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Keep on moving!

Shake the dust from your feet. Easier said than done. I confess, sometimes it takes me a while to shake the dust from my feet, to let my peace return to me. In the process, sometimes I will say things that don’t really adequately reflect my orientation toward peace.

It hurts to be rejected after you have made yourself vulnerable. It hurts, and your human instinct is to protect yourself: to strike back, or to get defensive. Jesus is aware that we humans are all built this way. That’s probably why he’s so specific about this part.

Notice this: Jesus just told all these disciples about all the power they’re going to have…to cast out unclean spirits, to cure every disease and sickness, to raise the dead, to proclaim “The reign of heaven has come near.”

And before these starry-eyed disciples can even begin to wonder ‘How are we gonna fund this whole mission?’ Jesus is already saying, no, don’t take any money: not even a paper bill you folded up so tiny and tucked inside your waistband so I wouldn’t see it; not even a couple of jingling pennies. No suitcase, not even a backpack, no extra clothes or shoes.

Super, super vulnerable. Yeah, disciples, you’ve got power to raise the dead, but you don’t have the power to make your next meal appear. You can cure sicknesses, but you cannot manifest a bed to sleep in.

Jesus isn’t spelling out an entire explanation of how to do mission work, no theory of missiology here, but this much is clear: if the disciples are sent out with power to heal, the only way they will ever get to use that power is by sharing it, by making themselves vulnerable, by being in relationship.

And relationships, when they’re going great, are such wonderful vehicles for the Holy Spirit to do her work! If the house is worthy, share your peace with the people in it. You know you’re safe, you’re welcome, with the kinds of people who say “Come back anytime!” and “There’s always a place for you here!” It feels amazing, affirming. Why not stay in the same place and with the same people forever?

Apparently it’s the nature of the Holy Spirit to always be moving. Jesus sends these twelve disciples out with specific instructions to go to Jewish towns, as a good starting place, with people who share the same faith in the one God. But Jesus says nothing specific about how long to stay there. In the places that welcome the disciples, Jesus only says, “Stay there until you leave.” I have no idea how long that was. How do you know when to go?

Maybe the Holy Spirit stirs up something inside you to move you along to the next place? Maybe your hosts are looking a little weary? Maybe you’re bored and ready to see something new? Who knows?

All you do know is that not everyone will welcome your message, or your power, or your ability to heal. Jesus is thoroughly honest: “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” There will be people who want to take advantage of you, who want to put you on trial for what you confess about the reign of God, and some of those people might be your own family. Don’t worry about what to say to them: the Holy Spirit will give you the words you need.

No magic spells, no formulas, no simple logic to memorize—just get out there, meet people, build relationships, trust in God, and watch what happens! And when it goes bad, which it definitely will, just keep moving on. There’s more healing to be done. God is still in charge of the whole mission.

Faithful disciples will find that the power of God comes through vulnerability, through willingness to become vulnerable, not at all self-sufficient. How do you do that? How do you work against your natural instincts for self-protection and longevity?

How did Jesus do this? What kept him going as he went about all the cities and villages, teaching and healing and meeting the crowds? Jesus had compassion. Compassion is the heart of the reign of God. Jesus could have gotten exhausted. He could have made it all about himself. He could have been so goal-driven and focused on results that he missed the purpose of all the healing.

At the foundation of all of it, this compassion comes from God’s deep love for humanity, and God’s deep desire to rebuild and restore relationships. This compassion that God has, that’s how we encounter grace—it’s a free gift from God! We can’t earn it, and we don’t deserve it. This is where we get the hope that does not disappoint, what Paul writes about in his letter to the Romans.

Now I can tell you I’ve hoped for lots of things, and I’ve been disappointed by hope lots of times, because it turned out that hope was rooted in something other than God, like hoping for a day without rain so that my plans can run smoothly, or hoping for a good grade on a test I didn’t really study for, or hoping something will just be easy for me because I’m tired.

The hope of God that does not disappoint—here’s the thing—is that hope which remains active. The power of God is still working even when everything else is going wrong and falling apart. When you’re getting beaten up for your faith, when you go a town that rejects your message and people are chasing you out, when you’re having to testify before government leaders about God in whose image you are made: that’s the hope that sustains you, rooted in God’s mercy and grace, that hope does not disappoint.

Disappointments will happen. Your shoes will get dusty from time to time while traveling. But God does not abandon us nor leave us without hope, the assurance of the resurrection, and the gift of grace that sets us free from sin and death and fear.

We’re not alone on this missionary journey, either. We share this call to discipleship with the whole body of Christ. And we can be strengthened by the songs that encouraged our ancestors. We can be lifted up by their stories of proclaiming the enduring hope of God even while people around them kept raining disappointments upon them over and over.

Today in worship we’ve included some songs that were sung by enslaved people or songs carried on through generations of African Americans, whose unique perspective on justice in this country can teach us what endurance looks like.

Tomorrow, here in the United States, we celebrate Juneteenth, the freedom day for enslaved people, not because the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, but because that’s when federal troops showed up to enforce that proclamation.

What good is a law if there’s no one to enforce it?

You can ask God about this, too. How is God’s law enforced? Through Jesus, who isn’t even doling out punishments for infractions, just mercy all the time? And Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, but like, we’re still waiting on that.

Okay, awesome, so Jesus, you sent me out as a disciple, you gave me instructions, but what if I don’t wanna do it? Who’s gonna make me?

That’s the beauty part: you already have all the freedom you need to respond to God’s call. You already have the hope which does not disappoint. Freedom is only yours to lose: as you give away your peace to people who don’t deserve it, as you give away your self-respect to people who complain and are never satisfied, as you worry about your reputation among people who do not and will never care for your best interests.

Sustained by God’s hope, it isn’t even all that hard to brush the dust off your shoes. You might even laugh a little as you do—thank you, Jesus!—as you keep on moving, mystified by God’s mercy, humbled by God’s grace. Is anything too wonderful for God?[1]


Pastor Cheryl

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