Second Sunday after Pentecost
14 June 2020
Rev Kate McDonald, St Andrew’s Church Jerusalem & Tiberias
Genesis 18.1-15, Psalm 1161, 10-17, Romans 5.1-8, Matthew 9.35 – 10.8 (9-23)
Almighty God, without you we are not able to please you. Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Last Saturday I went for a hike in the Carmel Forest. I have walked the Israel National Trail through that part of the country and remembered it being beautiful. And beauty was what I was longing for last weekend.
However, the start of the walk took me down paths strewn with rubbish and along a road edged by a dumping ground, where washing machines, mattresses, and children’s toys formed an ugly mountain. A heavy haze hung in the sky.
Sometimes the world feels like a mess.
As I walked, a gentle breeze blew away the smell of the dump, and the haze lifted to reveal a cloudless blue sky. The rhododendron were in full bloom along the riverbed in the valley. And from one hilltop, I could see the Mediterranean stretching out endless.
The world is also filled with such goodness.
I was out walking because these last few months have been hard and walking is one of the ways I pray. We’re already halfway through 2020. And to be honest, the first half of this year has at times felt like walking past that dump. As the Covid-19 pandemic has spread, as imbalances of power have become more blatant, we’ve been unable to ignore the broken economic and social systems which have for so long trapped people in poverty, violence, and isolation. It’s been clear who society sees as its most disposable members. Many of us are becoming more aware of our privilege and complicity, and there’s discomfort in that.
We are faced with so much need in the world, so many who are longing for healing and liberation.
But through these difficult times, we have worshipped. Our church year has continued, punctuating our weeks with a reminder that we are also situated within God’s time. We have traveled together through the wilderness of Lent, the 50 days of Easter joy, the celebration of Pentecost, and last week’s promise of God’s perfect Trinitarian love. These holy seasons assure us
that whatever season of life we find ourselves in, God is alongside us, active in the great work of re-creation and redemption.
The world may feel like a mess. But the world is also filled with goodness. Both can be true at the same time. Suffering and hope exist side by side.
Now we begin the Sundays after Pentecost, the season sometimes known as Ordinary Time, that long stretch of Sundays through the summer, into the autumn, up until the Feast of Christ the King in November. These weeks are anything but ordinary. After months of jumping around in our scriptures, we’ll be settling in with Matthew’s gospel, reading back through the story of Jesus’ ministry with eyes opened to the truth of the resurrection, hearing how he not only proclaimed the kingdom of heaven was near, but ushered in its reality through healing the sick and rebuking structures of oppression at the same time, often in the same act.
In this season, we’ll be looking for the places the kingdom is growing around us today and the ways God is calling us to participate in that growth.
In our reading this morning from Matthew 9.35-10.8, the growth of the kingdom has begun, and the word is spreading.
As we join Jesus and his disciples, they are on the move, traveling around the Galilean countryside after Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. He had already told people about the kingdom, now it was time for him to show them. In Matthew’s gospel, the signs of the kingdom are acts of healing and liberation. So Jesus has brought healing to a man with leprosy, the son of a Roman soldier, Peter’s mother-in-law, a man who is paralysed, the woman who was bleeding. He has liberated people bound by demons, freed his disciples from their fear in the midst of a storm.
So it is no wonder that by the time we join Jesus and the disciples here in chapter 9 vast crowds have gathered. And those crowds would have been the people living on the fringes of society, marginalised because of disability or illness. They would have been the people in poverty, the ones living under an oppressive government, struggling just to get by. They would have been the the people most desperate for healing, most longing for liberation.
And Jesus sees their weariness, their restlessness, their helplessness, and their hopelessness. And as he looks out at them, he is moved to his core with compassion for them.
He saw the mess of the world they were living in. But he also knew that the world is good, he knew that with his very presence the kingdom was near. In their suffering, he knew he was their hope.
And in that moment, he also knew that the need was greater than what he could do on his own. The harvest is plentiful, he tells his disciples. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers. But then in the very next verse, the disciples learn that they are to be the workers, they are the ones God has provided to help Jesus in his mission.
See, the disciples had been walking with Jesus, listening to his teaching, watching every encounter. So when Jesus called them to him and then sent them out to announce the nearness
of the kingdom and then to do the kingdom work of healing and liberating, they knew what he meant. Announce, then do. Teach, then heal. Say, then show. Proclaim hope. And then be hope.
In these days, we are seeing crowds gathering — physically and virtually — weary of injustice, restless for change. Demonstrators are filling the streets of our cities. Protestors are campaigning for the overturning of unjust laws and practices.
As disciples of Christ, we are to hear the cries, to be moved to the core with compassion, to pray for more workers of the harvest. But as one of the speakers at an international prayer vigil I attended last week said, ‘Let us be the answer to another’s prayer’. We are the workers Jesus is sending into the world.
The only way to know how to do the work of Jesus is to walk with him first. That is what our long slow journey through this season of Ordinary Time is for, to watch and listen and learn again the holy work of healing and liberation.
The world is a mess. But the world is also good and the kingdom of heaven is near. Where there is suffering, Jesus commissions us to bring hope.
Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes
through which Christ’s compassion cares for the people of the world; yours are the feet
with which Christ is to go about doing good; yours are the hands through which Christ now brings a blessing.
So let us promise this day
to live each moment to the full, to look with eyes of compassion and to act with kindness.
Let us go forth in peace.
Let us go forth seeking justice.
Let us go forth with God’s blessing: Creator, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.*
* St Theresa of Avila, followed by prayer and blessing used for the joint Dioceses of Brechin and Iowa Prayer Vigil for Peace and Justice held by Zoom on Sunday 7 June 2020