For the last six months, from December to June we have been in a constant state of Holy Days, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, the church year lead us through days of preparation, exploration, contemplation, devastation and celebration and now we enter the time that is known as Ordinary Time. But do not be fooled, there is nothing Ordinary about it. I prefer to call it EXTRODINARY time. This is the time that we learn, we hear the parables and the teachings, and experience the miracles of Jesus’s ministry, and maybe even more important, we are given the opportunity to hear our call to ministry, our call to spiritual life, our call to faith as we realize the space that Jesus is holding for each one of us in this extraordinary time.
Our gospel reading today happens early in Jesus’s ministry, he has already gotten a name for himself as a teacher and a healer and his 12 disciples have been right there through it all, but now, Jesus turns the tables on them.
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
10 Then Jesus[a] summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[b] 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’[c] 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
May God Bless to our understanding the words that we hear today.
Will you pray with me please? May the Words of my mouth and the mediation of all our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen
Have you ever wondered what this whole church thing is about? In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear it from the master. The church is to be about healing, teaching, and proclaiming the good news. The church is to be about movement, not standstill-stay-at-home-preserve-our-level-of comfort-and let-people-come-to-us spirituality. It IS a bold “going-out into all the world…go out into the world in Peace, sharing what God has given us with those who have not yet heard God speaking to them, or felt the touch of God’s love in their lives. It is about BEING church instead of DOING Church.
Matthew reminds us that Jesus did not sit still during any of his ministry, he traveled from place to place, healing and teaching, feeding and caring and nurturing and in the process, Jesus moved others and was moved himself. He saw the needs of the world around him and he responded and when he sent out the disciples it was with the sense that they needed to understand that that was their call, just as we need to make the jump 2000 years later and understand that it is our call as well.
And even though it shouldn’t, I think this still comes as a surprise to people, the whole idea that church is not about us, the gospels, if we really, really read them and really, really pay attention to them suggest, no not suggest, impel us to interact with the world beyond our Sanctuary walls.
That is part of what Jesus was doing when he sent the disciples out to do some preaching and teaching of their own, he was letting them know, in his own way that this church thing was NOT all about him, it WAS about them and how they needed to be in the world. Jesus had a vision of what the world could be, what the church could be, what his disciples could be and he held space for that vision.
Holding space, I read a blog this week that I posted on the GCC Fb page. It was about holding space. Not about keeping space or filling space, or making space but holding space for a future vision. It’s the difference between being in a relationship with someone to change them and being in a relationship to hold space for them to change.
I realized as I read the blog that that is what Jesus is doing in that moment with the disciples, he loves them enough to hold a space for them as they have the change of heart and mind that is needed to not only carry on the ministry that he is doing, he is holding space for them to become the people that they need to be in order for that to happen.
And Jesus holds space for us every day
He holds space for us as we grow up.
He holds space for us as we learn who we are.
He holds space for us to ask questions about our faith.
He holds space for us as we grow our compassion towards others.
He holds space for us to walk into accepting ourselves without fear.
And he continues to hold space for who we will become in the days and weeks and years ahead.
Jesus had a vision of God’s reign on earth and he held space for that to happen. The thing about visions is that even though they can be very bold and very clear, they do not happen overnight or even in a week or a month and sometimes not even in a year or several years. But it is vitally important that we have visions and that we make space for them and I think that is true now more than any other time that I am aware of in the recent past. We need to have space held for us, but we also need to learn how to be space holders ourselves
Kaitlin B. Curtice, the woman who wrote the blog on holding space said that she is convinced that space holding people are the ones who will heal the church. She says “They are the ones who bring justice and shalom, because they are patient people who hold onto long-off vision. We need them in our churches, because they will not force change. They will not sit in pews and bear judgement over the people around them, but they will sit with those people to show them the way.” She goes on to say “The church has very publicly become a place that tries to manage others, and it often leaves people wounded. It wounds the church by distorting who the church should really be, and it wounds individuals in the church by making them feel like they aren’t good enough for Jesus.”
We need to hold onto the longer vision that God holds for each of us, and we need to wait. However, waiting, holding space does not mean doing nothing. If we continue to do nothing we will disappear in the next 10 years, we have to have some visions, things to work for things to hold space for.
What is that going to look like? I don’t know, I really don’t, I am at a place in my life where I am trying to figure out what to hold space for. I can tell you that I have visions of peace and justice, which I think for me, means being a clergy presence for more protests, it means looking into summer feeding programs for kids, it means taking our proclamation of being ONA and going to ONA2.0 But the vision of this church should not be my visions alone, they should be yours and I guess I see my job as holding space with you as we dream those visions into being, I invite you into praying together, and thinking together and talking together about how we will live in this extraordinary, ordinary time keeping the words of Jesus ringing in our ears “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’[c] 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” In other words…Be the Church! Hallelujah, Amen