Proper 8 Sunday Year A 7/2/2023
Jeremiah 28.5-9; Psalm 89:1-4,15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Our Gospel reading today is a short reading that when read alone…
doesn’t seem to say too much…
Or at least it seems a bit confusing as to what it is trying to communicate.
And that’s fair…
Our text is the last three verses of the tenth chapter of Matthew.
So, the context is important.
In fact, the last two weeks have been Gospel readings from Matthew chapter ten.
And over the last few weeks, there were all sorts of lines that were quite interesting and can gain a reader’s focus and curiosity…
Nevertheless, the whole is what is the most important.
In fact, we would be amiss if we disconnected the individual verses of Matthew chapter ten from the wholeness of what Jesus is teaching.
So, to keep the wholeness of the text…
let’s catch up on our Gospel readings.
Two weeks ago, the Gospel began at the end of the ninth chapter with the familiar words of Jesus:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest
to send out laborers into his harvest.
This is the key to what follows.
The readings are all about mission…
All about the harvest of souls into the kingdom of God.
When we get to verse 5 of chapter ten…
Jesus is sending out the 12 disciples…
Telling them to say:
The kingdom of heaven is at hand…
Heal the sick,
raise the dead,
and cast out demons… (Matthew 10.7-8)
So Jesus is sending out his disciples into this mission…
Into the harvest fields.
Now last week continues the teaching of Jesus on this subject of mission.
Jesus summarizes the need and challenge to put God first in one’s life when he says:
…whoever does not take up the cross and follow me
is not worthy of me.
Those who find their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake
will find it.
Over the last two weeks Jesus has declared…
Who his followers are
(The one’s that forsake their life for their life in Christ)
And he has sent his followers on a mission
(To impact the world for the kingdom of God).
These are all key words…
And they appear throughout the Scriptures…
They are words that describe the heart of God.
You see, we serve a missional God…
A God who is on a mission to save his creation from the curse of sin.
We see this clearly in our Lord’s words from John 3, where Jesus says:
God so loved the world,
that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
He gave his Son…
He sent his Son into the world.
In 1 Timothy 1.15 it is written:
That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
The mission of our heavenly Father is to rescue his creation from sin and death.
This mission runs through all of scripture.
God called Abraham for the purpose of this mission…
God called Isaac for the purpose of this mission…
God called Jacob for the purpose of this mission…
God called Joseph for the purpose of this mission…
God called Moses,
And the prophets for the purpose of his mission to save his creation from sin and death…
And God sent his son into the world to complete this mission.
In Jesus Christ…
Sin was defeated at the cross.
Death was defeated in the empty grave at the resurrection of our Lord.
Jesus made the way for humankind to be reconciled to God.
Through Jesus we can be free from sin and death…
We can live eternally with Jesus Christ in a new heaven and new earth.
As it says in the scriptures:
For all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
And it is that mission that he has called his disciples to continue…
Through the ages…
Through today and tomorrow.
The mission that he gives us is to carry that out…
Jesus said to his disciples:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
And in Matthew chapter ten he is sending them out into the world.
So, when we get to our text for today…
These last three verses of the chapter…
Of the narrative…
It completes the story and instruction of Jesus.
Once again, Jesus said:
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me,
and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple,
truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
There are at least two lessons to note here…
especially as it relates to the larger theme of mission from the overall narrative.
First, we are to consider what we do as an extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
You see, we don’t just help feed people in need in our community because it is a kind thing to do.
We do it as Christians because it is an extension of the ministry of Jesus.
We offer the cup of cold water as if we are offering the refreshment of Jesus.
We offer the good news of the Gospel of Jesus because it is just that…
the good news of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.
We are all missionaries for Christ’s kingdom.
We are all ministers sharing the love and salvation of Jesus.
We continue the mission that threads through the Old Testament…
We continue the mission that was completed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…
And we continue the mission that will be consummated at the second coming of King Jesus.
The way and means we share the Gospel in this world is an extension of Jesus Christ.
The second lesson is this…
That we are together in this mission.
Jesus sent out the twelve not as individuals…
But in support of each other.
And in our Gospel reading today we see that there is support among those that go, those that help, and those that welcome and give hospitality.
We are in this together.
Not all of us take the food to Lake Cares Food Pantry.
But many of us bring food to be taken.
Not all of us visit the sick and bring them communion.
But many of us keep them in prayer each day.
Not all of us show up to every program, outreach, Bible Study, Support Group, and times of prayer and worship at church.
But we encourage and support each other in the ways and means we find places of belonging in this mission and church at St. Edward’s.
It is not about different ministries in competition with each other.
It is not some kind of survival of the fittest…
Which group has the best marketing.
It is about welcoming those who are sent in the name of Christ.
We all have a role to play, and a place where we find belonging.
The great missionary to India, William Carey, describes this well.
“I will go down if you will hold the ropes.”
It’s a great idea.
It’s a great mental picture.
“I’ll go into the caves, I’ll go into the places where you will never go, but you must hold the ropes.
I’ll go down if you’ll hold on.
I’ll go if you are here holding fast, holding tight.”
You see we are all connected in this mission.
William Carey knew that not all would go to a foreign culture to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
But he also knew that he couldn’t go without the support and hospitality of others.
God provides support and encouragement through each other.
So, as we leave the tenth chapter of Matthew behind in our lectionary cycle…
(Although I would encourage you this week to read it once again from this missiological perspective)…
May we recognize that God has called us as missionaries in this world…
May we be intentional about our mission in this world…
And may we understand how interconnected our mission in this world is with our fellow missionaries.
So, I will conclude with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ…
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.