Sending out Disciples by Fr. Gordon.
Mark 6 1-13 is about Jesus sending his followers out on a mission. He said, “Follow me,” and they obeyed. They did not question how much time was involved, how much would they be paid, what were the expectations be and where and how would they live. Now these are questions we have been conditioned to ask when interviewing for a job. But his disciples simply left their nets, left behind jobs and families, and travelled the land with Jesus.
His disciples were not Seminary grads, nor were they trained in evangelism. They were very ordinary. They were…well, they were like us. Like Peter, we lack faith. Like Andrew, we have much to learn. Like James and John we are selfish sometimes. Like Matthew we have a job. Like Thomas, sometimes we doubt. The disciples had a limited competence but they had one thing going for them—they were on fire for the Lord!
They also knew the risks. Being a disciple of Jesus was a high risk for many in the early church. Many are disowned by their families and their communities. Judaism was a way of life, an affiliation, so many disciples and followers of Christ had to say goodbye to their loved ones and their former way of life. They knew what they were getting into, but they followed Jesus anyway.
Jesus’ followers went out with just one purpose—to form relationships, to get to know people, to be beside others in their good times and in their bad, to be an example to others of how to live out the gospel message of love, in their actions as well as in their words. People need to know that, not only does God love them, but that he cares about their health, their status as outsiders; that God does not want them to be alone. They need to hear that “Jesus loves you despite what you have done or not down, and God wants you to be his dearly loved child.”
This message of God’s love for his people is not only conveyed by those who wear collars like mine, but more effectively through ordinary people like us. God sends us out to be a witness that his kingdom is breaking into the ives of people…like us. God uses our faith and the witness we give in our daily lives; the joy and peace we carry around inside us, the words we speak at the right time—and he uses all of this to bring his love into the lives of others. Imagine that you find yourself by a sick patient, a dying person, a mentally ill person, an addict—and everything in you tells you to cut and run. You are extremely uncomfortable. You don’t know what to say. Feeling inadequate, you may be close to panic. Yet you stay. Maybe you reach out a hand and just sit there. With that simple action you comfort and cheer. You have used, not your talent, but the power given to you in baptism, and reinforced every time you receive Holy Communion.
It is no easy thing to practise consistent, objective love, panicularly toward people we hardly know. People who are not like us. People who repulse us by their actions. But Jesus, present among us, continues to call us, send us and empower us. Perhaps this coming week, in our quiet times, in our daily prayers, when we have the opportunity to reflect, it might be good to consider what task God wants us to take on. It may seem to be beyond our strength or talents or our comfort zone…but what are we asked to do as individuals and as a Parish.
What does God want us to embrace, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who has lived with us, often unrecognized, since the day we were adopted by God in our baptism? How do we live out our baptism here where we live, where we work, and with whom we come into contact? What price, as a community of faith, are we willing to pay? The cost of our discipleship is to invite the crowd to join us on our pilgrimage. We show them the love of God, not just tell them, how our lives have been transformed by the gospel we proclaim and the sacraments we celebrate.
As the poet said: I seek peace. Let me be peace. I seek justice. Let me be just. I seek a world of kindness. Let me be kind. I seek a world of generosity. Let me be generous with all that I have. I seek a world of sharing. Let me share what I have. I seek a world of giving. Let me be giving to all around me. I seek a world of love. Let me be loving beyond all reason, beyond all normal expectations, beyond all societal frameworks that tell no-one how much love is “normal”, beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little.