June 28th: Proper Eight, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, June 28th, was preached using the below manuscript. The gospel text was Matthew 10.40-42.

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
St. Hilda St. Patrick Edmonds
28 June 2020
Pentecost +4, Proper 7
Matthew 10.40-42

In the name of God who gives us authority
and gives our reward. Amen.

The last three weeks
Jesus has been telling us
how following him and doing his work
is not all rainbows and unicorns.
Last week he told us
about bringing a sword not peace
and how families would be torn against one another.
Jesus told the disciples through time
that following him meant taking up a cross.
At least 10 of the original 12 hearing his message
died for their faith in Jesus.
Before that he said that he was sending the 12
as sheep among wolves.
He warned that the disciples
would be imprisoned and flogged,
dragged before councils and governors.
they were told to proclaim
that the kingdom of heaven had come near.
Jesus gave them his own authority
to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.

As Jesus has been telling the disciples
just how difficult following him will be,
our world has continued to be roiled in turmoil after turmoil.
As coronavirus cases and COVID19 deaths climb
the president is golfing this morning
after retweeting a video of one of his supporters shouting
“White power!”
This, as we’re all aware,
is in the midst of nationwide protests —
even Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have joined in! —
against police brutality,
particularly their disproportionate violence against Black people.

Those protests have been met
with increased police violence against protesters.
Greg Doucette,
an attorney in North Carolina,
has documented over 650 cases of police brutality
or explicitly racist action
since protests began just over a month ago.
Video has come to light of police officers
from North Carolina to San Jose
using racial slurs about those they’ve sworn to protect and serve.
Even not following Jesus,
it’s not all rainbows and unicorns
if we look around.

After telling the disciples just how difficult following Jesus will be
he offers them today’s words of comfort:
not everything will be bad!
Jesus turns from,
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words,
shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” to
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Jesus lets the disciples know that the cruciform life
is a life of self-sacrifice, potential persecution,
and simply: work.
After warnings of floggings and family divisions,
Jesus promises that not all the ears will be deaf.
Jesus said to weeks ago,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”
and today reminds us and the disciples
that there is in fact a harvest.
Those with ears to hear
will hear!
Those whom Jesus has sent out
to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons
and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven has come near
will be able to do all those things
and God will reward them for their work.
The midst of turmoil
is exactly when Jesus’ disciples throughout the ages
are primed to proclaim the good news.

According to our catechism,
the mission of the Church
is to restore all people
to unity with God and each other in Christ.
We live short lives,
so it’s easy to say that the country
has never been this divided.
Historians tell us otherwise.
The falling monuments to white supremacy —
whether cast in metal and bought from a catalogue
or on state flags —
make it clear that we’re at least as divided
as we’ve ever been.
This is what Jesus sends his disciples to.
This is when Jesus promises a reward.
This is when the church,
Jesus’ body on earth here and now,
is called to restore all people to unity
with God and each other in Christ.

As we’re looking toward tiptoeing back together,
now is the time to be sure that we’re
healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons,
and proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Jesus tells us today,
as we’re looking toward gathering again,
that not everyone will reject the message.
Not everyone will want to flog us,
and some will welcome the good news!
The kingdom of heaven has come near!
We’re as divided as we’ve ever been,
and that’s when Jesus —
who has given us his authority
and the authority of the God who sent him,
to heal the divisions around us.
Praise God for that authority,
and for the strength to do the work. Amen.

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