Exodus 19: 1-8, Romans 5: 1-8, Matthew 9: 35- 10:8
You will all know by now that Kew Gardens are once more open to visit, which is great news. Carolyn and I have visited twice and our first visit was, for both of us, the furthest we have been since March and the start of the ‘lockdown’. It is fair to say we were a little apprehensive at this first ‘long distant’ outing, and a little unsure how the ‘outside world’ would be and seem after so long out of public view.
I feel sure that those twelve disciples would have had the same anxieties on being sent out by Jesus on their own to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”as we have just heard in today’s Gospel reading. They were just everyday folk, not great evangelists, they depended on Jesus for guidance, leadership and reassurance, to think of going out, even among their own people, must have indeed seemed very daunting
But were they actually on their own? We are told that Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” Surely this power that was instilled in them was that of The Holy Spirit, and would work through them, by that power granted to them all by Jesus.
Probably, the one thing that the disciples did need was faith; faith in the one who had called them out of their everyday lives, the one who had that great power of healing, understanding, gentleness and love, Jesus Christ. That same faith that Paul wrote about to the young church community in Rome:
“Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” “Sharing the glory of God” as those twelve disciples were to do, with the power instilled in them by Jesus.
I wonder how many of us, gathered as we are, hope to go out later today, or even during this coming week in the hope and desire "of sharing the glory of God"?
It is, if we are honest, one of those things that in theory sound great, but actually in practice often slips us by. That is not to say that we won’t be good Christians in the way we behave, or in the many good acts of help and kindness we may do. But how often are those acts ended by words like, “may God go with you”? Interestingly, the lady who used to be outside Tesco Express in Kew village before this Pandemic, selling the Big Issue, would always thank God for your kindness when one bought a copy of the magazine, or even bless you when she saw you walking by. Perhaps she was a worshiper of a different faith, yet with the same universal God? We are all, at times, far better at being Christians than actually proclaiming it!
It has been an interesting observation nationwide, how many more people are actually happy attending Zoom Services, in these times we are living in, than would actually turn out for a Sunday Service in church. There is maybe a certain feeling of security and distancing from being in ones own surroundings, of being part of something without fully committing to it. After all, one has only to press the button to escape, no filing past the vicar or excusing oneself from coffee.
We are so lucky that in this country we can live our Christian lives without the fear of persecution, which is not the case in so many other parts of the world. Those twelve disciples, in the years ahead, would face in many cases persecution and death, as did the Apostle Paul and many more in that young church in Rome. Paul writes of the suffering that new followers of Christ would have to bear, but as he wrote, “suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
That fact is as true today as it was when Paul wrote to the church in Rome. We today have that same Holy Spirit within us as we go about our daily lives. Maybe, we should all have the courage and excitement to let that gift of the Holy Spirit be apparent and known to those we meet? For as the psalmist wrote in today’s Psalm 100:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting, and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.”