Philippians 3, 7-14 + Matthew 10: 1-7
June 20, 2021 Mary, Mother of Light in Jupiter, FL
Let’s take two things from what Jesus says to us today in this Gospel, for when we proclaim the Gospel within the assembly of God’s people at liturgy, it is not history, or something he once said long ago. He is speaking to us right now in this little church here Tequesta, Florida just as much as he is speaking in our Cathedral in Brooklyn or in Lebanon. There is a lot here to digest, but two things stand out and deserve our attention.
First, there are these names. When Matthew put this Gospel together, a lot of people in his Jewish/Christian community knew one or many of these real historical figures. They are real people. The striking thing about these people is how different they were. They had distinctive personal names. They were as diverse in their political loyalties and professions as we could imagine. There was Matthew, the tax collector who represented the Roman authorities. There was Simon, a Zealot, a radical firebrand opposed to that Roman authority. He would be like a modern-day Bernie Sanders. How do you think they managed to get along? It would be like Trump and Sanders trying to work at the same task together! Twelve very different people selected to represent a renewed Israel of twelve tribes. That’s why there are twelve. It was through the personal presence of Jesus that this diverse and odd mix of people become united in service to the Kingdom of God they were sent to announce. We could all add our names to the list and not distort the reality of what Jesus is up to. Everyone, all the baptized are called to be partners in healing, restoring order to creation, and proclaiming God’s work in this world. In the end, it’s not about them.
The authority, divine power, is given to everyone in this apostolic church. That power is not given for any of us to use for ourselves. Yet, that is always the temptation people face when entrusted with power and authority. Jesus gave divine authority to all us to use for others, not for ourselves. This is the very real issue our Holy Father has these days with some in the church who have taken and used their power for their own benefit, protection, comfort, and status. They may make it to the top but regard their rank as the chance to be admired and served by others. We share in the mission of Jesus Christ, and we share his authority and his power. He never used any of his divine power for himself. Even when taunted by the bystanders to come down from that cross if you are the Son of God. He stayed till the end. Not one of our gifts has been given to us to use for ourselves. Every gift we have is for some other.
The second issue here is that at this point in the mission of Jesus they are not to go to the Gentiles. In a sense, they are to stay home, to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Never mind the Gentiles right now. In other words, clean up your house before you start cleaning up the rest. They were to start at home.
There is always the temptation to blame the evil in this world on someone else, scapegoating them. Democrats think all the problem are caused by Republicans while Republicans are sure that the Democrats are the devil incarnate. It’s always someone else. We do it all the time. Way too many preachers are always talking about someone else, blaming the troubles of this world on some imaginary “them” who need to be saved or are being threatened with hell if “they” don’t mend their ways. Jesus would have us clean up our act before we get started on others, and I can’t speak for you, but cleaning up my own act has taken me all of my life up to today and tomorrow. We have to face our own sin, our own hypocrisy, our own inconsistent ways before we have any hope of leading someone else to the kingdom of God.
The repair of the world is ultimately the mission of Jesus Christ passed on to everyone of us. If those diverse apostles had squabbled among themselves about who was right and who was wrong, we would not be in this church today, and no one would ever have introduced us to Jesus Christ. Diverse as they were, and diverse as we are, there is a unifying presence in our midst that still expects us to work together, to bring order out of chaos, which is the first sign of evil and to heal what is broken repairing this broken world and this damaged earth so that the glory of God can shine once more and become once again the paradise for which we were created.