Revised Common Lectionary for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
June 18, 2017
Lessons: Exodus 19:2-8a, Alternate OT Reading Genesis 18:1-15 [21:1-7], Psalm 100, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:8 [9-23]
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people turn to scripture in order to be good stewards of the gospel.
Key Scripture: Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefor ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
How do you hear this week’s gospel lesson? Do you find it encouraging and inspiring? Does it make you champ at the bit to fling wide those church doors and hit the streets of your mission field running? Or does it terrify you right into stasis, into clinging to the way things used to be? Chances are there’s more terror in this text than any other emotion—at least for most folks—but there is also so many good things to learn and practice if we’re willing to step out of our comfort zones and trust.
Good stewards know that faithful ministry and mission create an uncertain (and potentially volatile) mix of sound management and radical risk-taking. The gospel is too precious to keep to ourselves, yet sharing it forces us to go out into the world as Jesus and his disciples did. It’s something for which many Christians, even those with expensive seminary degrees, feel woefully under-prepared. Teaching and proclaiming the good news is a high enough order, but what do we do about curing disease and sickness? Are we ready to have compassion on the masses, those who are “harassed and helpless” in our midst? Are we equipped to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (10:8)? I mean, come on, it’s tough enough to find enough people to serve on committees and volunteer for Vacation Bible School!
Dear friends, regardless of our terror, in spite of our shortcomings, and because Jesus has promised to always be with us, this is exactly what we are called to do. Just as Jesus instructed those first apostles, we, too, are called to GO and proclaim the good news, to do works of mercy and compassion, and to travel light. We may have to let go of some things to do this important work, and according to Jesus, there’s going to be some pain involved because it’s tough out there in the world. We may lose friends, face conflict within our family, make difficult choices about how we spend our resources and use the earth’s resources, and we may even lose our treasured buildings, and some traditions for the sake of the gospel. Therein lies the terror—or at least the avoidance.
We cling to what we know. We turn to what feels safe and familiar. We do this even at the expense of heeding Jesus’ call, even though scripture is chock full of stories of God’s mighty acts and faithfulness. Our fallen human nature always threatens to have us curve in on ourselves and away from God’s preferred future for our lives.
Dear friends, let us instead be bold and faithful stewards. The time is ripe to go out for the harvest of faith, to proclaim the good news, and to show God’s love through our lives and stewardship of all God’s creation. We have the authority of Christ on our side, the faithful witness of Christians throughout time, and God’s love poured into us through the Holy Spirit. So shake the dust off of your fear, and fling wide the doors. You are called. You are sent. Go!
“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near,’” Jesus instructs his disciples in today’s gospel lesson (Matthew 10:7). During worship today invite congregants to share stories of where they have seen Christ at work in the world, where they see the kingdom of heaven coming near.
Alternately, create a short litany that gives thanks for ways your congregation, local community, or world events have shown Christ at work in the world this week. The response to each section might be “The kingdom of heaven has come near!”
Consider exploring the passage from Romans 5:1-8, particularly verses 3-5. What does it mean to suffer for your faith? How does one grow through suffering? You might use a short video to illustrate this idea. One to consider is Derek Redmond’s 400 meter Olympic race in 1972. He was favored to win but tore his hamstring early in the race. He endured through his suffering and with the help of his father finished the race to receive a standing ovation. We can apply this lesson to our life of faith. Even when we fall down, or when life presents huge obstacles, we can carry on in hope because God, our father, is with us and will never leave us. Here’s the link to the video: https://youtu.be/kZlXWp6vFdE
Joyful Noisy Sheep
Make each child a paper sheep mask or felt and cotton sheep ears to wear. Tell the children that the writer of this week’s psalm compares us to sheep in God’s pasture. Sheep can be noisy, but sheep can also frolic and be joyful. Invite the children to “act out the psalm” like joyful sheep (noisy is optional!). Here’s a suggestion using the ERV (Easy to Read Version) with actions in parentheses:
Earth, sing to the Lord! (The children say Baa, Baa, Baa…)
Be happy as you serve the Lord! (Make a big happy smile)
Come before him with happy songs! (The children say Baa, Baa, Baa…)
Know that the Lord is God. (Point your fingers at your brain)
He made us, and we belong to him. (Hug yourself)
We are his people, the sheep he takes care of. (Point to self and each other)
Come through the gates to his Temple giving thanks to him. (Invite children to walk through a hula hoop or other “entry way”)
Enter his courtyards with songs of praise. (The children say Baa, Baa, Baa…)
Honor him and bless his name. (Bow at the waist with hands folded in prayer)
The Lord is good! (raise hands high above head)
There is no end to his faithful love. (Shade eyes with hand and look back and forth)
We can trust him forever and ever! (Hug yourself, nod your head, and say Baa, Baa, Baa….)
Finish with a brief huddle prayer that includes thanksgiving for God’s goodness, for the world, for your community of faith, and for these precious children.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Jesus instructs his 12 apostles go out traveling light: “Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff” (Matthew 10:9-10). How easy would it be for you to travel so lightly? This packing list makes even a free carry-on seem like heavy baggage. Truthfully, though, we often pack so much more than we really need. Ponder this week how you might lighten your load in service to the gospel. Explore the difference between need and greed, between necessity and desire. Pray that God will help you travel light as a faithful disciple.
Stewardship at Home
Too much stuff! It’s so easy to over-pack and hoard possessions. We humans really need very little. Have you ever counted the number of personal possessions you have (not counting household common items)? Try it sometime. You’re likely to be astonished. Check out Dave Bruno’s book, The 100 Thing Challenge (Harper, 2010) and watch his TEDx video here. This is a truly radical approach in our western world, but reducing your possessions is a freeing experience.
Learn more about Dave’s journey and then see if you might be want to reduce your possessions and share with others in the process. It’s good stewardship and ever-so-freeing!
Photos: Paxson Woelber, Dennis Jarvis, and Candlelight Productions, Creative Commons. Thanks!
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2017, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.