June 21st, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:24-39
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called
Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden
that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in
33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. 37 Anyone who loves their
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Sermon: Out of the shadows
I vividly remember the first adult Sunday school class I led back in Florida some thirty years ago. I had a new study Bible, had recently enrolled in Disciple I, and was filled with a combination of excitement and raging nerves. Do you suppose that my inexperience came shining through? You’re right, but that was the beginning of what would later become my call to serve in ministry. God asked me to teach the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount so that we might understand the many blessings of God. I admire my fellow classmates for not criticizing my early efforts. I have always been better prepared than I was on that Sunday.
Can you imagine following in Jesus’ footsteps? Who could teach like he taught and with such
conviction? Who could possibly understand all the many prophecies in the Torah, the Psalms, and the
Prophets? Could anyone heal as Jesus healed, cast out demons with authority, and raise the dead to new life?
None of his disciples were equal to the task. They all denied or abandoned the Lord in his greatest hour of need. They cowered behind closed doors, fearing that Jewish authorities would demand their crucifixions. They lacked experience but had not yet received the promised Holy Spirit. None were educated and certified as ministers of the Gospel. Somehow, they found enough courage to volunteer to preach the Gospel. Thank God for his Holy Spirit! Suddenly, they were transformed into the hands and feet of Jesus.
Have you considered teaching a class or leading a Bible study? Would you accept his call to ministry?
Would you volunteer for a mission trip to a foreign land? Are you overwhelmed just thinking about it? I have some good news this morning. We will never be equal to the master we know as Jesus, but we can certainly become students in training. We can be part of a team. We can serve as a backup instructor. We could lead a children’s Sunday school class or a Vacation Bible School. Everyone must start somewhere.
When answering the call to become a new parent, we learn day by day, leaning heavily on our parents,
friends, family doctors, nurses, and even pastors. We learn how to survive on 3-4 hours’ sleep. We get through small disasters like colic, temper tantrums, messy diapers, and a shoulder covered in vomit. It’s surprising how quickly we become equal to the task and become parents of a second or third child! Even with sleepless nights, we soon become proud parents capable of offering our advice and counsel.
Working in God’s kingdom is very similar. Initially, we must watch and learn, crawl before we take a big step, and be part of a team long before we assume a position of leadership. Jesus conducted training for his new apprentices over a period of three years. They traveled, listened, ate, slept, and learned from the master.
They failed miserably on their first attempts as independent disciples. They found that they could not cast out demons, heal the sick, or give sight to the blind on their own authority. It was only when they preached, healed, and cast out demons in Jesus’ name that they enjoyed any manner of success.
Jesus asks us to shine his light into a dark and shadowy world. We can share the Good News Jesus
shared with everyone we meet. Some will turn and walk away. They are like seeds sown in the desert. A few will listen with initial enthusiasm but then soon fade to indifference. These people are like seeds sown among weeds and shallow soil, which do not take root. A precious few will blossom into disciples of Christ, eager to learn more with each passing day. These are seeds sown in fertile soil, which are watered and protected by our creator. Regardless of the degree of our initial success, we must continue spreading seeds.
Remember to wash your hands; we’re spreading the Gospel, not the virus! The best part? God will go with you, to guard and guide you. Now we arrive at a crucial stage in disciple making. Some will collapse under pressure. Others will expect immediate success without any frustrations, setbacks, and failures. Jesus did not promise us a rose garden. Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Jesus did not promise his disciples would not suffer, face arrest and confinement, and even beatings and harsh criticism. With each trial, we develop strength and perseverance. A series of difficult trials will produce character.
Finally, character will give us hope of our eternal salvation, and the price has already been paid.
Some members of your own families will not support your decision to follow Jesus. Persistently offer
your testimony with conviction, but be prepared to move on if they’re uninterested. Remain spiritually yoked to Jesus Christ, your spouse, and your children. Encourage anyone and everyone to join you on your spiritual journey, but don’t look back to count heads. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He’s the author and the finisher of your faith. He alone will lead you home. Remember Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is not leading our church; we are. Jesus is no longer traveling from village to village; but we can. The words of Christ are written in his precious blood. When in doubt, teach what he taught, remind people about what Jesus said, and encourage them to follow Jesus. He alone offers unconditional forgiveness. Only Christ offers the gift of eternal life. My advice is simple. Come out of the dark and lengthening shadows of your previous life. Come into the bright and shining light of the Savior.
Whoever dedicates his or her life to follow Christ will find new life here on earth. Whoever gives his or her life for the sake of the Gospel will find a new promise. Whoever takes up his cross and follows Jesus will be raised to eternal life in heaven. Not just for a few weeks or a few years, but forever!