Weekly Lessons and Sermon
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Recording is sideways today, but the message is straight on! Enjoy!
“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.
And these are the names of the twelve apostles…”
Wait a minute!
Something’s happening here, something important.
But it goes by so fast you may not even have noticed it.
In the first sentence, they’re “disciples”
Then, suddenly, they’re “apostles.”
Even if you caught the change,
You may not have paid much attention:
“disciples,” “apostles,” What’s the difference?
They’re just interchangeable names for the same twelve guys, aren’t they?
What’s the big deal?
All over the country at this time of year,
There are young people (And not so young)
Making the same kind of transition.
The papers these past weeks are full of reports of commencement
Lists of graduates,
Pictures of young people with mortarboards on their heads:
And parties to celebrate their change in status.
One minute they’re students, still in training,
Still learning the ropes and the rules,
Learning the formulas and logarithms,
Then comes the moment of graduation--
Diplomas in hand, shifting tassels from one side to another, grinning for
pictures with proud parents--
And suddenly, they’re somebody else. something else:
No longer students, but graduates,
Ready to go out into the world to practice what they’ve been learning for
these many years.
They’re no longer “disciples”--
Students, learning the disciplines of their craft or trade or profession.
They are, in effect “apostles,”
People being “sent out” into the world to do what they’ve been “discipled” to
That is what “apostle” means:
Someone who is “sent out.”
This passage from Matthew marks the moment when the followers
gathered around Jesus “graduated,”
When Jesus seems to have decided that they knew enough,
Were formed, and shaped, and changed enough,
To be sent out to share the mission and ministry with him.
Unlike our contemporary graduates,
It wasn’t that they’d completed a nice, tidy set course,
With the required numbers of credit hours and proficiency exams.
Discipleship isn’t as easily marked out and measured as that.
It was more a matter of Jesus deciding that he’d taught them about all he
could, at least for the moment.
And he knew that the world needed their ministry.
For several chapters before this story,
Jesus had been traveling around,
Healing and teaching, and the crowds were building.
More and more people kept coming, with their pain and their need and their
As he looks on them, he can see the great need--
Far more than he alone can reach.
And so it was time to add some helpers--
“to send out laborers into the Lord’s harvest.”
So Jesus called his closest followers,
And passed on to them some of his power--
The power to name and overcome evil,
The power to heal and reconcile,
The power granted to him by His Father, the living God.
And then he sent them out--
With these instructions:
“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come
near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out
demons…Proclaim the Good News, ‘The kingdom of God has come
near.’…It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking
And off they went, to do the work in his name, as disciples become
Did they do it perfectly?
Not at all.
The Gospels and the book of Acts tells us over and over again of the ways
they missed the mark,
Dropped the ball,
Fell over their own feet.
They couldn’t understand the parables,
didn’t know what he meant when he predicted his own death,
slept when Jesus told them to stay awake,
they even deserted him at the end of his life:
and then barely recognized him when he was resurrected.
One of them even sold him to the enemy:
There is a church around the world today,
Witnessing in every nation to the Good News of God in Christ.
The sun never sets on the Christian hope,
The faith that proclaims the good news even in the darkest hour.
All because the disciples,
Imperfect as they were,
Answered the challenge of Jesus to be sent out to proclaim the good news:
That “The Kingdom of God has come near.”
Our baptismal promises include the promise that “we will, with God’s help,
proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.”
That’s because we too, are apostles.
It’s not just a term for those first twelve guys.
We’re content to be disciples.
Safely gathered around our Lord, shutting out the world:
Sitting contently and safely in our churches.
But we’re APOSTLES.
And to be an apostle, is to risk, to venture,
To step out:
To be SENT out:
To proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.
And those first twelve followers of Jesus weren’t too different from us.
They weren’t eager to go out there,
Outside the comfort of the close circle around Jesus.
And like the first apostles,
We won’t be perfect.
We’ll make mistakes, miss opportunities,
Betray our Lord.
But our Lord is endlessly forgiving,
And he keeps sending us back out into the world in his name.
The first apostles, our forebears in the faith,
turned the world upside down, in the power of God.
You can too.
Go out from this place:
As a Christian graduate.
And be an apostle.
And imperfect, Forgiven, and loved, apostle.
One thing that I love about the Bible:
Is that it reminds us that human suffering is nothing new.
People are just people.
And they’ve always been so.
Our hardships are not unique to our times.
Wars, hunger, natural disasters,
Illness, pain, and loss…
All of it is nothing new.
Yet when we’re in it:
We sometimes feel as if we are alone in our pain:
As it’s weight seems crushing.
But then we read today’s Gospel story.
