Brothers and sisters, what have we gotten ourselves into? What has God gotten us into? In our collect we prayed that we may be devoted to God with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection. But if we look around our lives and our world, this does not seem to be happening. We often seem more devoted to ourselves in the pursuit of influence, power, and wealth. Even in relationships, the ever present “what’s in it for me” often rears its head. And do we really strive to be united, when many examples in the world are to divide ourselves into us and them, those who believe what I believe, and the others, who are of course wrong? We divide and label based on origin, family, occupation, age, class, race, political party, nationality, gender and sexuality.
At least one day a week we come together to celebrate our unity. We gather as unique individuals in community, and participate in the faith that unites us. And this day each week prepares us for the other six. We come together to pray, to hear God’s word, to proclaim our faith, to ask for forgiveness, and to be refreshed and refueled by the sacred banquet that feed body, mind, and soul. At least once each week, hopefully more constantly, we are reminded of what unites us ... we are called to be the people of God. In striving to live into this call every day of the week, in every situation, in the many moments of human, worldly reality, we must wonder, what have we gotten into?
The Divine Call is not just an invitation to be you just as you have always been. God calls us just as we are, but does not call us to stay that way. Encountering God changes us. We are called “to” something. We are commissioned to act. This is often where the tension begins. Ezekiel is reluctant to take on the task in front of him, to deliver God’s words to a scattered, exiled people. Even God describes them as an impudent and stubborn people. Ezekiel is reluctant even to get to his feet, but he is lifted by the Spirit to a standing position, a posture of going and doing, and speaking with the authority of God saying, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether the people hear or refuse to hear, they will know there has been a prophet among them. Ezekiel’s success will not be measured in how many people are converted, but that he hears the call, with God’s help gets to his feet, and gets to work, answering the call. God’s work is accomplished in the doing.
Our patron Paul had such a powerful conversion experience, we might imagine he had no misgivings about his commission. But Paul complains about a thorn in the flesh, something that must have constantly bothered or distracted or tempted him that he found it difficult to continue God’s work. He asked for relief, and God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Thus Paul finds contentment in his humanity, for this is clay for God to mold. No matter what imperfections we bring to our task, God’s work is accomplished in the doing.
Jesus is well aware of his commission, and well into his ministry, when he faces a situation that would dash any of our spirits. Hometown boy makes good, preaching and healing, even performing miracles. Any of us would expect a ticker tape parade, the Mayor presenting the key to the city, and declaring “Jesus Day” in Nazareth. Instead, the hometown crowd protests, “Where did this man get all this?” And begin a cluster of identity questions. They cannot accept the extraordinary from what they have all experienced as ordinary. They know Jesus’ parents, probably saw him as the precocious child he might have been, maybe even saw Jesus stub his toe and cry and bleed. They cannot accept Jesus as called and commissioned by God, as the bread come down from heaven. Jesus shrugs this off. “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” This is uniquely troubling as I stand before you, a hometown boy with kinfolk in the congregation.
Jesus knows the strength and courage that fill us on our journey is not the comfort of family and friends, but faith. Jesus is not just rejected by his townsfolk, but the full religious establishment, yet Jesus continues answering his call and carrying out his commission. We are told Jesus “could do no deeds of power there,” yet “he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” No deeds of power? This seems pretty powerful. These works remove any hint of doubt that Jesus’ power was somehow limited, but when we reject Jesus as God revealed to humanity, we refuse to allow God’s power and mercy and grace and love to move us. Usually the crowds are amazed at Jesus’ miracles. Now Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith. But Jesus does not seem deterred by his obtuse townsfolk. God’s work is accomplished in the doing.
Jesus then seems to double down on God’s call and commission. In the Mission of the Twelve, Jesus’ inner circle is enrolled in “Apostle Boot Camp”, or perhaps what could be called the first Christian “mission trip.” In this experience we are prepared for the work to which each of us is called. The mission is extended within and beyond Galilee, and includes Haiti, Ghana, Puerto Rico, even Macon, Georgia. God calls humanity to participate in the coming of the kingdom. The power of and witness to the kingdom is extended through the faith community. We are sent two by two, because we are stronger together than apart. As Christians, we are called to our commission in community. We are already equipped, for when we are sent by God we carry God’s will and power. We have all we need. Extra baggage is just a distraction, perhaps even a crutch that might weaken or replace faith. When we are received well or encounter others in faith, we are to accept hospitality. But Jesus was rejected in his home town. We will almost certainly face some rejection. When we or our work is not well received, move along. God’s work is accomplished in the doing.
Like Ezekiel and Paul, the Apostles were called and accepted their commission. The Twelve went out as instructed and preached repentance, cast out demons, and anointed the sick with oil and they were cured. If only our commission was this clear. If only our work was rewarded with such results. But our call is often to discernment. We are to faithfully wrestle with scripture, tradition and reason to determine our next faithful step. We are to reject the world humanity would create on its own, and seek the kingdom characterized by love of God and love of each other. And our call is also to action. The Church should see itself as a community sent, traveling light, serving others, and proclaiming the good news with fearlessness, freedom, and faith. Whether we are caring for the sick, serving in worship, growing together in the knowledge and love of God, praying for those in need, companioning the lonely, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or inviting those on the outside to come in and be loved, we are answering God’s call with faith that God will bless our efforts, even in ways we cannot understand. All the kingdom work we attempt will not seem fruitful, but because we do so with faith in God’s presence and guidance, God’s work is accomplished in the doing.
It is clear that Jesus’ way of exercising the power of the kingdom is to give it to humanity, sharing it freely with those who come in faith, and allowing us to exercise our discipleship with faith and courage. Let us answer God’s call, acting in witness and ministry, according to God’s will, not our own. We are not held responsible for the response to our ministries in Christ’s name, but only for our own faithfulness. With this assurance, we can be the Body of Christ, and witness boldly and faithfully. Amen.