“The Illusion of Independence”

Matthew 10:40-42

June 28, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 10:40-42

“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 I just get it wrong.

I 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 or marital status, quite frankly.

(I’m not going there!)

Humans tend to interpret the world from our unique point of view,

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

This leads 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 dependent upon the commitment of two parties to communicate

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

Many years ago the United Methodist Church embarked

on a new media campaign.

The tag line is this:

“Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors;

We are the People of the United Methodist Church”

Sounds great.

Problem is, it is not completely true and

Most of us know it.

The reality is

not EVERYone is welcome.

Our minds, hearts, and doors are open to

People just like us;

Who look like us,

Who think like us,

Who behave like us.

People different from us,

probably will not become just like us,

so they should just go someplace else.

The door slams shut.

If you are homeless, you probably smell and won’t get cleaned up.

If you are addicted, you will probably relapse and disappoint us, one more time.

If you are intellectually challenged, behaviors distract me during the worship service,

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.

It’s impossible to not call out a history of racism in the church.

The United Methodist Church has long and painful history of segregation:

Laity, congregations, pastors, and conferences.

Central Jurisdictions were created to separate blacks from whites.

Denominations like the AME, African Methodist Episcopal church, and

AME Zion, African Methodist Episcopal Zion church,

Split away from the United Methodist Church

(or our predecessor denominations)

To be freed from our discriminatory ways.

We reflect the larger society.

Now racism is raging, boiling over in social discontent.

I own it. Do you? Are we willing to start a conversation about it?

There is so much work to be done.

Listening. Conversations. Education. Repentance. Forgiveness. Prayer.

Partnerships. Friendships. God’s love and grace.

It is going to take it all to open this door.

The message of

Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors is painful.

The message it portrayed is

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

The media campaign is inconsistence with 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 flashy ad campaigns, beautiful buildings, big budgets, or flawless preachers.

Ministry begins when we go;

when we GO!

meet people where they are at,

and address their deepest human needs.

It is helpful to remember the Church never closed during this pandemic.

The building closed, but the Church did not.

The past 17 weeks have forced all of us to

Take ministry out from the building,

Make ministry new, and

Take ministry into the world.

Ministry begins when we go;

when we GO!

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.

Often the interpretation of the Gospel for today is backwards;

totally upside down.

We often assume it is all about us extending gracious hospitality.

It is 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.

Dependency can also be dangerous.

Consider old school missionaries:

They’d go to another country,

Christianize it,

Baptize everything except the kitchen sink

and expect that locals to be reformed just like us.

Christian colonialization stinks

and the whole world knows it.

Jesus is telling us 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”.

The message of Jesus is

“GO,

become dependent upon the Lord.

Trust in the Lord.

Love the Lord.

Love your neighbors and

Invite your neighbors into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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.

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 or anyone else to change it.

Yet, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes

are filled with dependent people

who once believed in their independence.

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,

Abraham placed his complete and absolute trust

in the Lord.

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 his life on the cross

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 are dependent upon God for everything.

Everything.

We are dependent upon God for grace:

for life, health, and breath.

We are dependent upon God for 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 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.

Place your whole trust in God;

It is primarily an act of faith

to follow God’s will and Jesus’ commands.

Be the dependent guest.

Allow vulnerability to teach you.

May the humility of dependence

grow our relationships with one another.

Let it deepen your faith and trust in God.

Amen.

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