“Do Not Fear”

Matthew 10:24-39

June 21, 2020

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 10:24-39

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Prayer.

The Gospel of Matthew picks up from last Sunday:

Jesus naming, commissioning, and sending forth his 12 apostles.

Their charge was to go to Jewish towns and villages

  • Proclaim the Good News that the kingdom of heaven is near,
  • Cure the sick,
  • Raise the dead,
  • Cleanse lepers, and
  • Cast out demons.

Do it without pay or preparations.

Depend upon the Lord for your daily bread.

Get out there and get the mission done.

Like coming out of a huddle:

One, two, three. Hike!

Let’s go!

Apostles of Jesus must be innovators by nature.  

Status quo for the Church is a cold cell in solitary confinement.

Watch us slowly become irrelevant and die if we continue to put new wine into old wineskins;

If we fail to innovate,

If we continue to stubbornly refuse to change.

Innovation is the only way to get the mission done

As Tasked to us by Jesus.

Mission accomplished?

Has all the world heard the message that the kingdom is near?

Is there sickness or death?

Are the dead being raised?

Has evil been vanquished?

Have you noticed the protests?

Do we have a cure?

Has all the world been introduced to Jesus?

Christ’s mission is not accomplished.

The game hasn’t been won.

There is still time on the clock.

Change the world.

Transform it into to God’s kingdom.

You know what happens to innovators?

Jesus pumps the brakes of his newly ordained.

A shadow drifts over Jesus’ teaching

When he warns his apostles that

They will receive passive-aggressive resistance.

Expect it.

Don’t take it personally.

Don’t fight it.

Shake the dust off your feet and move on.

If it was only that simple.

Today, Jesus locks up all four tires in our Gospel lesson

When he teaches about consequences and conflict.  

If you’re not stunned, you are not paying attention.

Listen to what comes out of the mouth of Jesus:

“I do not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

(Matthew 10:34)

This is the same Savior

At his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane

who told his disciples

to put away their swords!

Are you kidding me?

What gives?

Jesus knows how to attract a crowd.

Consider all the occasions when crowds of would-be disciples

Follow him across the lake,

Put him in a boat to teach,

Or packed the synagogue to experience

His traveling salvation show.

People loved his sermons.

He often repeated the Beatitudes,

Teaching about injustice,

And parables about the Kingdom.

Peace, love, mercy, and blessings win over a crowd,

Especially if they were free to do nothing about it, or

If there was a free magic show and fish dinner afterwards.

However, today’s Gospel message

Appears to be the complete opposite,

A totally opposing message,

As if Jesus is pulling back the curtain

And revealing the Ugly Stepchild of Discipleship.

There are consequences of following Jesus.

Just as doing nothing is not an option,

The things we say and do as a faithful follower of Christ

Is going to end us up in conflict and mortal danger.

We rarely hear about the thousands of would-be disciples

who received his invitation,

but decided the price of discipleship was too costly,

so they walked away.

There are a few exceptions.

Consider what never happened because

  • That one guy decided to return home first to bury their father?
  • That rich guy decided to walk away sad because he couldn’t bring himself to sell all he had and give the money to the poor?
  • Another one decided the ridicule he would face from his family was too great for him to bear?
  • Yet another decided Jesus had been just another shooting star who disappointed the nation?

Consider the Passover crowds who welcomed Jesus

With shouts of Hosanna on Sunday,

But who were screaming “Crucify Him!” to Pontius Pilate by Friday morning.

They just walked away.

This is why the kingdom has yet to be completed and

We’re still hammering away at it today.

There are consequences to following Jesus.

There is persecution and possibly death.

There is a price to be paid for exposing injustice,

for fighting evil,

for bringing the light of Christ into a world of darkness and shadows,

where the evil one veils himself

and hides his despicable work.

We will be falsely accused of working for Beelzebul,

The devil,

just as Jesus was falsely accused

of being the king of the Jews.

(Matthew 10:25)

Consequences for following Jesus run deep.

You may be estranged from family

– the ones who are supposed to be your closest loved ones.

Weigh the consequences.

Consequences of following Jesus?

Say good-bye to football, cheerleading, and soccer.

Worship is the only Sabbath activity.

What are the consequences?

