Text : Matthew 9:35-10:1
Theme Verse : “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.”(Mt 10:1)
Sending the Disciples out on a mission was long Jesus’ practice. Not many staycations for the twelve. Sharing good news by healing wounds of all kinds and expressing God’s love in the community was something Jesus empowered his followers to do. Today, we often express concerns of not wanting to impose our faith on another or suggest a “personal faith” equals a private one. Our faith, however, calls for a public response, a generous sharing that makes the ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ stuff come to life. Peter wrote in his letter, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope!”(1 Peter 3:15). When it comes to our faith, perhaps we heed the advice of every pre-school teacher ever: “We must learn to share.”Sharing, indeed, is a better way to live.
anthem : 'People Need The Lord' (S.Green) :: Kelly Ford, tenor; Susie Monger-Daugherty, piano
reader : Rick Bohls
preaching : Rev Mark Briley
special music ; 'The Lion & The Lamb' (Big Daddy Weave) :: The Rising Band
There are two kinds of people in this world – those who share and those who don’t. To be honest, I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t have any research to back that up but there’s probably some measure of truth to that statement. Some of us are better at sharing than others. I’m not so sure why we struggle with sharing so much. Isn’t it like the first thing we are taught in preschool? “We must learn to share.” Share the blocks. Share the dolls. Share the toys. Share the crayons. Share the load, right? “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your ____________?” Share! But sharing is hard. We all have our reasons. Fear that there won’t be enough for me if I share with you. If that’s you, you dread going out to dinner with a group of people because you just know somebody’s going to ask, “Hey, would you like to share something?” Selfishness is another reason we don’t share even though none of us like to admit we have any selfish tendencies. I want more. I want bigger. I want nicer. I want, I want, I want. To obtain all of those wants, we reel in our pocketbooks from sharing with somebody who is in need. Maybe we’re afraid. Maybe we’re selfish. Or maybe we’re disgusted. For example, I don’t like to share my toothbrush. Something about that just gives me the willies. I was a bit relieved when I read an article this week that said, “[Disgust] has a purpose, it’s there for a reason. Just like a leg gets you from A to B, disgust tells you which things you are safe to pick up and which things you shouldn’t touch.” This was shared by self-described “disgustologist” Valerie Curtis in a Huffington Post article entitled, “10 Things You Don’t Want to Share.” Toothbrushes made the list along with nail clippers, combs, deodorant, and bar soap which is often overlooked due to the presumption that bar soap somehow cleans itself.
It’s funny how reading one article typically leads you to read another and another and so on. “10 Things You Don’t Want to Share” led me to the next article entitled, “11 Reasons Why People Don’t Like You.” Of course, several of the reasons listed had to do with selfishness, arrogance, stinginess, and an unwillingness to share. We could spend time talking about that person who overshares about any number of things at the office. Many of us could agree that we’re not overly thrilled about someone sharing an unsolicited opinion. Maybe sharing is more complicated than we first think. And when it comes to sharing the faith, many start wiggling in their seats. I understand that. I’m getting on a plane in just a few hours and if I happen to share with the stranger sitting next to me that I am a pastor, I will likely get one of a few responses: Immediate silence (not always a bad thing); a flight-long counseling session (which can be very tiring), or the question, “Oh. Do you know Joel Osteen?” (which I do not). Sometimes it’s easier not to share. And you may be one who says, “My faith is personal and I don’t want to impose my beliefs and practices on someone else.” But… I wonder if you’ll consider with me today the possibility that a personal faith doesn’t equal a private faith. Sharing faith, sharing life, is part of the gift.
We’ve crested the top of our Life Hacks series with episode three today and one more to follow next week. Life Hacks and sharing go hand in hand so the idea was a natural fit. I’ve enjoyed hearing about some of your favorite Life Hacks as you have, fittingly, shared them with me over the course of this series. From the best ways to fold the bag of cereal before closing the top of the box to the incredible ways to use binder clips – mind blown at the possibilities. How many of you have a binder clip on you right now? Let’s make a deal! Just kidding. Life Hacks are meant to be shared. I’ve discovered something that makes my life easier and more fulfilling which makes me eager to share it with you. In this series, we’re considering Life Hacks for the soul – things that are not short-cuts of faith as we’ve shared those don’t really stick – but opportunities to connect in new ways to your faith that perhaps you haven’t before. Today’s soul hack? Sharing.
