Sunday Worship 14th June - Discipleship

Following on from last weeks service about the Disciples going out filled with the Holy Spirit this week we are looking at how we should be disciples.

Opening words: Matthew 10:16

Opening prayer:

Loving Lord, your grace draws us to your presence;

your peace unites us in your love;

your hope inspires us to praise your glory.

May our worship be worthy of you.

Amen.

We come before you, gracious God, just as we are.

We come with our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities.

We come with our fears and apprehensions.

We come with faith and doubt.

We come to offer and receive.

We come to you, the king of love –

in the name of your Son,

and in the power of your Spirit.

Amen.

We unite with the whole world in praising you, creator God.

We come before you with gladness and thanksgiving.

We praise your goodness; we praise your faithfulness; we praise your tenderness.

We are yours and we worship you.

We bless your name for ever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Bible Readings:

Exodus 19:2-9 Psalm 100 Matthew 9:35-10:10

The Message to us

We know that whole purpose of the Holy Spirit is so that we can continue to do the work of Jesus here in our time and place. Mother Theresa’s prayer (words) echoes that purpose -

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

We are all called into His service and in our bible readings today we see how God sets us apart, calls us a holy nation, a royal priesthood. That brings with it responsibility not to sit at home but to go and do as Jesus did. The language in Exodus 19 of being ‘a treasured possession’ is an attractive offer. People are always looking for hope, thirsting for something better, and they (we) need God’s protection. God’s chosen are to be ‘a priestly kingdom’ and ‘a holy nation’.

There is an element of safety, as well as separation from ordinary things, in being ‘priestly’ and ‘holy’ – will we accept the offer? There are two ways of being holy: by withdrawing from the world, or by engaging with it. In the Old Testament, the ones who engaged with the world were the prophets. How might we engage with the world today? Especially in times of COVID. – How can we make those who are alone and afraid feel that same hope that we feel.

The disciples were called and told to go out into the regions and heal every kind of sickness. At this point were they ready? – no they were not! But Jesus had given them authority and that same authority is given to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet we shy away so often from speaking and healing in the name of Jesus. It was a hallmark of the early church, where has that gone today?

The backdrop to this scene in our reading from Matthew is Jesus’ miracles of healing. The disciples have experienced incredible events. Jesus sent them out to mirror his actions: to heal and to preach. In doing this, he also commissions them, giving them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to cure every disease and sickness.

But Jesus warns of the dangers that the disciples face, likening it to sheep facing wolves. But he assures them that they are to stand firm in the Father’s protection and will be given the words to say from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus sends his disciples out to engage with people in their own situations. He charged them to be compassionate, to give caring and practical help to people who lived in the generally harsh conditions most endured in occupied Israel, and to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus wants their human needs met, but he also wants their hearts and minds opened to the possibility of becoming citizens of God’s country.

Other than the Holy Spirit, the apostles would need nothing to enable them to do their work. While Mark’s Gospel allows them a staff and sandals, Matthew suggests that they should take neither clothing nor money. This may well mean no spares, no back-up plan; just a reliance on God’s provision ‘for labourers deserve their food’.

At this stage they are called to go to the people of Israel: when their own people fail to respond to the good news that ‘the kingdom of heaven is near’ then the situation will change. Those who would be the first to read Matthew’s Gospel are the ones called to be a testimony to the Gentiles when they are handed over to councils and persecuted. The present call is just the beginning and meeting the challenge now falls to us.

Jesus’ commission is risky, but what an adventure! It will be hard and dangerous, but they will be treading a new path, living in a new way. At this stage they are to focus on their own people, and they are to be single-minded in achieving their goal – fearlessly trusting God for protection. They will suffer, they will lose some things and gain others – life will be different. The rewards will be great, although not always obvious. Hope is one reward, one that sees them hang on through terrible events (see Romans 5.3-5 – the list of experiences mirrors much of what happened in Jesus’ life). Another is peace – ‘which means you know you are on the same side as God for ever’ (Jane Williams).

As Christians we are called to mirror Jesus and the disciples, to ‘Go out’ into the world. But this passage reminds us that we don’t do that in our own strength. When we do not have the words to say, the same Spirit of the Father that spoke to the disciples can speak to and through us.

Have a look at the activities below to see what Jesus' instructions were and the advice he gave to the disciples. Hint - if you can't work it out the answers are at the bottom of the page.

Activities

Puzzle about Jesus' instructions to the disciples

Puzzle about good advice given to the disciples

Message Part 2