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Pentecost 4 July 2, 2017 - The Rev, Janet Campbell
PENTECOST 4 Proper 8 Year A
Jeremiah 28:5-9; Ps. 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday July 2, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
For the last two Sundays
we’ve been reading
the 10th chapter of Matthew’s gospel –
Jesus choosing,
and instructing
          his twelve apostles
for their first missionary journey
          on their own.
Their charge:
to do in his name
what they had seen him do
          on their travels with him –
proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom
          with words
          of invitation and promise . . .
put God’s kingdom into action
          with deeds
          of compassion and healing . . .

. . . revealing God’s love and care
for the poor and outcast
the thought-to-be-inferior and
          most definitely vulnerable . . .
the little ones who could find
no place in their society
where they might build a life.
Jesus warned the apostles
that the mission
he was entrusting to them
would put them at risk
at the hands of the “great ones”. . .
the self-proclaimed superior ones,
those whose position and power
depended on their exploitation   
          of the lowly and powerless.
“I am sending you out
like sheep into the midst of wolves,”
he said to the apostles,
“Beware of them,
for they will hand you over to councils
and flog you in their synagogues;
and you will be dragged before governors and kings
because of me . . .”

Your allegiance to me
and the message of God’s kingdom
may cost you
even your life . . .
But take heart,
do not be afraid –
you may lose everything
          that has meant life to you until now,
but you will gain your true life,
          your life with me and one another
                   in God.
The kingdom they were to proclaim,
founded on equality, justice, and peace,
promised a good life for all . . .
but some who already had it good
          by this world’s standards
would not welcome its coming . . .
could not imagine
letting go of living for self
to embrace living for others.

Jesus’ preparation of his apostles
for their mission
culminates in the brief passage
we heard today.
No more warnings
          of rejection and division,
but an assurance
          of his presence
                   with those he sends
                             to do his work in the world  . . .
“Whoever welcomes you
          welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me
          welcomes the one who sent me.”
Whoever receives a follower of Jesus
          receives Jesus himself,
and in receiving Jesus,
          receives the one he calls his Father.
In a unity established
          with all his followers
Jesus dwells both
          with those who come in his name
          and with those who welcome in his name . .
visitor and welcomer:
each called to recognize and receive Jesusin the other
in a reciprocity of hospitality and love.

This reciprocity of visiting  
          and welcoming  
                    in Jesus name
is a participation in the reciprocity of Love
          that is the inner life of God, the Holy Trinity,
                   Father, Son, and Holy Spirit –
The Love that flows among the three persons
          of the One Creator God
is the Love embodied in the world in Jesus,
the Love coursing through the world
                   in God’s Spirit,
the Love poured into our hearts
          by the Spirit
          that we may give it away.
It is the love given
in a cup of cold water
to those who wander thirsty
in a dry land.

Much on my mind
this Fourth of July weekend,
as we celebrate the gift that is our
          beautiful and bountiful country,
are the freedoms and values
          established from its very beginning
                    in our founding documents . . .
the ideals of our democracy
          for which we give thanks,
but which
          we have so frequently failed
                    to honor and practice.
For running through our storied history
is exploitation
          of the vulnerable:
the first inhabitants of this land;
African women and men stolen from their homes and
          sold into the degradation of slavery;
children of poverty put to work in factories and mills,
immigrants crammed into slum tenements . . .

Much on my mind
this Fourth of July weekend,
Jesus’ solidarity,
his union,
          with all little ones,
          the thought-to-be-inferior and definitely vulnerable, 
the hungry and thirsty,
the stranger,
the naked,
the sick,
prisoners . . .
the ones in need of
food and drink,
companionship . . .
“just as you [responded to the needs]
of one of the least of these
who are members of my family,”
he says to his followers
          near the end of Matthew’s gospel,
“you did it to me.”

This is the mission
to which Jesus summons his Church
in every place and time –
to which we are summoned
in our own place and time – 
to do, in Jesus name,
what we have seen him doing.
When the ability and will of our government,
whose job it is
to care for the least of these,
is compromised
by ineptitude, indifference, self-absorption,  
our mission to be the gospel
          in the world is all the more pressing,
our call all the more urgent
to proclaim God’s kingdom
          –by word and action
serving the littlest among us
          as if we were serving Jesus himself,
for that is what we are doing.

Mother Teresa,
who spent her life
caring for the poor of Calcutta,
says we meet Jesus
“in distressing disguise . . .”
in those who are
“hungry not only for bread,
          but hungry for love;
naked not only for clothing,
          but naked of human dignity and respect;
homeless not only for want of a room of bricks,
          but homeless because of rejection.” 
                                      Words to Love By (Notre Dame, IN:Ave Maria Press. 1983, p. 80
We meet Jesus
refugees fleeing persecution
and immigrants facing deportation,
in Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender persons,        
People of color,
Families struggling to make ends meet,
Those who have no room of bricks
          to call their own,
The mentally ill . . .
People whose lives depend
          on their health insurance . . .

All of them
Hungry and thirsty for safety,
Hungry and thirsty for acceptance,
Hungry and thirsty
          for equality, dignity and respect,
Hungry and thirsty for justice . . .
Whether they would use these words or not . . .
          hungry and thirsty for the gospel,
          hungry and thirsty for the kingdom.
And so our call to go out from here
into the world
proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom
          with words
          of invitation and promise . . .
put God’s kingdom into action
          with deeds
          of compassion and healing . . .

Jesus did not give his apostles
detailed instructions
as to how they were to do these things . . .
they were to go out
and respond
as he would respond
to the people and situations they encountered . . .
Mother Teresa discovered
who she was to serve
what she was to do
          by going out . . .
out into the world
seeking Jesus
where he was to be found;
and so it is with us.
In today’s gospel,
Jesus speaks of rewards . . .
And at the end of Matthew’s gospel
he tells of the only reward
worth having . . .

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father
          [for the service you have done]
inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world . . .”                              [Matthew 25.34]
Inherit the kingdom . . .
Inherit your true life . . .
don’t wait for something
called heaven . . .
but live now in God’s realm
of compassion and love,
equality and justice . . .
and hasten its
arrival among us.
Enter now . . .
into the work and the joy and the peace
of Jesus.