Second Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 6 June 14 2020
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7), Psalm 116:1, 10-17, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)
As I hear this scripture from Matthew in these days, I wonder if it was spoken right into our time and place. Jesus is proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, the hope and the reality and the nearness of the kingdom. The sign of that proclamation is healing and compassion. And the call is to each and every one of us, to go out into the world to proclaim the kingdom is near and to bring healing to those who will receive it, and that we will be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Matthew lays out the good news of kingdom building right next to the difficulty of bearing that same news into a world that has so much trouble receiving it, a world that is filled with grief, a world that is in upheaval.
You see, Jesus offers a very different reality of kinship, or of being related to one another. Jesus is speaking into a world in which worth and value are based on your bloodlines and your pedigree. We hear it in two ways in this story. First, Jesus sends the apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, they’re the synagogue leaders and council elders, the magistrates and political officials that will threaten the mission of the disciples, these are insiders and people in power, not Gentiles or the Samaritans. And, secondly, Jesus describes the upheaval that will happen in families, brother will betray brother, a father will betray his child, and children will rise against parents. These seem like very harsh words, don’t they? Matthew uses harsh words in his gospel, even the way the parables are told seem harsh. Harsh words are not bad words, they are words that prick our ears, raise our eyebrows, and sometimes offend us.
But what is happening here is that Jesus is telling his followers that this good news of love, relationship, forgiveness, hope, will wreak havoc on the world as they know it. In fact, in the parables that follow, we hear the same good news. The kingdom of God looks like a world in which everyone is related to God and to one another. And Jesus is the one to incarnate that world, Jesus is the one who brings that reality to bear on the world those first followers lived in, and Jesus is the one who brings that reality to bear on the world in which we live.
I wonder if that’s not where we find ourselves today. In the midst of upheaval that not only reminds us but brings the reality right into our living rooms, the reality that we are all related. That kinship in God’s kingdom does not rest on markers that we in the world create, markers of skin color, or anything else. And we are reminded that the sign of the proclamation that we are all related it is healing and compassion.
Because that’s what Jesus does, into the upheaval Jesus brings healing and compassion and no one is left out of God’s relationship with God’s beloveds. Jesus heals the leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother in law, many possessed with demons, and Jesus stills the storm. And Jesus casts out the demons from the man in the tombs, he heals the paralytic, he restores a girl to life, and returns the woman into the community when she touches the fringe of her cloak. Jesus upends the order of the day just by healing people.
How do we get to healing and compassion today? I think we get there by engaging in truth-telling and reconciliation now. And that takes listening, lots and lots of listening. It takes listening to the stories that our black and brown brothers and sisters tell us about daily life, the stories underneath, the stories that make you and I say, no, that can’t be true. It takes listening to the stories of those who are indigenous to this land and acknowledging that they were here first. Listening to the truth of our brothers and sisters puts us on the road to reconciliation. That is the road to healing. That is the path that we must take to move closer to the kingdom that God dreams for us.
Bearing that work of truth and reconciliation that can be the bridge to healing opens us up to the wolves. And it is the wolves that will stop us in our tracks and eat us up. You’ve heard it said that we can’t be blamed for our rotten history, and slavery is way in our past anyway. You’ve heard it said that we can’t be blamed for the genocide of those who were on this land before the Europeans came to occupy. But those are the wolves talking. Those are the voices of oppression and racism. And it’s not about blame, it’s about change. There’s an old Cherokee parable. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Let’s not feed the evil wolf. Let’s not assign blame, let’s set down our arrogance, our superiority. Let’s feed joy, love, hope, kindness, and generosity. Let us be the ones who bear the good news into the world, the good news that we hear in the creation when God said, it is good. Let us bear the good news that God yearns to be in relationship with all of us because creation is good, we are good.
We are witnessing a quickening, a spirit rising, a new song moving us forward toward the beloved community. We are seeing a moment when change is possible and because of our collective voices for justice, change is happening. Let us move toward the beloved community as we hear the truth, let us be a part of the healing. Let it be so. Amen