Pentecost 5

Proper 6  ~  Lectionary Year  A  ~  June 15, 2008

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar


Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey,

 or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.



+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity


I am not sure I could live that way ~ with absolute reliance on the kindness of strangers mediating the protection of Almighty God. And maybe I’m not called to do so. There is room in the Church for ordinary householding people; everyone is not called to go around with no sandals and only one tunic. After all, the people who ARE so called have to have SOMEWHERE to stay. And when they go from village to village, they are NOT presumably, calling on everyone they see to come with them on their missionary journey! No. Not everyone has to marry Lady Poverty, like Francis. It is a question of vocation.

            That seems to be today’s theme: vocation, calling. The twelve named disciples, who represent the twelve tribes of ancient Israel, whose call from Sinai we also heard this morning. The Israelites are called to be the priests of humanity, and the twelve are similarly called to change the world. In neither case is the calling for the benefit of the called, but for a greater purpose: that Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, which has been on my mind lately. The Israelites aren’t called just for their own spiritual benefit; and the disciples aren’t called and sent just for theirs. They are God’s instruments in the great project of perfecting creation, in bringing to reality what the Gospel calls the Reign of God.

            The disciples are sent to announce that this reign has begun. Good News, indeed: the sovereignty of peace and justice is very near. Who could believe such a thing? The Romans are everywhere, with their horrible public executions. They are impossibly more powerful than us. And a tiny minority of indescribably rich people enjoys all the wealth of the Empire, while everybody else becomes increasingly miserable.  But God’s household, the Church ~ Israel, the holy priesthood  ~  is sent into this desperate situation to proclaim a new order, a new dispensation, a New Deal. This is a message of breathtaking audacity.

            The news is too urgent to bother with prudential preparations. The disciples are not to imagine that any preparations they can make will ever get them ready to proclaim such an outlandish, impossible message. They are just to run out and do it without considering whether or not it is practical. The Lord promises that there will always be those who will supply what they need. People will surprise them.  Rich people will take them in. Unexpected resources will materialize. Maverick tycoons with strange, foreign names, and rich performers (rich people not completely tied in to the oppressive system) will lend a hand. But mostly, the movement will grow on its own energy ~ a million little contributions, a million widow’s mites, will add up to more than all the rest put together.

            Then miracles will happen: the signs of the beginning of the Reign of God: Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. The disciples are called and sent out to make real, material changes in the way things are. They are commissioned by God Son and endowed with the Father’s power. They have received this power and authority without having to earn it or pay for it. Now they are commanded to use it: to give out freely what they have received. But to work these miracles will require a certain boldness, what has recently been called The Audacity of Hope.

            Sure, our problems are insuperable: the water and the fuel is running out; billionaires eat $200 hamburgers with gold flakes sprinkled on top while children go to bed hungry; our laborers work three jobs and still don’t have enough food, let alone the means to be cured when they are sick; and the world itself is sick ~ sick unto death; our leaders are so hopelessly corrupt that it seems as though our whole political economy is possessed by some evil demon. But God has sent forth agents to cure the sick, raise the dead…and cast out demons not merely to announce God’s Reign, but to inaugurate it with these signs. That’s our calling now.

            We have received without payment: now it’s time to give without payment.          

            We can do it. Yes, we can!