Where TWO suffering people,
Come to Jesus.
And we hear a man’s cry: His begging, pleading pain-filled words:
“Jesus! My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she
And a woman:
With nothing else left:
Except to hope that if she could only touch Jesus’ clothes, she would be made
And when we read all of that,
We are reminded that we live in a world that has always had profound tragedy.
That our experiences are not unique:
That throughout the history of time:
People have begged and pleaded in pain and sorrow.
Through it all:
All the suffering and grief:
All of the destruction, plagues, illnesses, and starvation:
Human beings continue to multiply and survive.
And the people continue to need God.
Listen to the words of the Psalmist in the last verse of today’s Psalm:
God says to us:
“Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.”
We know that suffering and pain is real.
We don’t need to look around for it.
Far too often, it’s right in front of our eyes.
But to cry out for the Lord:
Calling on him in the day of trouble,
might take away some of our fears.
Fear is, after all:
The result of having no one greater than ourselves to look to.
Waiting on the Lord:
Has the potential to take away that fear.
The inevitability of suffering and grief,
Destruction, plagues, illness and starvation:
Would cause anyone to be afraid:
Unless we wait on the Lord:
Crying out to the lord:
Knowing that even in our weeping,
God will deliver us.
Look at the people who wait for Jesus in today’s Gospel story.
It’s actually THREE stories in one.
First, the calling of Matthew the tax collector:
Then, a story about a grieving father and his dying daughter,
Sandwiched by a sick woman longing for relief.
This was during a time in Jesus’ ministry when Jesus was highly popular.
Hundreds of people were following him around everywhere that he went.
At the beginning of these stories,
Jesus is walking along, on his way to dinner.
And the leader of the synagogue barges in begging for the healing of his dead
Jesus immediately gets up and follows the father:
But is then bombarded with others: who are in need of healing, and words of
People who are sick and need to be healed:
People like us today:
who are longing for a way out of the pain, grief and suffering of the human world,
And probably some people who are just plain curious.
A stooped woman approaches and touches his cloak.
It’s not a big deal.
Jesus is surrounded by hundreds of people:
And so she is sure that nobody would notice.
And yet, she is so desperate, that she is convinced that the touch alone will heal
And it does.
In another version of this story,
Jesus stops and says, “Who touched my cloak?”
Because he could feel the power leaving him, and healing her.
And Jesus says to her:
“Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.”
There was something about that woman’s incredible faith:
Her total conviction that after years of suffering,
TWELVE years, in fact:
She had finally found the cure in Jesus.
And the energy of that faith was more powerful than all of the shoving and pulling
of the crowd.
One single touch of utter faith calls forth the creative power of God,
And healing occurs.
And all of this happens super quick:
While Jesus is rushing to meet another person’s need.
The connection of Jesus to the source of life and love,
To God the father:
Is so intense and unbroken,
That it’s like electricity.
Jairus: the father of the dying girl,
Plugs into that power and receives hope.
The sick woman plugs into it and receives healing:
Nothing else matters,
And nothing interferes with Jesus’ purpose.
Fame doesn’t distract him.
Physical exhaustion doesn’t hinder him:
The clamoring crowd, with its multitude of desires doesn’t get in the way.
Two people with very specific needs have reached out to him.
Two people , crying out to God.
In the following scene in the little girl’s room:
Death has already arrived.
The mourners have gathered.
The Gospel writer tells us that there Jesus “saw flute players and a crowd making
Why is the father still bringing Jesus to the house when he has been informed
that his child is dead?
What good can the healer do now?
Why doesn’t he just leave Jesus to attend to the hundreds of others in the crowd?
Because a grieving father never gives up.
A grieving father cries out to the Lord.
And as he usually does:
Jesus turns it all upside down.
He turns to the grief-stricken father and says:
“Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”
And they laugh at him.
So Jesus goes in,
Takes the little girl by the hand,
And she gets up.
Jesus seems to be the only one who is free from the terrible bondage of fear:
Over and over again, he commands all who follow him to not be afraid.
Because unlike the Psalmist,
Jesus doesn’t need to cry out to God to extinguish his fear.
Because Jesus is the Lord himself,
Longing for us to believe,
To wait for him,
And possibly touch the corner of his cloak.
There’s a whole lot of fear in our world today.
Fear of disease,
Fear of “the other”
Fear of losing a job,
Fear of people with guns.
Fears of not succeeding.
Fears that are never-ending.
But our psalmist today has an answer for us:
Call upon God in the day of trouble.
Know that the one who brought us to new life,
Has the power to wipe our fears away.
To hold us in our grief.
To be near to us in the day of trouble and sorrow.
So cry out to God:
And touch his garment.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.