives the gifts of God as gifts of grace – undeserved but freely given.
Those are our hopes and dreams.
But isn’t it more than a little bit scary to have those hopes and dreams fulfilled?
How would we cope with seeing our prayers – for that’s what hopes and dreams are – how would we cope with seeing our prayers answered?
How would we cope with witnessing the power of God being revealed?
And how would we cope with being the instruments of God right were we are?
While it is natural to long for all the things we have written on our rainbow – seeing those hopes and dreams brought to fruition – the changes that would mean in our lives still brings an element of fear.
Being successful in the mission of God, however longed for, is scary.
Harnessing the power of the Holy Spirit is a risky and a scary business.
As soon as we take seriously all that is promised to us through the spirit, we have to surrender control.
and, like all things in which we feel ourselves losing control, there is more than an element of fear for us.
Some time ago, I learned an interesting thing about rainbows.
Often, in this part of the world, we see double rainbows – always a beautiful sight.
The thing is, when we see a double rainbow, it is, in fact, only one rainbow – the second rainbow is a reflection of the first.
If you look at the picture, you’ll see that, in the second rainbow, the colours are reversed – a mirror image of the original rainbow.
What an image for us here in Castlehill, buoyed up by all the gifts of the Holy spirit.
As we surrender control to the power of the Holy Spirit, surrendering our fear as we do so.
As we embrace the gifts that the Spirit brings.
As we allow the colour and vibrancy of the Holy spirit to infect us, here and in our weekday lives, we become double rainbow blessings.
We reflect the image of God.
We, too, radiate vibrancy and hope, excitement and passion.
How cool is that?
What if we could radiate a mirror image of the colourful gifts of the Spirit of God?
Just imagine what a transformation we would see in this place and in the community we are called, together, to serve.
And our gospel assures us that by giving, we will not lose out. Jesus said:
. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."
So what makes us afraid?
What holds us back?
What keeps us from seeing that community transformation that God promises to us if we join God in the work of the harvest?
What prevents us – you and I – from giving that cool cup of water?
What prevents us performing the smallest acts of hospitality, small acts that make a massive difference in the Kingdom of God.
Small acts that heap rainbows of blessing on us and on the community we serve.
That is the question that we take with us to ponder in the days ahead.
What prevents us being used by the Spirit of God?
Once we are able to answer that question, we may be able to remove the barriers we put up.
We may be able to relinquish our fear.
We may even be daring enough to take those small steps – to offer a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty.
May God be glorified in all our small steps and may God’s spirit be unleashed as we participate in the mission to which God calls us rejoicing that the smallest act of giving or receiving makes us true apprentices.
Thanks be to God