Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (proper 7): June 19, 2005.
Psalm 69:8-11 (12-17), 18-20
On this Sunday we pray, "... rescue your people from despair; deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief." There is despair in abundance in Jeremiah's complaint! In fact, the prophet cries out in lament, "O Lord, You seduced me, and I was seduced" (20:7). Yahweh's call had caused Jeremiah derision and abuse. He had become an "unmentionable." It wasn't fair! Jeremiah experienced bouts of paranoia (20:10, "I hear many whispering, 'Terror is all around. Denounce him.'"). Jeremiah felt that Yahweh "set him up." How often do the people of God feel that way in a world where evil is still active?
Paul had just explained how in "one man" (Jesus), many will be declared righteous, even as, through "one man" (Adam), all had sinned. In other words, Paul had just set out the "freedom of the Christian" and then asked a logical question: "Should we continue sinning so that God's grace may continue to flow?" It sounds perfectly logical. You want more grace, you sin some more. Then Paul answers with a decisive "me genoito," literally, "It must not happen!" Better, "No way!"
Baptism makes all the difference. Baptism connects us intimately to Jesus. Jesus' death becomes our death to sin. Jesus' resurrection becomes our resurrection to new life. Far from continuing to sin, we are called "dead to sin." Instead, we are very much alive in Christ. God's love abounds in us.
In Matthew 10 Jesus sends his disciples out to be his witnesses. They are to be fearless preachers, ready to confess. After all, God protects tiny sparrows, the cheapest of birds in the marketplace. Certainly God will watch over the messengers of his Messiah!
Jeremiah bemoans his status as prophet, calling himself a "laughingstock." Jesus puts his disciples on notice that on the question of his authenticity the world is divided. In Matt 10:34-39 we find some of the hardest words in the Gospel. Moreover, Matthew does not talk about the disciples' return from their assigned mission.
If we, who are "professional proclaimers," walk into the pulpit sometimes trembling and unsure, imagine what the task of witness must be for our lay folk. Jesus' words lay out a line of demarcation between the world and the Word. He comes bringing a sword, and when one swings a sword, division takes place. People scatter, and they come down on one side of the sword or the other.
When one is developing a new mission, when one engages in many, many initial calls, any weapon one can find is welcome. The promises of God--the "gospel of the Lord"--is the most comforting thing I know. "Lord, I do not know how to speak, but give me the words, and I will proclaim." There have been mornings I've sat in the car on the edge of some subdivision, waiting and praying for inspiration and strength to speak. I have found that the best way to find that strength and inspiration is to just pray and get about the task of inviting. After the first five doorbells have been rung the job gets easier, even if there is some harsh rejection (an extremely rare occurrence).
Then we realize that "even the hairs of your head are all counted." God is with us. Then there is no fear or hesitation. We all ought to try it! And trust! TCG
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|Title Annotation:||Preaching Helps|
|Author:||Graunke, Terry C.|
|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2005|
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