Friedens UCC, Oley, PA April 14, 1985
1st Congregational Church, Gray, Maine
September 18, 2022
TEN MORE COMMANDMENTS
One of the important things to do when studying the Bible is to notice patterns and to take them seriously. This passage, for instance includes 10 instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples. Does that sound familiar? I want to take a quick look at them today. I didn’t have time to chisel them onto stone tablets, but I have put them in the bulletin, with blank spaces which you can fill in as I go along.
V.2 The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.
- You must spread the word, for many are waiting to hear
Have you experienced God’s power? Have you known God’s forgiveness or grace? Wonderful, but there are many who haven’t. Sadly, here in our nation these days, a great many people think of God as vengeful and judgmental, even hateful toward certain people: GLBTQ persons especially. There are thousands, perhaps millions of people waiting to hear a word of God that speaks of love, peace, and grace. And many more who need to hear of forgiveness. Jesus has sent us out on a mission to change this. We are to be missionaries for Jesus even if all we do is treat people with respect and love. We need to do this, and we should pray that God will send many more disciples out to spread the word that God is Love, and all are God’s children.
- 3 I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.
- You must be harmless
It is tempting to think of all the ways we can outsmart or manipulate others, but Jesus tells us not to do this. We are to be harmless, like lambs, even in a world full of wolves. Our best work for Christ will be done out of purity of intention, not cleverness. It’s God’s power that changes lives, not our own. Too often people try to change others by fear or deceit. There is no need to try to strengthen our message of Christ, even though it can be a touch sell. We are simply telling people that God has become human, has lived and died, and risen to life, and seeks to bring love into the world. Well, we may find that the wolves in the world will tear us to pieces. But the message will be heard, even if it requires martyrs. There is no voice louder than that.
- 5-6 Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house.’ If anyone there shares God’s peace, then your peace will rest on that person.
- You must go in peace and share peace.
So, when you are out in the world, do you carry peace with you. When you enter someone’s home, do you bring peace or division? Jesus is talking here about the peace of God. It is peace that settles deeply in the heart. As you, as a Christian, go out among other people, do you carry that peace with you? Your task is to do what you can to bring peace to the world. Paul Prather, “be a secret agent for peace.”
V7 Remain in this house, eating and drinking whatever they set before you, for workers deserve their pay. Don’t move from house to house.
4 You must be gracious and committed.
When these first disciples of Jesus went out, they didn’t head for the Hampton Inn. They had to find accommodations in a friendly home. And they were told to stay there and eat what the family ate. They were to be grateful for it. There was no going off to look for a better home with a softer bed or a tastier food. It is a bit backwards of what we usually hear. Too often we want people to change before we let them in, and that we know is wrong. But often we want people to change before we enter. We are to offer our peace and let happen what happens. We are to be committed to the people to whom we bring the message. We have to live among them and share our lives with theirs.
- 9 Heal the sick who are there,
5 You must heal the sick
This was not too difficult to guess. This was, or course, what Jesus did everywhere he went. Healing was a big part of his mission, and that’s what he asks us to do. Now I will admit that I am not clear about divine healing. I don’t seem to have the power to heal physical illness through prayer, though there may be others who do. But there are many other types of illness. There is emotional illness such as loneliness or fear. There is the world wide epidemic of injustice. There are people who are poor and people who are hopeless. We can do something about this. We can work for healing in the world and we can be a healing presence in the lives of others. Woody, putting an arm around me after choir.
- 9 Heal the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘God’s kingdom has come upon you.’
- You must tell people that God’s realm is here.
This was actually Jesus’ prime message—that the realm of God was not a distant place or in the future, but was here and now. But what is this realm? It is where God rules. It is where love, grace, forgiveness and peace are the way we live. If you are carrying God’s life in you, wherever or whenever you are is right near the Ream of God. It is our hope for a better world, but a hope we can live in now. We don’t have to wait for it. We are to tell people this. We are to tell them not to spend their lives waiting for God to come to us, because God already has come to us and is with us right now. Can you reach out to someone in love? Then the Realm of God is near. Can you care for someone who is small or weak, or someone who has been forced to society’s margins? Then the Realm of God is near. Can you speak the truth, forcefully and gently? Then the Realm of God is near.
17 The seventy-two returned joyously, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit themselves to us in your name.” 18 Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Look, I have given you authority to crush snakes and scorpions underfoot. I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.
- You must defeat all sorts of demons.
A definition of demons that I use is that a demon is whatever tortures a person. There are many demons still in our world—self-hate, abuse, fear, poverty, war, disaster. God has given us power over these things, and we must go out and use that power. We can free individuals and we can free groups. We can put to death the demons of oppression and destruction. Jesus tells us that Satan and all the powers of domination—all that is slithery and slimy in our world is doomed, and we are to help bring about their demise. Don’t be afraid of the demons, Christ has given us power over them.
V.10 Whenever you enter a city and the people don’t welcome you, go out into the streets and say, 11 ‘As a complaint against you, we brush off the dust of your city that has collected on our feet. But know this: God’s kingdom has come to you.’
- You must let people bear their own guilt
Believe it or not, it is not up to you to save the world, or any single person in it. It is God’s job to save people. It is our job to present Christ and let people respond to that. If you feel guilty because someone has turned you away, then you are carrying their guilt., and that will hurt you. We are all responsible for ourselves. If someone won’t respond, or pays back your kindness with hatred, that is on them. Your task is to love them, not save them. We help all we can, but ultimately it is God’s work and people’s responsibility to turn their lives around.
16 Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
- You must understand rejection
Rejection is a terrible thing and we have all learned about it from the day we were picked last for the baseball team. Jesus said we are going out like lambs among wolves, so if rejection is the worst thing we face, we should feel lucky. But if you have reached out to someone in the name of Christ and are rejected, remember, it is not you that is being rejected. It is God. Some people push love away. If it happens to you, don’t bury yourself in bad feelings and thoughts. I know, this is a tough one to accept. We care about someone, and they push us away, and it hurts. But Jesus told his disciples that this would happen. That can’t stop our work, and we can’t give up. But it’s hard. Some people are so trapped by their sin that they will reject God’s call.
V.20 Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you. Rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven.”
- You must be thankful for love, not power.
The love of God gives those who carry it great power. Few things feel better than when we see someone blossoming under the love that we bring to them. Though we can turn God’s love outward and free othes, always remember that you also have been rescued by God’s love. But though you can do such good in the world, don’t be excited that God has used you. Instead, be glad that God loves and cares for us, and that our name is written in God’s books, and on God’s heart, because that is the real miracle in our lives.