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June 25, 2023

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 20:7-13

Psalm 69:7-10, 16-18

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:24-31

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you from the one

who continually gives us newness of life. Amen

As we continue our ordinary time exploration

of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus,

our lessons for today

highlight the fact that life with God has consequences.

A life with God should and will look different

than a life lived without God

and the big question is:

How do we live faithful lives?

On the one hand we have the good news from Paul in Romans

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

We have new life

because of what God has done for us,

God has done all the work

and if God has done all the work

then what are we supposed to do?

We humans like to have something to do.

On the other hand

we have Jesus in Matthew

telling the apostles not to be afraid

of those who can kill the body but not the soul.

Indicating that the apostles have faced such threats.

Leading up to this in the gospel

Jesus appointed 12 apostles,

disciples to whom he has given authority

to heal and cast out unclean spirits,

and giving them this authority

he then sends them out to proclaim

“the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

with very specific instructions

that they are to rely solely on the hospitality

of those they encounter,

and they should expect to encounter

hostility as much as hospitality

- I’m sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves- he tells them,

not a really positive image,

it’s like he’s telling them to expect to be attacked-

but don’t worry he tells them

the spirit will be with you,

and here we get to the portion we heard today-

he says don’t worry,

they won’t do anything to you that they won’t do to me,

the Father knows you intimately and values you,

so don’t be afraid.

Which is comforting

and causes us to realize

that the life of following Jesus

might very well demand our life,

and we wonder if God wants too much from us?

How many of us start squirming

when we hear the word “evangelism”

because it means we might have to go talk to strangers,

let alone going out

and depending completely on strangers for our needs

for the sake of the gospel.

Are we really supposed to do that Jesus? Really?

So on the one hand

it seems like we don’t have enough to do,

on the other hand it seems like too much

so what are we to do?

how are we to live faithful lives?

We live faithful lives

by trusting God

and listening to how God calls us to live,

as part of God’s working in the world.

And yes this is not a step by step guide for faithful living

Rather a call into relationship with God

that moves us to first ask: what is God doing in the world?

One commentator I read this week answered it this way:

God is working on a complete renovation of human beings

“justification provides the ground for God’s complete renovation of human beings—both legally (justification) and morally (sanctification and glorification).”[1]

So the work Jesus does,

the one hand in Romans,

is the foundation,

or the very beginning of the work

that leads to a change in life,

that leads to a life proclaiming to others

the gift of the good news that we have first experienced

and we invite others to experience as well.

On the other hand

This renovation of human beings is a work in progress,

if we doubt this all we have to do

is look at the world around us,

and God has chosen to work with us on this renovation

And God knows it will transform our lives

In good ways and in difficult ways

Look at the prophet Jeremiah

We hear from him earlier

lamenting how everyone around him mocks him

and are waiting for him to stumble

so that they can take revenge on him,

it sounds like a rather grim situation

and we might wonder why Jeremiah just doesn’t give up

in the face of this adversity,

but it seems that the word and way of God

has worked its way into Jeremiah’s very being

and if he tries not to speak the word of the Lord

the pressure builds in him

until he just has to let it out,

ultimately he trusts that his persecutors shall not prevail

because the work that God is doing through him

is for the sake of the whole community

and even as he is taking part in something greater than his individual self

he knows that God cares for him as an individual

so he ends with a word of praise: “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.”

What God is doing is so much bigger than each of us as individuals

And yet God cares for us as individuals

God knows us down to the tiniest detail

God sent his son to die for us

So that we might experience forgiveness and newness of life

and yes we are human

and God knows that we are still under renovation,

which is why it is such good news

that in baptism we have been united to Christ,

and in Christ we are granted forgiveness and new life each day,

to continue living in relationship with God,

we do this by taking part in a community that gathers in Jesus’ name

a community that gathers around the Word, the Water, and the Table

a community that incorporates the God given gifts of each member

and works with God on the renovation of humanity

even as God is creating new life withing the community.

This fall we will embark on a time

of faithful listening as a congregation

and while I don’t know exactly

what we will discover from this process

I do know this, we will each have a role to play,

Some of us will go out like the apostles

proclaiming the good news,

others will be prophets who may have a hard word of truth burning within them,

others will pray and study scripture,

and in the midst of it all we will come together to worship

we will seek forgiveness and new life,

we will sing praises to the Lord,

and God will be with us. Amen

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