Today, it seems to me, is all about Covenant and Calling - so very fitting as we are in the ordination season that is Petertide!
Covenant (con venire) - a coming together, an agreement between two parties (God and the Jews in our Old Testament reading) that sets conditions and brings benefits. a true 'friends with benefits' relationship!
Calling - a word we tend to use with regard to vocation these days, but look wider and see how, in the Bible, God has 'called' to people to engage with Him and develop a relationship. The call of God says, "Come and be my friends, my people, my co-workers, my voice - and my priests!"
It's around 1,300 BC and, having left Egypt and spent a few months trudging through the wilderness, the Israelites are camped at the foot of Mount Sinai - somewhere they will be for a while - and Moses has parked up and popped up the hill for a word with God. Like many a family travel before SatNav, Moses is off getting directions.
And Moses comes back with a message from God. A message for a people God is already in relationship with for they are the descendants of the house of Jacob, Israelites, the people He has delivered from captivity - His people! A lecturer I had called this an 'I-you-I' (IUI) moment: God reminds the people of who He is and what He's done and how they should respond and the outcomes of that.
'I did this - if you do this - I will'. "I brought you out and if you keep my commands you will be My treasured possession. a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
This sets a big calling upon the people before Moses for they are being called to be more than 'a nation', they are being called in the same sense we use vocation today, to be called out, to be different, to minister God's grace: 'Called out; (ekklesia). This is truly a covenant and calling moment. One which neatly moves us nicely into the Gospel passage where those with whom Jesus has a relationship find themselves in another 'IUI' moment.
Jesus tells the Twelve the what and how and who and sends them off to do the 'stuff' and 'proclaim the Good News'.
Did you notice that He is only sending them to the Jews - He tells them, "Avoid the Gentiles and the Samaritans!" Remember the conversation with the Canaanite woman who asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that He has come for the lost sheep of Israel and she replies that even the dogs (what the Jews called Gentiles) could eat the crumbs under the table.
This is not an anti-Gentile message but a recognition that for Jesus' coming to fulfil the law and the prophets, the first point of call is, quite logically, to those who live under them. First to the Jews and then to the Gentile - Jerusalem
Jesus calls us in the same manner today: Who we are through our relationship with Him sees us called and sent out, perhaps not as the twelve were sent - to be itinerant missionaries - to be a priesthood, to make God know and to be called out to minister the love of God as made real in our lives through the ministry of Jesus, the Christ.
A call for all of us!
And yet as many will argue from a place of personal weakness and inability. All too often I hear people tell me, "I would, but ...!"
Paul stops us short and says, "There's no 'but' in it - we have Jesus, the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, the fulfilment of the hope we have and the remedy for the desires that distract!" Jesus is the answer - to everything - for everyone (Jew and Gentile)!
There are problems and there us suffering and over all there is Grace. Love is the seed from which hope is sown and when this is God's love which we have through our relationship with Him won by the Christ, nothing can overcome or inhibit us. And when we were far off, separate and antagonistic to God, Jesus died for us - how can we not live with and for Him now?
So this is a day where we remember and celebrate our relations with God and look to our calling as individuals, and corporately, and think on the IUI and our relationship with God and the calling that is ours.
God of truth, help us to keep your law of love and to walk in ways of wisdom, that we may find true life in Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Matthew 9.35 - 10.23
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Post Communion Prayer
Eternal Father, we thank you for nourishing us with these heavenly gifts: may our communion strengthen us in faith, build us up in hope, and make us grow in love; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.