Sunday, 22 June 2014

Shout it from the rooftops

Matthew 10:24-42
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
Whom to Fear
 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Not Peace, but a Sword
 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter- in- law against her mother- in- law;
 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Our gospel passage today is full of short sayings and warnings of Jesus, some comforting, some not.
Jesus has just commissioned his disciples to go on a mission.
Prior to these verses, Jesus taught a lot about how the disciples should travel, what they should take with them ( he told them to travel light), how long they should stay in one place and what they should do when they encounter resistance or are unwelcome.
Jesus knew that they weren't always going to be welcomed but would encounter violence.
He wanted them to be as prepared as they could possibly be.
This series of sayings appears to supplement all the information he has given them already.
You can just imagine the disciples, having heard and been convicted by the teaching of Jesus,having had all their instruction, now champing at the bit, raring to go and share all that they have learned.
But, before they do, Jesus decides to offer just a few more pearls of wisdom.
Wisdom that will keep them grounded in reality.
Jesus wants them to be fully aware of the costs of discipleship, the costs of ministry.
This passage was rattling in my head this week as I was involved in assessing applicants who have offered themselves to be considered for training as ministers in the Church of Scotland.
One of the things we seek to do as Assessors, no matter how gifted an applicant appears, we try to ensure that they have an awareness of the cost of ministry.
It is important that they know from the outset how demanding and absorbing and consuming and draining ministry can be.
Of course it is rewarding.
Of course it is an enormous privilege.
Of course ministry brings love and fulfilment and the most amazing opportunities.
But it is also very costly.
And it is vital that applicants, from the outset have a good awareness of the cost of ministry.
It seems to me, that that is what Jesus was doing for the disciples he was about to send out on a mission - ensuring that they knew the cost of ministry.
That they really were up for it - for better, for worse.
But, after laying out all the warnings, after doing his best to give them a clear picture of the task before them, of the dangers they might face, Jesus tells them: Do not be afraid.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Do not be afraid. How many of us need to hear that this morning? Do not be afraid.
That notion that everything is in God's hands - and that we should not be afraid.
 I remember growing up with an old gospel song: His eye is on the sparrow:
Some of you may know it too, made famous over the years by various singers, but more recently by Whitney Houston or by Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount in Sister Act.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know he cares for me.
Are those words we can live by?
Certainly they are words that have brought comfort to many.
Words that remind us that we are beloved children of God.
Loved, before we can know it.
Loved beyond our understanding.
Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Of course, it's hard sometimes to recall those words when we are caught up in life.
When things are going wrong.
When things don't make sense.
But, even when it's hard to remember Jesus words do not be afraid; because we're too busy panicking, maybe we can remember that we are beloved children of God.
As Jesus tried to teach his disciples before he sent them out into the world, being a beloved child of God, does not guarantee us an easy passage, far from it.
But it does promise the companionship of God every step of the way, in the highs and in the lows, in the hope and in the fear.

Good news deserves to be shared
Shared from the rooftops
not just whispered
Gods love merits telling loudly
to one and all
From the tips of your toes
to the top of your head
God's attention to detail
is beyond compare - and
God's love knows no bounds
In light love is revealed
and darkness retreats
and the good news to be shared
is no secret
by God whose wonderful light
banishes darkness
embracing all creation in love.

No comments: