Owning Your Faith
“Owning Your Faith”
A Sermon for July 13, 2003, Year B, Proper 10
By The Rev. Philip R. Taylor, Deacon
Free Episcopal Church
Amos 7:7-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:1-14;
He made a tour round the villages, teaching. 7 Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs, giving them authority over unclean spirits. 8 And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. 9 They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Don’t take a spare tunic.’ 10 And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. 11 And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust under your feet as evidence to them.’ 12 So they set off to proclaim repentance; 13 and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
Don’t you know that the twelve were just a little bit frightened as Jesus began to tell them what they were to do? Can’t you hear the questions they must have asked? “Where do we go? What do we say? What do we do? How long, oh Lord, how long? Who has to go with Judas?” Then perhaps there were a few comments spoken under the breath or just out of earshot of Jesus like, “Great…no bread…no money…thanks a lot, Lord for the authority over unclean spirits…that’s nice…can’t spend or eat that.” My best guess is, if they did not say these things, they probably thought a few of them. The twelve, that is us, too. Aren’t we all just a little intimidated by this evangelism thing?
Up until now, Jesus had been with them. He had done the teaching, the healing, and all the other hard stuff. Ever since they had left their homes, jobs, and families, He had led the way, said the words, and done the deeds. Now He was asking them to begin to act on there own, to ‘claim the faith’. That must have been frightening then, because it is certainly frightening now.
Jesus told the twelve and tells us three things that are not needed on the journey, no money, no food, and no extra clothes. As always, Jesus gives us not what we want, but what we need. He gave the twelve and gives us three important things to replace the money, the food, and the extra clothes. He gave them a friend, He sent them out two by two; they would have a friend to help, a friend to lean on, and a friend to encourage them. He gave them authority; they would have the assurance that God and God’s power would go with them. And finally He gave them permission to be bold; they would be responsible for speaking the words of repentance but they would not be held responsible for someone else’s reaction to those words.
On our journey to wholeness and on our journey to do what Jesus asks us to do, there are not three more important items for our spiritual luggage than the three gifts that Jesus gave the twelve, a friend, God’s presence, and permission to be bold.
I found the following statement in some old notes from a counseling session as I began my own journey of recovery from addiction.
“You’ll need a friend to go with you in your recovery,
you’ll need God or a Higher Power to help you,
and you cannot be responsible for someone else,
you can only be responsible for your response to someone else.”
Jesus knew that too. Nineteen hundred years before someone in AA gave me this advice, Jesus had given the same advice to the twelve and Mark has reported it to us in his Gospel.
If we are to be evangels for the radical message of Jesus, we certainly would want to take notice of this first ‘crusade for Christ’ as reported in Mark. Jesus knew and He wanted the twelve to understand that ‘claiming the faith’ is not a spectator sport. One must finally get up and get going. The faith, the holy relationship, is meant to be active, not passive. The original followers of Jesus referred to their faith as ‘The Way’ even before their enemies started calling them Christians. ‘The Way’ is active, it is not living in the past, it is seizing the present, and it is claiming the future.
Jesus was not about to let the twelve become mere hangers on or pleasant traveling companions. He insisted that they take part, get up, get going, and ‘claim the faith’. He wants that from us too. Sitting in the pew listening to a glib preacher or a well-rehearsed choir is inspiring and even fun but it is not where the real work is to be done. ‘The Way’ leads out the doors of the church building down dusty and sometimes dangerous roads where people are hurting, wounded, afraid, and powerless. Some are homeless, some hungry, some naked, some in prison but all are in need of Christ’s love and our help.
I will suggest that some of the most important words uttered at any worship service are the words assigned to be spoken by the Deacon at the door of the church building at the very end of the Eucharist:
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
To which the people respond:
“Thanks be to God.”
So dear brothers and sisters of Christ, as a way of ‘owning your faith’, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” And by the way, go with a friend; not to worry, God will provide; and do it boldly as Francis of Assisi has instructed us, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” Thanks be to God!
The New Jerusalem Bible. 1995, c1985. Includes indexes. Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y.