The Work of the Kingdom of Heaven
Father’s Day Pentecost 2 June 18, 2017
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8-23
Great Parish Swap: St. James’ Albion & St. Thomas Battle Creek
The Great Commission vs The Commissioning and Instruction of the Twelve
The Work of the Kingdom of Heaven
Good Morning! <Pause> Happy Father’s Day to the fathers and all the men who have played an important part in our lives.
I am The Reverend Darlene Kuhn, but my family and friends call me Mother Darlene. My husband Jon and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary in May and I celebrated my fifth anniversary of ordination to the diaconate this past week. I am the rector at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Albion and thank you for the opportunity to swap pulpits with Father Brian this morning. He will have one service at 9:30am with 25-30 people and I am looking forward to seeing what leading two worship services with a larger congregation is like. My husband Jon, and parishioners Mary and Dick Porter, Diana Hrab, and Lisa Homan are also here. We are looking forward to hearing about St. Thomas and your ministry in Battle Creek. I hear you have a wonderful music program and Summer Breakfast Program.
St. James’ is a great little church and we celebrate our 177th Anniversary in Albion this month. We have a small choir and Christian formation for everyone after the Sunday service throughout the school year and try to provide a community supper once a month. We just received word that we have been awarded a United Thank Offering Grant to buy a tractor, rototiller, lawnmower, and frontend loader to be used by the Albion Community Gardens which is exciting news since we have nearly five acres to manage. The grand opening of the garden was a couple weeks ago and we have planted fruit trees, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers and many garden plots. We even have water!
St. James’ has held two Reading Camps in Albion. This year we are working with the Albion Recreation Department, the Albion College Fellows, the Albion Public Library, and The Franke Center for the Arts in Marshall to provide a literacy program. We will provide story time and a literacy activity Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer.
Last week the Gospel reading was the Great Commission, ‘And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’ (Mt 28:18-20) The Great Commission occurs at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew following Jesus’ resurrection and presumably just before his ascension.
This morning’s gospel reading from Matthew is the commissioning and instruction of the twelve disciples occurring much earlier in Jesus’ ministry. It is interesting that we have two commissioning stories two weeks in a row. In the great commission the disciples are told to make new disciples teaching them everything they have been taught. Today’s commissioning is a little bit different. Before today’s reading in Matthew, Jesus has been travelling around to all the cities and villages teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every sickness and disease and acquiring followers. With today’s gospel reading Jesus begins to train the twelve disciples in their ministry in the Kingdom of Heaven and to prepare them for the Great Commission. We are told that Jesus gives the twelve apostles authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and sickness. They are told to proclaim the good news that ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’, to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. They are to do this without any expectation of payment and are not to take anything with them, but are to depend on the hospitality of those they visit. Unlike the great commission where the disciples are told to go and make disciples of all the nations, today’s commissioning is specifically for the house of Israel. If the towns and homes they visit are not interested in their message then they are to move on to the next. They are to expect rejection and even abuse, but when they fall they are to pick themselves up, shake off the dust and move on to share the good news in the next town.
So what does a preacher say to a congregation that is already engaged in ministry in the community, that does not sound patronizing or like they are being lectured? The Baptismal Covenant as found on page 304 of the Book of Common Prayer says that, “We will continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.” “We will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever [we] fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” “We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” “We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as our self.” And “we will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
This is a good summary of the Church’s, or at least the Anglican branch of the church’s, understanding of our responsibilities towards the Great Commission, so what can we learn from this morning’s gospel reading. First Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and he has given of that authority to the twelve disciples and presumably all disciples. We have the authority to proclaim the Good News and to be about the work of God. When rejection and persecution happen we can be confident that God has our back and that we are doing what we have been called to do when we do the will of God.
Matthew names the twelve disciples in pairs and Mark specifically says that Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. Our Christian ministry is to be done in community; we are not to act as a “lone wolf” or a “cowboy”. Church policies such as Safe Guarding God’s Children require us to work in pairs for our own safety and for the safety of others. You have probably heard the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” This is true in ministry as well.
The ultimate goal of the greater church and the great commission is that the good news will be shared with all people around the world, but even Jesus’ twelve disciples started with the local and neighboring synagogues. You may say, “I am not a missionary or an evangelist”, but the fastest growing mission field is right here in North America. Roman Catholic churches are actually calling priests from other countries to serve churches in North America; we are not going overseas, but others are coming to us. Deacon John Edwin Infante Pinzon in our diocese has come from Colombia and is serving at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Grand Haven with their Latino Ministry.
Have you considered your job to be a vocation dedicated to God? If you work in the medical field then you are part of Jesus’ command to cure every disease and sickness and raise the dead; counsellors and psychiatrists work to cast out our emotional and spiritual demons. When we vote we should vote as Christians rather than Republicans or Democrats, voting for programs, such as Meals on Wheels, to aid the poor, the refugee, and the environment. Consumers, are you considering the consequences of your purchases? Parents and grandparents are you telling God’s story to your children and grandchildren and teaching them all that Jesus taught his disciples and commanded them to do such as loving God and loving their neighbor? Business people are you championing ethical business practices, supporting and paying living wages and benefits for your employees and fellow workers including international employees, and promoting environmental safeguards? Missionary work, evangelizing and proclaiming the gospel do not mean preaching from a soap box or wearing a placard predicting the end of the world or even being a hero.
The work of the church is what we do and how we make decisions in our lives 24 by 7. It is not something we will get paid for. We will face resistance and even persecution, but this is what it means to accept the commission as disciples of Jesus Christ as promised in our Baptismal vows. Amen.
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Mother Darlene Kuhn
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