June 14, 2020
2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6
Psalm 116:1, 10-1
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8
Today begins in the church calendar what we call ordinary time, not “mundane” or “blah” ordinary but the “order of things” ordinary, the regular rhythm in which we live our lives every day. The order which God created as he spoke the universe into being, with planets in their courses, the sun and the moon marking our days and seasons and years. What we like to call “normal”.
In this long season between Pentecost and Advent, we walk with Jesus and the disciples through our weekly readings, learning from their ordinary, normal days so that our days can be shaped by theirs.
Our ordinary days have changed dramatically. Almost 3 months ago to the day, on March 15, I stood before you and said in order to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID19, we were going to suspend in-person worship for a time.
Our work places, to do their part, sent us home to work or changed the way we worked.
Stores and restaurants and gathering places closed their doors for a time.
The only way to slow this terrible virus was to work together to stay apart. The best way to protect the most vulnerable in our city was to stay away from them.
That time grew longer and longer as the number of people infected increased every day. And we wondered if what we were doing was actually working.
And then the number started to dip down showing our efforts were not in vain. As businesses and our workplaces have begun to reopen we have all been asked to continue to work together, with physical distancing and face masks to continue to protect each other and our community from the virus.
We have been reminded – if we’ve been willing to have eyes to see and ears to hear – a life lesson we’ve lost through the generations of this country: Every action of “I” has an impact the “us” whether we can see that impact or not.
For so many in our country the “normal” has become to look out only for ourselves, to do our own thing, to worry about only ‘me’ and what I need, and to be blind to how our behavior impacts others.
This false ideal of the individual has been revealed to us in the dramatic increase in the number of people being infected in Midland and around this state and country these past two weeks with the reopening of our communities, and also in the veil being pulled away from the systemic racism in this land through the marches and protests as people raise their voices against “the normal” and demand true equity for every human being.
The old normal is broken in so many ways. We cannot go back either at an individual level or as a city or nation. We can be better. God calls us to be better. Jesus teaches us to be better.
As we begin our annual journey through ordinary time in church, we have this miraculous opportunity to reshape, with God’s help, what our “normal” looks like. We can be who God is calling us to be, who Jesus teaches us to be.
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus is teaching and healing and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and when he sees the crowds, he has compassion for them.
Compassion is that emotion which allows us to see the suffering and hurt of others and moves us to do something to alleviate that pain and suffering. Compassion isn’t a passive emotion. It requires action.
Jesus knows that to alleviate the suffering and hurt in this world requires all of us to work together and so instead of just doing it all himself, he commissions the disciples to do this work.
Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Lord to send out harvesters … and then he answers their prayer by sending them out to do the work he has been doing. When we pray for God to move mountains, sometimes God hands us the shovel.
And then Jesus tells them a curious thing, something often twisted in meaning to reinforce our tendency as the church to exclude others.
Jesus tells them to start with the lost sheep of Israel.
Jesus isn’t being exclusionary here, he’s being realistic. Jesus knows the human condition well enough to understand that often, when we choose to change for the better, the most difficult place to proclaim that good news is within our own families and communities, the people who know our “normal” as their normal.
Jesus is telling the disciples to start proclaiming God’s love right where they are, to their families and in their own communities. Later he’ll tell them to branch out, we’ll get to that story later this summer.
From the beginning, God promised Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars, SO THAT they would be a blessing to all the nations of the world. God’s blessing has never been for a single group of people but for everyone. Somewhere along the way the House of Israel had lost that point and so Jesus sends the disciples to teach their own who God had called them to be all along.
Somewhere along the way, we as Americans decided that individualism was a better deal than living for the greater good of all. Collectively as a nation, we’ve lost the ability to see each other with compassion as Jesus sees us.
And in the midst of all the pain and suffering in our country, God is calling us to be who Jesus has been teaching us to be all along – the body of Christ commissioned
to spread God’s love,
to see the image of God in everyone,
to help alleviate the pain and suffering in the world,
starting right here where we live.
When we follow Jesus, the work of sharing God’s love in this world is the “normal” of our ordinary days.
Striving for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of every human being is our normal.
Seeking the well-being of others is our normal.
Being other focused rather than self-centered is our normal.
Proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom in all that we think, say, and do is our normal.
I don’t think I’ve given y’all any homework since we’ve been gathering via the internet so we’re long over due, wouldn’t you say? For this coming week, take the collect for today – it’s on page 230 of the BCP – and pray it at least once a day, more if you can, and then be willing to be the answer to that prayer with God’s help within your own family and our community.
Together we will be better, we can with God’s help make the world better, as we walk the normal, ordinary path of following Jesus on the Way of Love. Amen.