Go

St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

"What Happens When We Are Sent?" - Sermon for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost - Year C

 Year C Proper 9 Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

July 7, 2019

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

What happens when we are sent? Jesus sends seventy disciples ahead of him. The context is that he is on the way to Jerusalem; a journey that will take him to his death.  Jesus is launching his final mission trip and there is a sense of urgency in his words. It is like a great harvest where time is of the essence and the laborers are few.  Although much has changed since the commissioning of the Galilean disciples, Jesus’ instructions provide insights about how “sending” looks even for 21st century disciples like you and me.

What happens when we are sent?  We learn vulnerability. To be vulnerable comes from the Latin root, vulnerare, which means to wound.  When we are vulnerable we can be wounded; hurt. The disciples become vulnerable by going on their mission without weapons, money, extra clothes or provisions. They are dependent on their hosts to provide necessities.  

There is another kind of vulnerability with which we are all familiar.  It involves the ability to acknowledge and accept our brokenness. Psychologist, Brene Brown, found in a research study she conducted that the most courageous and joyful people were persons who could be vulnerable. Brown (2012) asked her research participants to finish the sentence:  “Vulnerability is _____” These are some answers she got:  sharing an unpopular opinion, saying no, the first date after a divorce, signing my mom up for Hospice care, calling a friend when a child just died, waiting for the biopsy to come back (pp. 35-37). Brown says “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” (p. 37).  Vulnerability is the place where healing can truly begin. The Bible reveals this same truth.  In the words of the Psalmist:  the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51). Isn’t it amazing that the God of the universe acts through vulnerability. The Omnipotent God comes into the world as a baby and takes on all the vulnerability of an ordinary human. In the reading this morning, Jesus sends out vulnerable, uneducated disciples with the authority to heal, caste out demons, and to announce that the kingdom of God has come near.  You and I are 21st century disciples who can be vulnerable with others by sharing our own stories of loss, forgiveness, and redemption.  We can create that gracious space by welcoming a newcomer, reaching out to neighbors, partnering with local religious or business partners to implement a new service for those in need, or participating in national and international programs whose mission it is to heal a hurting world.  God’s sending may be as near as our doorstep or as far as Guatemala, where some in our diocese are going, or anywhere on the globe.  Wherever we go, vulnerability is the way.

What happens when we are sent?  Blessing – we bless others and we in turn are blessed.  Jesus commissions the disciples to announce peace as they enter homes.  If that peace is not received, then the disciples are instructed to move on to towns that will accept them and not to waste time with those that reject them.  In a simple act of shaking the dust off their feet, the disciples will dismiss the town and move on to where the blessing of peace will be accepted.  In the church, the sacrament of baptism is our commissioning; we are marked as Christ’s own forever and sent out to bless and proclaim Good News.  In the service of Holy Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer, the congregation prays for those to be baptized- these words are contained in that prayer: “Send them into the world in witness to your love.” (p. 306, BCP)

Several years ago, I traveled to a metropolitan area to interview five elderly African American women; they were all in their eighties.  This was a part of a research study.  When I arrived that morning at the senior center, I was glad to see that all five women were present.  The interviews proceeded according to schedule about 45 minutes for each one.  I was down to my last interview, with a woman whom I found sitting by herself in the large activity room of the center. She sat slumped in a chair.  I guessed that she was tired because she had been sitting all morning patiently waiting her turn.  I introduced myself and escorted my interviewee to the smaller room where I was conducting the interviews.  I began the interview as I had for the preceding ones by asking the questions from my questionnaire.  But this woman spoke clearly and firmly, “I have to tell you about me.  I have much to tell.”  She began to talk about details that were not relevant to the study and so I interrupted and gently attempted to get her back to my interview questions.  She again would say, “I have to tell you about me and my life.”  Her voice was filled with a sense of urgency; she seemed determined, and so, realizing that my agenda was not going anywhere, I put my questionnaire aside with the intent of coming back to it at the next opportune moment.  I put the questionnaire aside and gave this persistent woman my full attention.  She began again to share her life with me.  She had grown up in a rural community not too far away.  She had limited education and began to work at a young age.  She talked about how important it was to do the very best she could do, to be the best that she could be.  Most of her adult life was spent cleaning homes and working as a seamstress.  “I was an excellent housekeeper.  No one could sew or clean as well as I could do.  Women would bring their fine linen to me to wash and iron because my work was the best.  She continued to pour out brief chapters and milestones of 82 years.  When she ended her story, she said, “I have been so blessed to have the life I have.”  As I listened, I found myself hearing and seeing her in a new way.  I was moved by what, at first glance, was a very ordinary, mundane life.  Yet as she spoke with such passion and conviction, I realized that her life was indeed a gift and I was the recipient of a gift in listening to her story.  The impact on me was more than just hearing an interesting life; it was how I began to see the value and blessedness of my own life in new light.   I sat in awe as she finished her story.  We hugged one another and I thanked her for what she had shared.  When she rose to go, she said, “God has been here.”  What she said was true; I felt that the two us stood on holy ground.  We both were blessed.

What happens when we are sent?  We see Jesus.  I was visiting with Charles, one of the men who occasionally stops by for a meal at a homeless shelter.  He said to me, “I see Jesus nearly every day.”  His statement got my attention.  “How do you mean?” I asked.  He said when I am out on the street, there’s hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t stop and hand me a bottle of water or a hamburger.  I see Jesus all the time.”  I thought to myself, I want to see Jesus everyday too – isn’t that our deep desire? Wouldn’t that be pure joy?  As baptized Christians, we have been sent to announce that the kingdom of God is here!  In so doing, we see Jesus and, like the disciples, our hearts are filled with joy.   

What happens when we are sent?  We learn the power of vulnerability; we are blessed; we see Jesus.

 

 

 

References

Brown, Brene (2012). Daring Greatly.  New York:  Avery.

 

Other References with Brene Brown content:

http://pacificcrossroads.org/brene-browns-the-power-of-vulnerability/

 

https://www.revrobinbartlett.com/sermon-blog/the-courage-to-be-vulnerable-a-sermon-by-robin-bartlett

Read More