Our June 14 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. This is the second Sunday with services held in the sanctuary with the congregation present since the COVID-19 restrictions started. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk.
The June 21 worship service to be held in our sanctuary with members and friends in attendance is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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June 14, 2020 Sermon
Exodus 19:2-8a | Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8 | Matthew 9:35-10:8 [9-23]
The Gospel text is the sending out of the 12 on their first “Mission Trip.” They are given their authority, which is Christ’s own authority. They are told what to take with them, which is basically the clothes on their back, and Christ’s message – nothing more. The message is, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” That kingdom of course, is personified in Christ himself. It is present in him, and it is also yet to come. Christ also tells them to let peace descend upon the house that receives them, in his name; and for them to shake the dust off of their feet of those places which will not receive them (that is some witness against! – “We want nothing of you, not even your dust.”). Notice he did not tell them to twist their arms behind their backs to force them to believe! Faith is a gift of the Spirit. We cannot force it on someone, contrary to what some think. That is important! We are but the messengers.
He also continues, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” That is not “Good News.” In fact it is a warning, an austere warning. It is also the kind of warning which we seem to ignore. We believe that we live in a “Christian nation,” and that the majority, if not all people around us, are loving Christians, just as we are, and have gladly received the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How wrong we are! The last time I heard, believing, practicing Christians comprised just under 50% of this country (political cries to the contrary). Indeed, Christianity is holding steady in this country, however, Islam is growing (in fact the most). We are surrounded by others, and they aren’t sheep.
Sheep. There we go again, being called sheep. Sheep, for all intents and purposes are helpless. In Scotland a couple of years ago, Ruth and I got to shear a sheep. It just kind of lay there while we “fleeced it.” The shepherd put it in what you would call a begging position, if it were a dog, sitting on its back haunches. And, it didn’t move. It just sat there. It was helpless. Think about it. The shepherd has to take care of them, protect them, and see to their needs. We are told, that we are sent out as such in to the midst of a world filled with….
Wolves. Yes, wolves. Wolves like sheep a lot. Wolves like to have sheep for dinner, as dinner. A lone sheep doesn’t stand much of a chance (which is how Jesus sends out the disciples). Sheep rely on the flock for some protection. We are sent out without that. Wolves also, aren’t usually solitary animals. They run in packs, and hunt in packs. Wolves work as a team, and have a definite chain of command. They are well led. A good pack hunts like a well oiled machine, and they are crafty. It doesn’t look good for sheep surrounded by wolves.
And so, Jesus warns “Be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” I’m sorry, but whenever I hear that one, I think of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” I don’t know why. I was a Muhammad Ali fan. But it makes better sense. “Wise as serpents,” there’s an attention-grabbing instruction! Wasn’t it a serpent that got us all into this mess to begin with? Gen. 3, “Now the serpent was the most subtle of all of the creatures which the Lord God made.” Yes, that was it! Perhaps Jesus is implying a little turn about is fair play. Perhaps the subtlety of God’s message is what is needed to correct the world’s situation? “And innocent as doves.” Well, they aren’t that innocent, but they have become a symbol of innocence, purity and peace. Remember, it is in the form of a dove that the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ at his baptism. And that same Holy Spirit guides us, in our mission, task – the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This warning is in preparation, I believe, to what awaits those who follow the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. The coming of suffering (something else which we don’t like to talk about – but it is most certainly there. That nasty coronavirus has definitely added to the suffering of the world, to be the most present example.). A Christian is called to suffer, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
That brings us to St. Paul in Romans, “We also boast in our sufferings.” Boast, being sent as sheep in the midst of wolves, why? “Knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Yes, that is a boast! We are not disappointed!
Suffering, we are surrounded by it. We have it in our midst: People who are ill, or have friend or family member who is ill; People who are grieving; worried, hungry, worn out, miserable; People who are afraid for the future, or because of the past; or worse those who are afraid for the present, not knowing which way to turn. To them, we are sent to reach out with the message of Good News. “The kingdom of heaven has come near!” Jesus Christ is very near to each of us. We are called to share, support and suffer with them, so that they may endure. Later, may look back on our experiences and draw wisdom, character and strength. It is the tempering which makes the steel.
But, what leads us forth in the midst of trials and struggles (the wolves) is the hope. It is the hope that we are not alone, that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near. That is the hope in which we baptize. God is here with us, suffering with us, giving us strength, and leading us forth into His coming kingdom, whose fulfillment is yet to come. It is the hope which is given to us by Christ, who came to dwell among us, and to die for our sins, and continues to guide us through the days of our lives, so that we may be faithful, to bring us to His new day. “God has proven his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Now that is hope! Praise be to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father through him, in Whom our hope resides.