“The Illusion of Independence”

29 June, 2014

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 10:1, 5-14, 40-42

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

 

Prayer.

 

Sometimes we just get it wrong.

 

We read one thing and think another.

I’d like a quarter for every time I just knew I was right,

only to be proven wrong.

This has nothing to do with gender, quite frankly.

(I’m not going there!)

We interpret the world from our unique point of view,

looking at life from our own background, experiences, values and beliefs.

This lead us to jump to conclusions,

make assumptions,

which may, or may not, be accurate or true.

You know what they say about assumptions.

Communication is hard work;

far more dependant upon the commitment of two parties to communicate

than on the actual content that is transferred from one to another.

 

A few years ago the United Methodist Church embarked

on a new media campaign.

It went like this:

“Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors;

We are the People of the United Methodist Church”

Sounds great.

Problem is, it wasn’t true.

Everyone inside the denomination knew

not EVERYone was welcome.

 

People different from us,

probably won’t become like us,

so they should just stay away.

So if you’re homeless, addicted, or intellectually challenged,

you probably smell,

frequently disappoint our best efforts,

or distract us with your behaviors;

so look someplace else.

If you don’t look like us, act like us, or ask too many questions,

perhaps you should just keep church shopping.

If your sins are little, you’re in;

but, if you have some whoppers in your past,

keep moving on.

And, oh, leave your nosy little children and grandchildren at home

because they disrupt my worship.

Don’t ever honestly answer the question “how are you?”

If you don’t tithe or you fall behind,

well, don’t bother lingering after church for coffee and free cookies.

The media campaign failed miserably,

as it should have.

The message it portrayed was

“Come to us, become like us, and we will all be united.”

 

The media campaign failed because it was,

uninformed of Jesus’ charge to his disciples

as he sent them forth,

into the villages, towns, and countryside.

Jesus didn’t tell them

“Build it and they will come.”

Ministry doesn’t begin with drawing people to open doors, buildings, or cathedrals,

it begins when we go;

when we GO!

meet people where they are at,

and address their deepest human needs.

 

If people are sick, cure them.

If people are dead, raise them.

If people have leprosy, clean them.

If people are living with demons, cast them out.

Our open minds

would be better served

if we could figure out how to unseat ourselves,

pass through THESE doors,

leaving this building and all it’s headaches behind,

and become the Body of Christ

healing a broken world.

 

We’ve spent generations getting our Gospel for today

completely backwards;

totally upside down.

We’ve assumed it’s all about us and our gracious hospitality;

as if it is a command of Jesus

for each of his disciples

to welcome all who are drawn into our worship and lovely sanctuary

with parking lot attendants, greeters, and warm cookie.

It’s not!

 

Jesus is sending OUT his disciples

and instilling in them a sense of dependency;

the complete and utter reliance upon the

hospitality of strangers

and the grace of God.

 

Take no money for your work.

Leave your purse or wallet at home.

Don’t dress nice or drive a fancy car.

Don’t pack an overnight bag.

Don’t bring your own food.

If Jesus was speaking today, he’d say, “leave your cell phone behind.”

Stay as long as people will support your dependency

and leave when hospitality runs out.

 

Dependency is primarily an act of faith.

It makes us vulnerable.

It can be dangerous.

Consider old school missionaries:

They’d go into another country,

Christianize it,

and expect that locals could be reformed to become just like us.

Christian colonization stinks

and the whole world knows it.

Jesus is telling us here this morning the complete opposite;

something altogether different.

He’s telling us to GO!

Go to other people,

become dependent upon them,

assimilating their culture,

all the while

communicating Christ’s love

and extending Christ’s invitation

to become his disciples.

When we correlate our culture with the Gospel,

we’ve gone astray.

Jesus’ message isn’t

“come, be like us”

it’s

“GO,

become dependent,

and make disciples.”

 

The danger and vulnerability of dependency

is a complete reorientation for us,

a massive paradigm shift.

At the same time,

It can be insightful for Christians

who are ready to plumb to new spiritual depths.

 

We live in insular worlds of delusion.

We believe we are greater, stronger, smarter,

and more independent than we really are.

 

We live an illusion of independence.

We take pride in our accomplishments;

our education, our job, our compensation, our pension.

Our egos swell

over our cars, our properties, our toys and things.

We are lured to believe we are masters of our own universe

and there isn’t anything anyone else can do to change it.

Yet, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes

are filled with dependent people

who once believed as we do.

Each of us are a heartbeat away

from a catastrophe of dependence.

People with chronic mental illness, developmental disabilities, addictions

may have a lifetime of dependency

- may have never had a dream of becoming independent as we know it -

yet are no different from us

other than a barely mutated snippet of DNA

or a slightly different dollop of brain chemistry.

Graveyards are full of corpses,

once the vessels of life

of people just like you and me,

yet, whose souls are now completely dependent upon God for eternal life.

 

There is great danger and vulnerability

in one of the hardest stories in the Bible:

Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac.

God called,

Abraham went,

not knowing when, or how, or why.

Yet, in his vulnerability,

confronted with the danger of losing his son, Isaac,

placing his complete and absolute trust

in his heavenly Father,

Abraham’s trust, faith, and courage

forever grafted his life with that of God.

 

As great as Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac,

there is no greater example of dependency

than our Lord, Jesus Christ,

laying down his life,

offering it up on the cross to his heavenly Father

with complete and absolute trust

knowing

- this was the way forward -

for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.

Willingly stretch yourself out on a cross sometime;

ask a soldier to pound in a few nails.

That’s vulnerability.

That’s danger.

That’s what I’m talking about.

 

At the end of the day

we are no more independent than the last choice we made.

We’re dependent upon God for everything.

Everything.

We are dependent upon God for His grace:

for life, health, and breath.

We are dependent upon God for His love:

for the people who are placed in our lives,

for the gifts and talents each of us are divinely given,

for the opportunities granted to us with the start of each new day.

 

Today,

let us join together our destiny

with those new, fledgling disciples of Jesus.

You and I are given authority to perform miracles

in the name of Christ.

We must GO, as Jesus commands,

that his invitation might be to

“COME, follow me.”

GO! he tells us.

Take no money, no clothes, no food.

Dependency is primarily an act of faith

to follow God’s will and Jesus’ commands.

Be the dependent guest.

Allow vulnerability to teach you.

Let it deepen your faith and trust in God.

Allow the humility of dependence

grow our relationships with one another.

Amen.