I’ve been mocked and shamed by the hypocrisy and failures of the Church,

Just as I’m sure you have been, too.

People will stare in disbelief and say, “what are you, nuts?!”

Expect the world to throw an emotional fit worthy of a three-year-old

When we work to innovate,

When we work to change,

When we improve

This broken world into God’s kingdom.

The consequence of following Jesus is conflict.

And it doesn’t always come from those outside the church.

I’ve been a part of 22 churches in my 59 years.

Plus, I have inside knowledge of a whole lot more.

I’m here to tell you that there is not one church

in which there was no conflict.

Internal conflict can be hurtful.

Church folks reflect the larger culture.

Not all Christians are nice all the time.

We make mistakes.

Sometimes we hurt others.

We are a community of sinners

Striving to become Saints.

I’ve learned one of the signs of a healthy congregation

is not the absence of conflict,

but how the members of a church family respond to it.

  • Avoidance: Is conflict swept under the carpet, denied and ignored? That is a sign of disfunction, at best, a ticking time bomb, at worse.
  • Discernment: Are people able to listen and discern God speaking in their own life AND listen and discern God speaking in and through others?
  • Healing: Is repentance and reconciliation an occasional occurrence OR has it become so much a part of the community that an outsider would comment, “Look how much they love one another!”
  • God’s Will: Is joy ever found in submission OR is the will so strong each has to get their own way?
  • Love: Is there gentleness in the voice, love in actions, and faith in heart, OR is there suspicion, criticism, avoidance, or sarcasm?

How does our church rate?

How do we handle conflict?

I pray we do so with prayer on the one hand

And the Gospel on the other;

With humility, dignity, respect;

With love, repentance, reconciliation, gentleness, and faith.

I pray we begin with Jesus,

Submit our will to His will,

To heal all the issues that divide us.

Allow the memory of conflict to be swept away by the grace of God.

Let it go.

Let it be.

As we face the withering resistance to Christian innovation and progress,

Both from within, and by outside critics,

Jesus calms our disquieted hearts.

“Do not fear,” Jesus repeats.

Do not fear!

“Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered.”

(Matthew 10:26)

The truth will be revealed.

The truth will set you free!

The Lord is light, the Light of the World,

and where he is,

there is no darkness for evil to hide.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

“Do not fear those who kill the body

but cannot kill the soul; 

rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(Matthew 10:28)

Opponents to God have limited power.

They can only hurt you so much,

they can only go so far.

God, on the other hand, is unlimited in power.

Fear only God;

He is the Lord of life,

and the Lord of life everlasting.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

God’s love for you is detailed and compassionate.

If God is concerned with a sparrow not even worth a half penny,

isn’t He so much more concerned about you?

If God loves you enough to count the hairs on your head,

isn’t God so much more enveloping you in His love and grace?

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

Do not fear the consequences of being a Christian;

the presence of conflict in your life because you are trying to be faithful.

Jesus promises that  

He will be our advocate at our judgment,

IF we live our lives as advocates for Him.

(Matthew 10:32)

Build the Church of Jesus Christ …

… expand God’s kingdom …

and Jesus will appeal for you.

Extend the invitation to discipleship and

The invitation to salvation is made to you.  

Grow in spiritual depth and maturity,

drawing close to Christ,

and He will draw close to you.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

Do not fear the consequences of being a Christian;

the presence of conflict in life because you are trying to be faithful.

This, our Savior also promises:

Lose your life for His sake, and you will find it.

(Matthew 10:39)

Sacrifice time, energy, money

– give it all for the sake of Jesus Christ,

and discover true life,

Freedom that brings substance and meaning.

Serve the Lord,

and your fellow human beings,

and you will be served.

Take the seat of least honor,

and you will be lifted up.

Submit your will to the will of God,

and Thine will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Do not fear! My beloved.

Do not fear the consequences of following Jesus.

Do not fear the conflict that is certain to follow.

Know this: the Lord is Light,

in him there is no darkness at all,

he exposes all that lives in the dark.

…..

The Lord is almighty,

having power and dominion over both the heavens and the earth.

The Lord is compassionate in His love for you.

Be an advocate for Christ,

and He will be an advocate for you.

Be willing to take up your cross,

… Be willing to die for Jesus …

and you will be given life;

life everlasting.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

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