In Matthew’s account of the movement of Jesus, we find Jesus in the thick of sharing life with people around him. It was demanding. The needs were great. And Jesus had “compassion for the crowds.” As we’ve said before, compassion, in the original language meant this guttural response to the needs. His gut churned when he saw people who were hurting or hungry for meaning. You may feel this guttural compassion when you see the victims in the latest round of hurricanes or earthquakes. You may feel this when you see a child get bullied. You may feel this when there’s another story of murder or accident or injustice. What makes your gut churn? Matthew says, “Jesus had a guttural reaction at the site of so many people where were harassed and helpless, confused and aimless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus didn’t simply scroll through his social media platforms and post angry comments, he moved to share what he had to help and heal. Just prior to our text of focus today, two blind men crying for “Mercy!” followed Jesus into his home. Imagine just pulling into your garage, you get out of your car and your garage is just swarmed with folks who followed you right in and trapes right through your back-hallway door. You try to shut the laundry room door before everyone sees your piles of stuff in there. This happens at our house almost every day with the neighborhood kids. I’ll pull into the garage and before I can get out, here they are and we all sort of file in together. These two blind guys slide into Jesus’ home and Jesus, putting his keys on the key rack and his watch on the dresser (checking first to see how many steps he’d gotten in so far for the day) says to these guys: “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master.” He touches their eyes and says an amazing thing: “Become what you believe.” Isn’t that a powerful word? Become what you believe. What do you believe? God is Love? Jesus is grace? Have you planted your flag on mercy? It’s sort of the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ or ‘actions speak louder than words’ of the faith: Become what you believe. As Harry Emerson Fosdick used to say, “Opinions may be mistaken. Love never is.”
On the heels of this healing came more and more of the same – Jesus showing up, sharing the kingdom news, healing diseased bodies, healing bruised and hurt lives. The work, however, was overwhelming. Stepping back to get the aerial view of all that was transpiring led Jesus to say to his disciples, “The need is overwhelming. The harvest is huge. But we’re shorthanded.” In his head, Jesus is singing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” Jesus isn’t asking for people to share their toothbrushes, but to share the gift of healing with a hurting world. Jesus needed a team. He calls the twelve empowering them to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. I always find it fascinating that so many names get shared in scripture which says something about their role, and ours, in this whole journey. It matters that you share in it. Matthew shares the roster: Simon (the one they call Peter), Andrew, his brother; Zebedee’s boys James and John; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas, Matthew the tax man; James son of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; Simon – the Canaanite; Judas (who later turned on him).
The list of names is really more than the roster. It said something amazing about this movement of Jesus and his desire to find a place for everyone. Luke’s gospel names Simon the Canaanite as part of the Zealots who were known as sort of the fourth party of the Jews (sort of the like the Tea Party got its own political rep in American politics). They were the hardcore folks, the most nationalist of all nationalists. They would have hated tax collectors – and not just like everybody else who moaned about taxes but they would have been prepped to go the length of secret murder to get rid of the types who were in such opposition of their approach to life. You’ve got Simon the Zealot and Matt the tax man on the same list of twelve says something about Jesus and his movement. If Simon met Matthew anywhere else than in the company of Jesus, he would have taken him out. The love of God, the grace of Christ, can whisper in every ear. And now, as in that day, we need to be such a witness to the world that is so ready to tear each other apart. Two people mentioned that very notion to me this week about our church. They said, “We don’t know of anywhere else in our lives that we come together with people who may differ greatly in politics or theology, and yet still come to the Table Christ sets for us with a sense of love and respect for one another and what we are to be about as a people of faith.” And I just think, “Wow. Yes. We can be that witness. We can be a movement for wholeness in a very fragmented world.” And Jesus says, “Yep. Need you. Need you to work together. Need you to share compassion from the gut. Need you to heal the hurts. Need you not to fuel what is evil but pour fuel on the love you see.”
