Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sermon, Proper 7A, Matthew 10:24-39

Quiz time again. What was the sermon topic two weeks ago? It was "Invitation."

What was the sermon topic last week It was Evangelism.

What is the sermon topic today? All of the above.

Beginning at the tail end of Chapter 9 and moving through Chapter 10, Matthew is concerned with evangelism. From the invitation of Matthew and other "tax collectors and sinners," to the sending out of the twelve, to the rooftop proclamations of today, this section of Matthew's gospel is focused on spreading the good news of the kingdom of God.

What we are hearing over the course of Chapter 10 is that we are responsible for spreading the good news. We are responsible for inviting all people into the kingdom and for allowing them to walk with us on our journey. Invitation, evangelism and proclamation isn't solely the job of Jesus or the priest. It's the job of everyone in this church.

Think back to the Last Sunday of Easter. On that Sunday we heard the story of the Ascension of Jesus. Do you remember this? The disciples were there with Jesus when he disappeared into the clouds; and as he ascended, they stood there looking up. Then the angels appeared and asked, "Why are you looking up to heaven?" The implication, of course, was that they had work to do.

Jesus had taught them everything they needed to know about spreading the good news and inviting people into the kingdom of God. It was now time to move from the safety and security found in their small group and out into the scary and unsafe world. It was now time to let the world know about Jesus.

In the gospel reading for today, we are told by Jesus for the first time to really begin proclaiming that good news. "What I say in the dark, tell in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops."

This is new. Many times Jesus will say to a person, "Don't tell anyone about this." He does this, I think, because he doesn't want to lose control of his mission. He does it because people aren't yet ready to hear it. He does it because he's trying to lay the proper groundwork.

In some ways it's like a small business trying to get started. It's like that commercial about some woodworking plant. Owner #1 comes in and says, "Have you seen our numbers?"

Owner #2 says, "Yes."

"Do you realize what this means? We'll have to order more material. We'll have to hire more people. We'll need those key-card swipe lock things."

"Isn't that the point?"

Yes, it's probably the point and what they want, but they don't want it too fast or the company will drown in its own success. They needed to lay the groundwork first. They needed to hire dedicated employees who are willing to buy into the vision and who are willing to learn about the company and product. After they have that core group set up, then can they grow.

Jesus needed a core group of people around him to teach and learn about his mission. They needed to understand what was happening first. They needed to spend some time "in the dark," or being whispered to, before they could go out and proclaim the good news.

Jesus is saying that there will come a time when what you have learned in the dark, what you were taught in private, what you have heard whispered . . . there will come a time when all of that will give way to proclamation. The time will come when you will need to shed light on the message, when you will need to make it public, when you will need to proclaim it from the rooftops.

For the disciples, that time was still a ways off. But for us . . . for us that time is now. Now is the time for us to proclaim from the rooftops that the kingdom of God is upon us. Now is the time for us to invite people to join us on our journey. Now is the time when we need to move from simply hearing stories about Jesus to proclaiming the good news.

Remember that famous picture of Jesus knocking on a door. Regardless of what you think of it personally, it shows some truths. It portrays the simple truth that Jesus can't come in unless invited. Spun another way, people aren't going to join us unless we invite them in. We need to invite them so they can invite Jesus.

We are disciples. We are evangelists. We have been given the authority to proclaim the good news. We are the only way that the message can spread. And if you think otherwise, let me ask this: If not us, who? If not now, when?


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