4:39 PM

For Preaching-- vs 5-14 (Matt Morin)

Jesus sends the disciples out "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (v6). It is these people-- Israel-- that Jesus commands the disciples to leave if their words are not heeded (v14). Jesus then, sends the disciples to preach the things of Israel to the people of Israel. This is because, from the start, Israel was a chosen people-- called out to be in unique relationship with God and by virtue of their very special worship and patterns of living, to reflect the glory of the one true God to the nations of the world.

Stanley Hauerwas is fond of saying that "the Church's job is not to make the world look like the Church; the Church's job is to make the world look like the world." Like Israel, the Church has been called to be different from the world through our worship and lives. And like Israel, this unique calling should make God clear to the world. However, when the Church fails to live into this unique calling, it is usually for one of two different reasons.

First of all, we tend to crush the rest of the world with the burdens that we in the Church do not bear. As we rail and wail on the topics of social justice, many of us actively contribute to economic oppression. I know that I do-- my shoes are made by Nike, a company whose practices regularly rank among the worst by human rights watchdogs. Until last year, my meager Roth IRA was not invested in socially responsible funds. It was quite a hassle, but through multiple meetings with my financial planner, I was able to invest my savings in companies who displayed a (marginally) better ethic. Of course it will be impossible for the Church to completely escape the structures of sin into which we are so deeply bound up as people who share space with the Earthly City. But we must try-- the Church must be the Church! How dare we preach Kingdom Ethics to the world when we do not embody them ourselves.

There is another, bigger way in which the Church fails to live according to her calling, and that is by not even knowing what a Kingdom Ethic is! If the first problem was one of hypocrisy (knowing the truth, but not doing it), then this is a much more dangerous problem-- not even knowing the truth! I recently found myself in a discussion with a Christian friend regarding the topic of Health Care Reform. To say that we disagreed on the matter is an understatement. In fact, it was not simply that we disagreed as to the mechanics or provisions of the recently-passed bill. Rather, we could not even see eye-to-eye on the fundamental commitments that ought to inform a Christian's views on such policies. She asserted-- this is a quote from an email-- that, "No one is given anything, they must achieve it." When I pressed her to explain that comment in light of 1 Cor 4:7, she accused me of misinterpreting Scripture. ("Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?) My hunch is that for as long as this woman clings to such a disgusting notion of self-sufficiency, she will have a very difficult time embracing words of truth from the mouths of beggars (vv 8-10).

The Church's words and actions will, if they are pure, eventually fail to make sense to the world. We may practice apologetics and give reasons for our faith-- but at some point the Church's fundamental commitment to her crucified Lord will be utterly nonsensical to the world. But the Church's words should never be nonsense to the Church! Just as Jesus sent the Disciples to Israel so that they might BE Israel, so too are we pastors-in-training, sent to the Church so that we may BE the Church.

Lord have mercy on us and spare us on the day of judgment (v15) for the times we have failed to heed your words and those of and your disciples.

Comment (1)

Perhaps it's time for our missiological discourse to focus on our engagement (like Mt. 10) with our and other Christian communities. It is about conversion only to the extent that it is about the conversion of the missionary and her ecclesial community. If we are in the state you describe above, the last thing we need is to make "other" people more like "us." We certainly must stop using/thinking of "mission" as what we do exclusively to non-Christians.

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