Scripture: Matthew 9:35-10:23
If last week was Jesus’ pep talk for post-resurrection inspiration, today’s Scripture is Jesus’ rallying pep talk for pre-death and resurrection inspiration. As far as the life of Jesus is concerned and our journey through Matthew, we have time traveled backward from last week to today.
We are closer to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth. He has brought together his team - his disciples - and he is sending them forth. Kathryn Matthews makes a great point that “Jesus both moved and was moved.” God’s message is never about dwelling in a static state - “the church is to be in motion...embarking on a bold ‘going-out’ into the world that God loves so passionately.” (Sermon Seeds, ucc.org)
So, how do we not simply dwell, but move? During this pandemic time, we may not be physically or geographically moving around as much, but we can still move spiritually and make moves toward social justice and change.
How do we not simply dwell, but move?
In today’s Scripture, I believe it breaks down into:
Working within and with authority
Collaborating in diversity
Compassion. Authority. Diversity.
Where am I getting this from?
Compassion: At the start of this passage, it states that Jesus walked among the town and people and had compassion for what he saw - he saw people hurting, he saw people sick, he saw people overlooked - and he had compassion.
Authority: the Scripture says that Jesus gave divine authority to the disciples. He empowered them to pray with people, to offer healing and help. No longer could a disciple say “I can’t do that,” because Jesus just said “yes, you can.”
Jesus gave them authority to discern a lot, too, on this journey. They were told to discern the right households to stay with, the towns to focus on, and when to leave behind a situation that wasn’t bearing fruit.
He empowered them with authority and confidence. I believe it to be a humble authority - not a “I know better than you” authority, but a confidence in knowing that what they were working towards was worth it.
Diversity: Did you hear those disciples named? Fisherman. Tax Collector. Cananaean. Future betrayer. Looking specifically at Matthew and Simon, a tax collector and a “Cananaean.” These two people would be on either side of the Roman empire, the government of that time...Matthew, as a tax collector working for the Roman empire, and Simon likely a “passionate revolutionary” working against the Roman empire. (Kathryn Matthews, Sermon Seeds, ucc.org) Yet, here they are, both transformed by Jesus, both working toward a shared goal.
For us, how do we implement this model of compassion, authority, and diversity?
As you are driving around or walking your neighborhood or watching the news, are you tapping into God’s compassion for people? You don’t have to condone behaviors in order to have compassion for a person. You can disagree with their actions, but still have compassion for their being. As its definition states, are you tapping into a divine “sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others” - thinking about what has brought them to the place in life they are in now and having concern for them?
Are you acting in humble authority - are you tapping into being an empowered follower of Christ? Do you know that you have an important message to share with others? Do you know that others have an important message to share with you?
Do you feel you have God’s wisdom? Wisdom in authority is so vital. Wisdom tells you when to speak and when to be silent. Wisdom tells you when to move on and when to stick in it.
This is so important as we need to spend energy accordingly. A friend of mine this past week told me about conversations she had been having with loved ones regarding anti-racism. So many times she wanted to leave the conversations because she was enraged, but she stuck in them because she knows it’s important work. She had the wisdom to know in that situation that walking away would have not furthered understanding. There are no straight forward directions on knowing what to do in every situation - hence, our need for God’s wise authority.
When you are talking with and working with others to further God’s message, are you working with people who are different than you? Are you working to work outside an echo chamber? Conversations and acts of justice are, of course, so much easier when we’re hanging with people who think like us/look like us/dress like us, right? And it’s also not representative of God’s creation.
We represent God’s creation when we work within diversity. When the tax collector and the Cananaean come together. When the citizen and the immigrant come together. When the black skinned and white skinned come together. When the “conservative” and “progressive” come together.
When we work together across socially constructed divisions, then we’re bringing God’s kingdom to this earth.
As you go forward this week, ask yourself
Are you having compassion for the people around you? Are you seeing the hurt, the outcast, the weak, the marginalized?
Are you working within the humble authority of the Gospel message? Knowing when to dust off bad interactions and when to lean in?
Are you collaborating with people who are different than you in order to spread God’s message? Whether you are a fisherman/woman or tax collector, whether you are from the local town or a “foreigner,” are you listening to and working with people who don’t fit the same demographic as you?
Compassion. Authority. Diversity.
These things will keep us moving toward spreading the Gospel message.