We’ve been sent with a mes­sage

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Ten years ago, I was in­stalled as the pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace. Now, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I guess the cal­en­dar doesn’t lie. So, when we come to mile­stones like this, it makes sense to think again about what we’re do­ing and to ask if it is what we hoped for. Is this work­ing out?

To­day’s Scrip­ture read­ing from Mark 6 gives great op­por­tu­nity to do that. In Mark 6, Je­sus is send­ing his dis­ci­ples out on a mis­sion jour­ney, two by two.

And, as we see him do that, we are re­minded what he’s look­ing for. And that’s im­por­tant, be­cause if I base my min­istry on what will please the peo­ple and for­get about what Je­sus is look­ing for – I’m a fail­ure. So let’s look at what he says in Mark 6:7-13:

6 - “Then Je­sus went around teach­ing from vil­lage to vil­lage. 7 - Call­ing the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them au­thor­ity over evil spir­its. 8 - Th­ese were his in­struc­tions: …‘When­ever you en­ter a house, stay there un­til you leave that town. 11 - And if any place will not wel­come you or lis­ten to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a tes­ti­mony against them.’

12 - They went out and preached that peo­ple should re­pent. 13 - They drove out many demons and anointed many sick peo­ple with oil and healed them.”

What is Je­sus look­ing for in a min­istry? What he wants is that through the work for which we have been ap­pointed, the evil spir­its are flee­ing, like they did for the dis­ci­ples in our text. That’s what hap­pens when they come into con­tact with the Word we’re car­ry­ing. What I pray is that our work here is that of the dis­ci­ples – preach­ing that peo­ple should re­pent – should get a change of heart, that’s what that word means – a heart trans­plant, from the heart that beats to the drum of this world and longs for the things our so­ci­ety val­ues to the heart that beats and bleeds the love of Je­sus.

And you see the love of Je­sus through­out our en­tire text. First, we see him do­ing the work – teach­ing what re­ally mat­ters from vil­lage to vil­lage – show­ing the world God’s love. Then, in verse 7, he tasks the dis­ci­ples with that same work. Now, of course, they weren’t wor­thy of rep­re­sent­ing God – show­ing God to the peo­ple they would meet. Only Je­sus – God’s own Son could do that, right? But no – Je­sus called them. He “gave them au­thor­ity” our text says, like he still does with his dis­ci­ples to­day. He uses us – cer­tainly no bet­ter qual­i­fied than those fish­er­men, farm­ers and tax col­lec­tor – sin­ners all of them.

No­tice how they were to treat that pro­vi­sion. The mes­sage was key. They were not to change the mes­sage so that they would be liked or be bet­ter taken care of.

Think of how im­por­tant that is. I think that’s one of the things plagu­ing our na­tion’s churches to­day be­cause it so at­tacks our hearts.

Peo­ple try to ex­cuse dif­fer­ences of teach­ing on the ba­sis of what they call “in­ter­pre­ta­tion.” What they mean is that they want to teach what they want to hear or what might make sense to them, and they are will­ing to twist God’s Word and take it out of con­text to make it say what they want it to say, what they think it should say. That’s not in­ter­pre­ta­tion – that’s a re­jec­tion of the Word, and the dis­ci­ples were told to be ready to leave be­fore do­ing that.

God says in Malachi 2: “I hate di­vorce,” not, “I sug­gest against it un­less you re­ally don’t feel like loving one an­other”. He says in Leviti­cus 18, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” not, “Do what­ever you feel comes nat­u­rally as long as you call it love.”

He says, “Mar­riage should be hon­ored by all, and the mar­riage bed kept pure” (He­brews 13:4), not, “As long as you’re in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship and are both con­sent­ing adults, af­ter all, no one can re­ally wait for mar­riage.” God’s Word is clear.

But our so­ci­ety and our sin­ful selves strug­gle when God’s will means our hearts needs to change. We don’t want to go through the dif­fi­culty of that “re­pent­ing.” And all too of­ten, we go with the flow of what ev­ery­one else is do­ing, of what seems to come so nat­u­rally. You know what that’s called? Sin d… the wages of which is still death.

And for ev­ery one of those sins came Je­sus. He changed first. True God be­came frail man. Lord of glory be­came de­spised sin­ner. Judge of all was judged and found guilty and scourged and whipped and killed. He changed so that he could change us and fill our re­pen­tance with His for­give­ness. He came so that we could re­pent – so that he could change our hearts.

And hav­ing changed our hearts, he now sends out us re­pen­tant sin­ners. He sends us out with that mes­sage that first af­fected us, and we now have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to share. No­tice, the dis­ci­ples weren’t re­spon­si­ble for how the peo­ple would re­ceive the mes­sage (some would re­ject). They were just re­spon­si­ble to share it.

And how did it go when they pro­claimed that mes­sage? Look at the last verse. Suc­cess! Just like those dis­ci­ples, we’ve been sent with a mes­sage. And just like them, our Sav­ior is with us to bless it. And he has. Keep it up.

In Christ. Amen.

La­men­ta­tions 3:22-24 (Com­mon English Bi­ble)

Have you ever wished you had a time ma­chine? Some­times when we say the wrong thing or make a not-so-wise choice, we wish we could go back in time to the point just be­fore our big blun­der and make a dif­fer­ent choice.

Re­cently, we were watch­ing a movie in which the main char­ac­ter was able to push a but­ton and go back in time by a minute or two, just long enough to rec­tify a mis­take and make things right.

Ac­tu­ally, I have seen this theme played out in many movies over the years, so much so that I think it must be a com­mon de­sire of most of us. As a wise man once said, “There is noth­ing new un­der the sun.”

I’m sure this has been a com­mon theme in all of hu­man his­tory. We all make mis­takes, and we all wish that we could go back in time and rec­tify those mis­takes.

Well, I have good news for you.

Now, be­fore peo­ple start pound­ing on my door and want­ing to see my time ma­chine, let me just say that I don’t have one. What I do have, how­ever, is as­sur­ance that we have an­other chance to get it right.

The prophet Jeremiah suf­fered with the same hu­man ill­ness that all of us do – say­ing or do­ing the wrong thing, or even say­ing the right thing and be­ing mis­un­der­stood by peo­ple.

Re­gard­less of how many bad de­ci­sions we have made, re­gard­less of how many blun­ders haunt us, the prophet re­minds us that God’s mercy is far greater than our worst mis­take or bad choice.

Great is the faith­ful­ness of God, so great that God’s mercy is new ev­ery morn­ing.

In other words, each day, we get an­other chance to get it right - to straighten out our lives, to stop mak­ing bad choices, to ask for God’s di­rec­tion, to do the right things by mak­ing good choices. God’s faith­ful love has not ended, and in­deed will never end.

God loves us more than we can pos­si­bly imag­ine, and Je­sus came to demon­strate to what ex­tent God would go to show us such end­less love – to the point of dy­ing on the cross for our mis­takes, blun­ders and bad de­ci­sions.

So re­gard­less of what we have done – no mat­ter how bad – God is never will­ing to give up on us. God’s love for us is end­less. So it’s never too late to make a fresh start.

Want to learn more? At Re­vive @ 5, dur­ing Au­gust, we will be talk­ing about “A Fresh Start”. Re­vive @ 5 is a non-tra­di­tional ser­vice where we dress ca­su­ally and get real about learn­ing about God’s love for us. All are wel­come.

Re­vive @ 5 is held on Sun­day af­ter­noons at 5 in The Wes­ley Chapel of Cov­ing­ton First UMC, the small red brick church be­tween Mon­ti­cello and Church streets.

All of us need a fresh start ev­ery day.

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