Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Mark 6:7-13

Preparing for the Journey - A Stewardship Sermon

by Rev. Keenan Kelsey

TEXT: Mark 6:7-13 (RSV)

And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them." So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

WE KNOW, both from the scriptures and from our own experience, that discipleship is a mixture of both fear and faith, doubt and belief. It would be hard for me to believe that Jesus' instructions to the disciples did not engender fear before faith.

And yet, and yet, like Moses and Abraham and all the ancient sojourners in faith, they went, with nothing but one companion and a walking stick -- no bag, no bread, no personal stuff. They were allowed to wear sandals but only one coat. Jesus said, travel light! Like the forbearers in faith, they were required to give up what belongings they had, and go forward.

But look at what they did. "They went out, and preached that people should repent." They visited homes and asked people to learn about Jesus and his extraordinary ideas of living. And they cast out many devils.

Well there's an old-fashioned thought. In the ancient world this was an expected part of healing, a way of bringing people to some sort of wholeness. I wonder what happens if you don't pay your exorcism bill? Probably you get repossessed.

Oops, I digress!

Like the disciples, every day we wake up and set out in both fear and faith. I know the "journey" metaphor is a bit overused, but it works. Life and journeys are filled with exhilarating experiences, steep declines, wrong turns, and joyful surprises. Whether we are tired or energized, afraid or inspired, reluctant or eager, we open our eyes to something new. Other creatures - our pets, our farm cows and chicks and sheep, the wild animals - they are who they are. Human beings, on the other hands, are who we become. And that act of becoming, the Bible calls a journey. And Jesus says, "If you want to do it right, then follow me."

The first thing we learn from the Gospel reading is, we don't journey alone. This is why we form our faith community. We have each other. Just prior to this passage Jesus experiences rejection in his home town in response to his preaching of God's radically inclusive love. Jesus knows that his disciples will likewise face difficulties. So he sends his friends in pairs, not only for safety but for companionship and encouragement and help.

The second instruction is, travel light. We do not need our heavy baggage of prestige and savings accounts and protestations of impossibility. We don't need certainty, we just need a vision and a trust in God. We put all our resources on the line - personal resources and church resources; then we look at what is important. Our stewardship balloons speak of community, relationships, commitment, faith, generosity, joy, compassion, perseverance, discipline - and also resources, that on-going call for time, talent, and treasure; resources to keep us together and enable us to carry our Arc.

The disciples were told to approach, to connect. with others. They involved themselves in people's lives and dealt with people's real needs. One important part of our journey, like the disciples, is the simple act of invitation. Dr. Martin E. Marty recently declared. "Less than one tenth of one percent of the American people who are members of a church tell the polltaker they got there because of a radio or television message,". "But 80 percent say, I got there through someone who was important to me." This invites vulnerability. People admire experience, but they connect with vulnerability. By relying on the hospitality of others, and accepting it gratefully, the disciples foster relationship. As we too enter strange new territory for our worship, we will need to connect meaningfully with others. We too, will be vulnerable, as the travelers in faith often are.

You will note that Jesus sends his disciples out early in his ministry. He doesn't wait until they are ready or until they thoroughly understand. Nowhere do we see him sitting down with the twelve offering a map, or a snakebite kit, or a store of provisions, or a feasibility study, or a specific set of "goals," "strategies" and "objectives." Jesus gives the disciples (at times as confused and uncomprehending a lot as ever there has been) only what they need most: a mission and the authority to carry it out. The only additional recommendation is a walking stick to keep them moving when the terrain gets rough or when they get weary.

Remember President Bush's No Child Left Behind. In 1989 He challenged the community of public educators to join with him in rescuing our failing system of teaching our children. By 1991 neither the national governing bodies, nor the local educators had yet agreed on what kinds of measurements (tests, programs, numbers) they should use to begin investigating what was wrong with the system. That's not getting stuck in the starting blocks, that's getting stuck in the driveway before even leaving for the competition.

This church is not one to be "stuck." We have never waited until everything was certain before undertaking a ministry. Certainly we can be tired or burned out or diffident - But we remain on a journey, always on a journey. When I was telling our new Interim Presbytery Exec about our Tri-Faith plans, he said, "Well if anyone can pull this off, Noe Valley can."

Part of our success is because our Journey has always been about people. It is about us and it is about others. "Estrangement" is what theologian Paul Tillich called sin. We are alienated from our God, from one another, and even from ourselves when we take on the attitudes and the values of the society around us, and our view of others and of ourselves and even of God become distorted. We become weighted down with the burdens of the world. This is not an idle thought. More than 100 people died in the crash of an airliner taking off in a snowstorm from Washington National when I lived there. All because the pilot figured only a hundred pounds of ice on the wings wouldn't make a difference. But the extra weight did make a difference and in seconds the plane was in the Potomac. Do you remember Kay's friend Lydia who talked to us two summers ago about her pilgrimage along Camino de Santiago de Compostela? She spent over a month walking St. James Way in Spain, toward the church where the bones of James, the apostle of Christ, are said to lie. She prepared by getting herself in physical shape, and she did research on the trip, and she got appropriate clothing. But, I remember her saying, "packing for El Camino de Santiago is similar to packing for other hiking trips - only lighter." Like the disciples, her preparation and provisions were about trusting self and God, about building relationships along the way that foster both experience and conversation of God's love.

Let's pack our Arc with whatever we need to praise God, feed self, and be Christ to our neighbor. And let's flagrantly forget practicality; let's exuberantly, with abandon, do what we can to move forward in an act of becoming.

I support this church with time, treasure and talent. I ask you to do the same, as an act of worship and gratitude and faith.

What our 2011 pledges will do is to keep us together, to enable us to carry our Arc and settle in a new country. It takes resources to support our community and to do our outreach - we put those in our Arc, we travel lightly, and we trust God.

A faith journey, or a pilgrimage, calls for stewardship, a stewardship of vocation, of perspectives, and of possessions that enables us like Abraham and Sarah and Moses and the others, to leave the familiar and to disencumber ourselves of all that prevents us from moving with God into new conditions, contexts, and cultures.

Life is a journey. You get to keep maturing. You get to keep growing. You get to keep being renewed, to keep being reborn. You can't do that when you are weighed down and consumed with things. Leave your fear behind. Come with us.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Sermons Home | General Sermons and Essays | Articles | eBooks | Our Faith | Prayers | Library - Home | Baselios Church Home

Malankara World
A service of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio
Copyright © 2009-2020 - ICBS Group. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Website designed, built, and hosted by International Cyber Business Services, Inc., Hudson, Ohio