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Sermon on Matthew 9:35-10:8

June 19, 20237 min read

Sermon on Matthew 9:35-10:8

Good morning. We are on day 25 after Mawar. I hope that the suffering you are going through as a result of the typhoon is fortifying your endurance and resilience.

Before anything else, let me extend my greetings to our hard-working fathers. We thank God for you and would like to honor and thank you for all the sacrifices you do for the love of your families: “Happy Father’s Day.”

The readings from the lectionary for this week offer a few interesting topics for discussion that are close to my heart that I wish I have time to talk about but I really don't esp. because it is hot inside the church, there is no power, and no air conditioning.

But since I cannot help myself, I would just like to mention in passing that it would be interesting to explore Sarah’s perspective from the first reading in Genesis 18, why she laughed when she heard their three guests tell Abraham that she will give birth to a son in due season. Her laughter was always interpreted against her, that it was disrespectful of her to laugh. I would say there is nothing wrong or disrespectful that she laughed. She laughed because she was too happy, for after so many years of trying to get pregnant, after so many years of waiting for the promise of God for her and Abraham to become the ancestors of a great nation, it seems that finally it may come true. So of course, she laughed. But that is a sermon for another day.

St. John Episcopal Church Guam_Disciples_shepherd

Anyway, because of time constraints, let us focus on the gospel lesson from Matthew 9. Jesus went around cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. Upon seeing the crowds, he was moved with compassion because they are like “sheep without a shepherd.” He told his disciples to pray for laborers because “the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.” As if in response to his own petition, Jesus sends his disciples to go and “labor in the harvest” and proclaim the kingdom of God. But before he did so, he gave them some instructions which we can benefit from as we do our work of bringing the good news of the kingdom of God by making known to the world the reality of God.

1.The first instruction is this: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and proclaim the good news that the kingdom has come near.

At first glance, it seems that Jesus is contradicting himself here by telling his disciples to go only to their fellow Israelites or fellow Jews. However, we can cite a few passages where Jesus ministered to Samaritans and gentiles or non-Jewish peoples. In the gospel of Matthew alone, Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant (Matthew and the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15). Two weeks ago, we read from Matthew 28 where Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into the world to baptize and teach.

In short, Jesus is not telling his disciples to go exclusively to the Jews. What I hear him saying is that we are sent to minister to a specific area or respond to a particular situation. Obviously this is for practical reasons and missiological strategy, because the gospel must be shared to a certain locale or audience. For instance, we, St. John’s people, are sent to share the gospel here in Guam. We are not sent to share the good news in Chuuk or Vietnam. Although of course, we are not prevented from sharing the gospel to Chuukese or Vietnamese, or elsewhere, but our area of mission starts where we are, to the people that we live with, work with, and play with. But more importantly, we are sent to make real the presence of God to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” or those who are "harassed and helpless," “those who are like sheep without shepherds,” or those who are defenseless and are discarded by society. I suggest to you that at this point and time, the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in our context who need our care and service are those who lost most of their belongings from Mawar.

2. The second instruction is to travel light. Jesus tells his disciples not to bring silver or copper coins, or bags or extra clothes or shoes. Although travelling light is a great idea, for us 21st century folks who take pride in our independence, travelling without our credit card or money, or bag, or extra clothes and shoes do not make sense. We want to be in control. We do not want to take the chance of being caught unprepared and having to ask for help or rely on others. We do not want to inconvenience people or be a burden to them.

But for some reason, Jesus seems to think that it is for our benefit to be in the position of a receiver or be in a position of vulnerability in order to teach us to be humble and learn to live interdependently with others. And so we need to reject any sense of savior complex that we may have and be open and rely on the hospitality of the people we are sent to serve.

3. The third instruction is to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This means we have to adopt the posture of a curious learner, someone who listens to understand not just what is being communicated but also what is beneath the surface so that we can properly show respect and appreciation. We have to discard the idea that we are being sent as the expert. We are sent to share the gift of the gospel as well as receive the gospel from the perspective of the other. Sharing the gospel is more about bearing witness to the reality of God through the way we conduct our lives and relate with or treat people and not so much about reciting bible passages or mouthing long prayers.

4. Fourthly, Jesus instructed his disciples to expect rejection, opposition and persecution. We have to live our lives in such a way that those who oppose the will of God will not be happy with us. In other words, the mark of our success as a follower of Jesus is not getting as many likes on social media or having many people approve of us but when those who thwart the will of God hate us.

St_John_Episcopal_Church_Guam_prayer

As you can tell, Jesus’ instructions are offensive and uncomfortable. When I was reading the gospel, I was saying to myself: “Lord, have mercy on me” because I tend to go and “save” people with all the evangelism tools I or the church can muster: bible, prayers, sacraments, money, donations. I usually do not go empty handed or without the church’ resources. The way we do mission or evangelism now is we go fully loaded and prepared.

This is what we did immediately following Mawar. Equipped with food, water, dry clothes, toiletries, canopies, we went to the people who lost almost all their belongings and distributed these to them. We felt good about ourselves that we are able to help. We did not feel vulnerable. We were helping from the perspective of privilege.

Still, knowing the graciousness of God, I like to think that Jesus did not disapprove of us helping those who are like “sheep without shepherds” the way we did. The people we encountered were very grateful and most of them expressed thankfulness to God for the help we brought. But the gospel lesson today reminded me of my need to be open and have the humility to accept that service benefits both sides and that evangelism is really about hospitality and reciprocity. And sometimes it takes a crisis like this for us to learn to mutually rely on one another to survive and thrive.

The Rev. Irene Egmalis-Maliaman

June 18, 2023

The Reverend Irene Irene Egmalis-Maliaman

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