18 June 2017
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Jesus is traveling. Going from village to village teaching, curing every disease and sickness. In each town, in each crowd, he sees the same thing – people are fragile, worn out, on the edge, broken, harassed and helpless as the gospel readings says. Quickly Jesus realizes there is more to be done than one person alone can do, and so he calls his disciples, the ones he has been teaching as they travel, and though they are novices and rough around the edges, Jesus sends them out to do the same, saying: Everywhere you go proclaim the good news: The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, cast out demons.
As modern day followers of Jesus, we pay particular attention to the followers of Jesus long ago, watching how they followed, what they did and said, where they hit road blocks, and where they did well. In this reading, the marching orders are clear: Go. Proclaim. Cure, raise, cleanse, cast out.
Clear and yet they are from another time and place. Most of us don’t encounter lepers on a regular basis. Health care workers cure the sick. Our scientific sensibilities scoff at any notion that we might raise the dead, and as for casting out demons … well … And in no time at all we have distanced ourselves just far enough from these seemingly clear marching orders that we no longer feel compelled to respond as did the first disciples. Those were words for that time and place. Not here and now.
Take a second look. Cure the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse the leper. Cast out demons. What I notice about these specific actions, these signs that the kingdom of heaven is near, is that they are all about healing and liberation. Healing in body and mind and soul. Healing bonds of relationship and community. Healing the broken places in the hearts of individuals and of whole communities.
And liberation … How many little deaths do we die each day we are alive? Deaths of disappointment and unrealized hopes, deaths of loss of identity, relationship, purpose. And we may not think of demons within us but we certainly know the power of being caught by something beyond our control. Feelings of fear, hopelessness, despair. Anger. Pride. Envy. A desire for power of some kind.
Healing and liberation … signs of the kingdom of God in our midst …
If we as individuals can see the need for healing and liberation in our lives, is it any surprise that whole peoples, entire communities, a country, the world are also in need of healing and liberation?
June 20, Tuesday, is World Refugee Day. The fact that we have such a day is reminder enough of the need for healing and liberation in our world. Refugees leave home because their lives are in danger due to war or violence, persecution, natural or human caused terror, hunger, lack of opportunity to provide for their loved ones. They flee seeking healing and liberation, neither of which are available as long as they stay where they are. Oh God, we pray for healing and liberation from war and insecurity.
These last few days provide other reminders of the world’s need for healing and liberation.
In particular, the acquittal in Minnesota of a police officer in the death of a black man named Philando Castile last summer, and the second anniversary of the racially based murders of nine bible study participants at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, a domestic act of terror. We have to acknowledge that our country, our communities, our hearts are in need of healing and liberation from the sin of systemic racism. It may cause you a twinge of discomfort that I say this. But discomfort is not a good enough reason to avoid telling the truth.
We have a problem with racism in this country. Few of us set out to act in ways that exert power over another based on the color of skin or the ethnic origins of a person, but we cannot continue to deny that racism – one group of people using power over another based on race – that racism pervades the systems and institutions we live in. And unless we talk about it, it will continue to simmer. Oh God, we pray for healing and liberation from racism.
The hung jury of a celebrity accused of sexual abuse of women is a reminder that our communities are in need of healing and liberation from the casual mistreatment of human beings, created in the image of God, who are women. Casual mistreatment and casual dismissal of what women bring to this world, to relationships, to work and positions of authority, to our life together. Oh God, we pray for healing and liberation from abuse.
Father’s Day reminds us that we need parents who love us as we grow. We need fathers and father figures to model the many ways of being a man so that our children, boy and girls, grow up knowing men are strong and gentle and everything in between. Today reminds us how many children don’t have fathers, don’t have parents to love them and protect them as they learn to navigate their lives. Oh God, we pray for healing and liberation from abandonment.
The shooting at the Republican baseball practice, injuring Senator Scalise and others is yet another reminder that we need healing and liberation from violence as a means of communication, and healing and liberation from easy access to and ready use of guns as a tool for harming one another. Oh God, we pray for healing and libration from violence.
Following Jesus is about playing our part to make sure that healing and liberation are available to all. That the fullness of life, the wholeness of being human, and connection to community are the opportunity of all people.
In ways large and small we are sent by Jesus to raise awareness. To stand with others. To advocate for the voiceless. To systematically undo the systems that work against women, children, people of color, victims of violence and war, anyone who does not have power in a situation. To resist evil. To cure, raise, cleanse, cast out all war and insecurity, racism, abuse, and violence. To strive for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of all people.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Beloved in Christ, we are disciples sent out to work for healing and liberation. And we are the crowd that longs for the words of Jesus.
The good news today is that Jesus still sees the crowds with compassion, for we are still harassed and helpless, still in need of guidance.
And because this life is some times full of bad news and hard work. And because following Jesus is at times demanding and uncomfortable. And because we need a reminder of the good news that Jesus is not just sending us out to do what seems impossible but is also walking along side us … a song to accompany us …
Stand as you are able and sing with me.
Peace before us,
Peace behind us,
Peace under our feet.
Peace within us,
Peace above us,
Let all around us be peace.
Love, light, joy.
Thanks be to God, and thank your for following Jesus.