Whom shall I send? Matthew 10: 24-39 Rev John Blazé
Lord we thank you that you have given us your word. We thank you that you have given us the privilege of hearing you speak to us. Speak now so that the words I speak may be the words you want me to speak, the words we hear in the way you want us to hear them. Lord be our guide and teacher in all things, by your Holy Spirit. We pray this in your mighty name. Amen.
I was very puzzled at the beginning of this week wondering what I was to preach on because tomorrow you know is the anniversary of the Uniting Church, 43 years old. And thinking of that I remembered that the World Council of Churches began in 1948 and we remembered that great joy and aspirations in what we thought would become the future of the World Council of Churches. We had wonderful hopes as to what would happen in the Uniting Church. And somehow, we are somewhat dismayed at what we see.
However, I prayed about this, as to which readings I should use. I want to see that sometimes when we have to preach, we first have to listen to what the Lord wants before we preach. I’m constantly reminded of that lovely old song which I remember. “I come to the garden alone, when the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear, sounding in my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me and tells me I am his own.” So, for me it is a very precious time, when I am preparing to preach. Probably, it is one of those times when I experience a great deal of joy. And so, in all my bewilderment, this was the passage I felt the Lord God wanted me to preach on.
Now Jesus was training his disciples to be those who would go out and proclaim his message. He was teaching them what they would have to do with their mission. He wasn’t hiding the difficulties that lay ahead. He was very honest in proclaiming how difficult it was going to be, and yet what a privilege it was going to be.
And so, we have this passage, which sometimes I didn’t like, because the difficulties of proclaiming God’s word and being faithful disciples is rather a challenging and frightful experience. As we see in that passage, three occasions Jesus says what he often says. “Do not be afraid.” I think there’s been some dispute about how many times we have the words in the bible “Do not be afraid” and “do not fear”. I’ve heard people say there’s something like 300 or 400 times. Even though love is the great commandment, we don’t hear the word “love” as many times as the Lord says to his people “Don’t be afraid.” And of course we have many, many fears.
We are afraid of this wretched virus that surround us. We are afraid as to what might happen to us in regard to our careers and our families and our relationships. We are fearful of all sorts of things. We are fearful of accidents, disease and pain. And we are fearful primarily most of us of death. Death is a common course of fear for a lot of people.
I remember when I was at theological college, one of our professors had a morbid fear of death. He was a Christian minister and he had a morbid fear of death. I wondered about that as he was always counselling people in grief. And that is a fear too, that we are afraid that someone we love very much might die. Of we’re afraid if someone we love very much is going the way we think they should not go.
We have all these fears - fears about our finances, and fears about where we are going to eat and drink and fears about whether we are going to have a good night sleep or not. Fears that we might have some illness come upon us suddenly.
We are also afraid to speak out as God would have us speak. We are afraid we might be called homophobic or racist. But we need not be afraid, and we should not compromise truth.
Jesus tells us in verse 28 of that passage “Be not afraid for those who kill the body and do all kinds of things to it but be afraid of the one who can kill the body and the soul.” The one who can kill the body and the soul is our Mighty God. We need to fear him, as much as we love him. We are told that perfect love casts out fear. But also, the love of God is a fearful love, it is so powerful and encompassing. And so, the fear we have for God is a fear of awe, of his majesty and holiness. He’s beyond our conception of what sort of person he is. But we know that through Jesus was have a way to him. We can come to the Father by his grace.
He’s called us to be his disciples and reminds us of the cost of discipleship. We think of the saints who have gone before us who have suffered for their faith. But Jesus says, “Be not afraid for I will be with you to the end.” I remember when I was baptised, when I came out of the water we sang “O Jesus I have promised to serve you to the end.” This was my lifelong pledge.
I have had a great lot of love in my life, my parents, grandparents, siblings, grandchildren, my dear beautiful wife. But far above all this love my wife and I say is our first love, our Lord Jesus Christ. So I love Him more than I love Annette, and I love her very much. And she loves Him more than she loves me. But she loves me very much. For Muslim families the turmoil that happens when someone becomes a Christian in the family is absolutely terrible. They are counted by the family as dead. We don’t fully understand how difficult it is for some people to become Christian because they will lose their family and even threatened with their life. They come to realise the love of Christ is greater and a far more worthy love.
I recall that sometimes we are too afraid to speak out but yet as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is what we are called to do. I remember being embarrassed when other people spoke out about Jesus Christ, when I wasn’t brave enough to speak out. Sometimes we are very intimidated to speak out at places like Assembly because of the labels placed upon us for being homophobic, rather stupid, racist or narrow minded. But we are called to speak out. That is where the sword of Christ comes in. It divides us and continues to divide us. We have to be prepared in some ways of being persecuted. More and more of us even in Australia are becoming too scared to speak out to tell the truth, but the truth will prevail. And Jesus is with us in all we say or do. He tells us not to be afraid or discouraged but to speak out and to stand firm and don’t compromise. For Jesus himself says, I am the way and truth and the life.
I remember the words of that hymn. I the Lord of sea and sky. He says: “Whom shall I send?” Well, I answered the call: “Is it I Lord?” He was calling in the night. Many of us could say in the chorus of the hymn. “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I’ve heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord. I will hold your people in my heart.” Yes let us do that, as a group of people we are here worshiping our Lord and Saviour. We are called to discipleship whatever cost it is to stand firm for the truth.
May God bless each of us, strengthen us and give us courage, we pray in His name. Amen.