And like us, the newly formed 12-man roster was like, “What? Can you like email me that or something? Got some hacks that might help us do that stuff?” And Jesus responds with the verses that follow in Matthew which say this: “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment.”
You are the equipment. You are the very soul hack somebody else needs. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose display. In fact, a daily-dose of your faithful presence wherever you roam is more than enough. Jesus says to us the same thing he did to twelve – “You’ve got plenty of need right in your own neighborhood.” We may read this, “in your own home,” “in your work place,” “at school,” “even in your own Sunday School class.” There’s plenty of need. Tell them the reason for the hope that you have in your life. Participate in the everyday miracle of showing up. You may not feel you can heal your neighbor’s cancer but you may be able to heal their loneliness. You may not feel your prayer can bring back someone from the dead but you might resurrect a relationship that flatlined for reasons you need to forgive. Perhaps you bring someone back into community who as otherwise felt ostracized. Maybe you kick out the demons of hate or apathy. Could you share enough love with someone who has been burned by the church that they might say, “If he can be in church… if she can go to that church… then maybe there’s hope for me.” Friends, as Chance the Rapper says, “That kind of love would make Jesus come back a day early.” These everyday miracles come alive in the details. Don’t underestimate how the details of love can turn despair around.
Author and professor Deborah Tannen writes about a conversation she shared with her great-aunt. Her great-aunt had been a widow for many years. Now in her late 70’s, she found herself in a new romantic relationship. She didn’t feel as confident in the shape of her body these days or the fullness of her hair. Her hands and legs bore signs of the arthritis which tormented her body. Tannen wrote, “She did not fit the stereotype of a woman romantically loved… but she was.” She had met a man who lived in a nursing home in the same town with whom she began to spend a good amount of time. In trying to tell her great-niece what this relationship meant to her, she told of one of their recent conversations. One evening, she had dinner out with friends. When she returned home, her male friend called and she told him about the dinner. He listened with interest and asked her, “What did you wear?” When she told her niece, Deborah, about this she began to cry. She said, “Do you know how many years it’s been since anyone asked me what I wore?”
The power of the details. I know that story wasn’t about a person trying to get someone else to pray the sinner’s prayer. And I’m certainly not trying to give dating advice. But I wonder if we might pay a little closer attention to the people around us, see them as God’s beloved, listen to their pain, meet them where they are with the love and hope of Christ and see if that sharing doesn’t make a difference in their lives. When life gets crazy, our spiritual lives seem to get pushed to the back burner or at least reduced to the ‘minimum requirements.” “How can we be the hands and feet of Christ when we have a million things to do,” we ask? We start with one everyday miracle at a time. We never know who is having a terrible day, going through a break-up or experiencing a great loss in silence. The simple act of a smile and a compliment, a text message of encouragement or simply telling someone how much they inspire us can change their entire day, and ours. We may too often think, “My co-workers all know about Jesus. They all know I’m a person of faith. My neighbors all know that there’s a God who loves them. They all know there is a church that will welcome them as they are.” Do they? I think Jesus would look across the landscape of our lives today and say, “The harvest is great… the need is out there…and it’s tremendous. I need you. Can I count you in?” Don’t assume everyone knows or nobody has a need or you have no ability to share. Let’s not hoard our faith or our church. Let’s not settle for being comfortable and get complacent. One of my friends says, “Complacency is the gestation period right before a church begins to die.” The love of Christ is shared in the details. There are two kinds of people in this world – those who share and those who don’t. I don’t know if that’s true. I already told you that. But… I do know this: I’d rather be remembered as the kind of person who shares.
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 As exegetically covered by William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Westminster Press. Philadelphia. 1975.
 As shared by Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called, “The Message.”
 This story has been shared several places. I’ve heard it referenced by John Ortberg, Glen Miles, among others. I believe it is told, in print, in Deborah Tannen’s book, “You’re the Only One I Can Tell.” http://www.deborahtannen.com/