This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
7 RED CROSS WORKERS HELD HOSTAGE BY SYRIAN REBELS
New English Translation (NET)
5 Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not take gold, silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions. 11 Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, give it greetings. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town!
“Raise the dead!” Jesus commanded his messengers just to add something easy to the list. It’s hard to penetrate beyond the words of the gospel writers to the words of Jesus, but as “the kingdom of heaven is near!” was not the message of the young church, there’s a reasonable chance that it was indeed the message of Jesus. It’s also unlikely that a largely gentile church would have invented the tradition that Jesus’ ministry was limited to Israel. So here we probably have an authentic reflection of the ministry of Jesus and his disciples: sent out as prophets of the rule of God, the disciples are to demonstrate its presence by lifting the burden of human suffering. The casual greeting, “Shalom” which means literally peace, wholeness, prosperity becomes fraught with immediate significance in their mission.
I’m reminded of the sarcastic summing up of the first 100 years of Christianity, “Jesus announced the kingdom and we got the church.”
Would the Israeli villagers have been disappointed by the announcement and actions of the disciples? I guess not. Probably the disciples were able to arouse enough trust for their assault on evil and deprivation to have visible results. Does that mean I think disciples could have a similar impact today? Yes, I do. Whenever men and women attempt seriously to bring some of God’s goodness into their own and others’ lives, there will be an impact, although not always a favourable one, as Jesus warned.
Over against most deliberations on the Church’s mission today, which tend to be responses to institutional decline, I would urge that reconnecting the name of God with justice, goodness, kindness, truth, self-control, peace and love for the world, is not only desirable but also faithful to the wishes of Jesus.
Now, I’m off to practise that raising of the dead….