Still Called and Still Sent

Scripture Readings and Sermon for Sunday, June 14, 2020

Exodus 19:2-8a

2[The Israelites] had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

  7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8aThe people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

The Word of the Lord.

An Easter lily from 2019 is happily blooming in my back flowerbed right now!

Psalm 100

1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
2Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with a song.
3Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong;
  we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture. 

4Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the courts with praise; give thanks and bless God’s holy name.
5Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is everlasting,
  whose faithfulness endures from age to age. Amen.

Romans 5:1-8

1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

 6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

The Word of the Lord.

Matthew 9:35–10:8

35Jesus 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. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10:1Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These 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; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So much has changed.  We are having to relearn how to do almost everything in our lives.  Some days it feels like everything has been reinvented.  That everything is different.

Even going to the grocery store is different these days.  Remember how easy it used to be to go to the grocery store? 

Trying to get one of those wretched produce bags open – with a mask on – while your glasses are fogging up – leaving you completely blind – while you attempt to graciously maintain a safe social distance can be challenging.  Well – I find it tricky at least . . .  Just last week – 9 nectarines were almost my undoing.

It had been a tough week.  And when I went to the grocery store on Friday morning it was busier than usual – which made social distancing harder than usual.  But I reminded myself that I was a “Big Girl” and I had my list = “bananas – milk – nectarines – rice cakes – and carrots.”  That list was a walk in the grocery shopping park.  I totally had this. . . or so I thought.

But then that horrible – hateful – downright cruel plastic bag just would not open!  I rubbed it between my fingers – but nope.  I held it up to the light to make sure I had the right end.  I thought I had the right end – but who could really tell with glasses as fogged up as mine were.  I rubbed the bag between my fingers some more.  This time with more passion!   But still nope.  I held it up to the light again – but the bag just laughed in my face.  So I wadded the bag up and rubbed it between my hands with a passion I usually save for protecting my sons from bears and each other.  I may have even cursed the stupid – hateful – cruel – soul stealing – bag and called it the evil spawn of Satan.

See masks don’t always make me mean – just when they blind me!

My normally low blood pressure began to rise.  And I thought to myself – so this is what it is like to have high blood pressure as I felt my pulse pounding in my forehead. 

I started to hate not just the horrible – evil stubborn “plastic bag of doom” but also face masks and glasses and NECTARINES!  Actually I hated all fresh fruits and vegetables.  I vowed to only purchase highly processed pre-packaged junk foods for the rest of my life.  As far as I was concerned Jack and Will were just going to have to get used to eating previously forbidden foods like Pop-tarts – Lunchables – Fruit Rolls Ups and all of those other things that I had been mocking as “fake” food for years.  Fruit Loops forever was going to be my new motto.

Just as I was vowing to give up on fresh fruit forever – the evil – soul sucking bag popped open.  Of course – by then – the nectarines were so old they were rotten and I had to start all over again!

Our sadly depleted fresh fruit bowl . . .I am going to have to face the fresh produce section again very – very soon!

It feels like everything is different.  Like everything has changed.

Church is certainly different these days.

Wide open spaces . . .

Going to the park with our children and grandchildren has changed.

Shopping is different.

School next fall promises to be different for our children and their faithful teachers.

For those of us who are still blessed to be employed in this time of record breaking unemployment – our jobs have changed. 

Going to the doctor is even different!

I read several articles this week on how we all are starting to suffer from “quarantine exhaustion.”  We are fed up with all of the changes and all of the stress and well – we are just plain worn out.  And it just keeps coming and coming.  Which may have something to do with my “little issue” in the produce section .

Truly – it does feel like everything in our lives has changed in the past few months.  But – not everything has changed.  God’s love for us has not changed.  God’s love for us will never – ever change no matter what this life brings!  And God’s call to us to share the Good News of his grace – love – and mercy have not changed either.  We are still called to share God’s love with gladness (Psalm 100).

But what are we to make of this call in the midst of COVID-19?  How can we serve the Lord with gladness when we can’t get close to other people and so many of us can’t even leave the house?  How can we answer our Lord’s call with wisdom and love?

Our Lord certainly doesn’t want us to endanger ourselves or others in our zeal for sharing his love!

First – prayer!  As God’s people we are all called to pray for one another.  Prayer is so very powerful.  And you can make prayer fit your personal style.  I stink at being still.  Stillness is my nemesis – so I pray on the move or I pray while I am knitting. For whatever reason folding the laundry and prayer have always been a good fit for me.  Rita says she does some great praying while she mows the lawn.  And I know other folks who pray while drinking a cup of coffee or during their morning commute or while sitting in their favorite chair.  No matter where you are or what you are doing – you can pray.  God is always available.  God is always listening.

It is surprisingly difficult to take a picture of oneself knitting . . .

You can share God’s love with gladness by reaching out to your sisters and brothers in Christ.  Grab your church directory and give someone a call.  Check in.  Chat for a few minutes.  See how they are handling all of the changes.  Send a card or a text or an email.  These days are long and stressful – especially when you haven’t seen or heard from a friend in a while.

Or how about reaching out to someone in your neighborhood?  These days of social distancing and isolation can really take a toll.  Folks are feeling lonely and are craving conversation.

You can serve the Lord with gladness by sharing words of thanks and kindness.  I am a huge fan of thank you’s and words of appreciation.  How about sending a thank you note to that healthcare worker in your neighborhood for her service?  Or to your neighbor who always picks up after his dog?  Or to your mail carrier?  Or to your best friend for being so awesome?  Or to your son for stepping up and helping you when you needed him the most?

Just some of the wonderful cards and greeting we have received during Covid-19. I carry them around in my knitting basket so I can enjoy them often.

Seriously – we complain all of the time.  But we so rarely stop to say a great big thank you!  Being generous with words of kindness and gratitude is a powerful way we can share God’s love – grace – and mercy wherever we are!

If you are able donate blood.  Saint Stephen is hosting a Red Cross Blood Drive on July 2nd.  The need is especially great right now because donations are way – way down.  You can serve God by giving of yourself.

Or if you are able – you can serve our Lord by bringing donations for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries.  The need for nutritious food and toiletries in our community is huge right now.

The numbers of the people FCHUM is helping have literally doubled from this time last year.  Every box of mac and cheese – bag of rice – jar of peanut butter – and bottle of shampoo we donate blesses one of our neighbors who is going through a difficult time.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which you might answer God’s call to you.  There is no limit to the ways you can serve God and God’s people.  Use your imagination and pray and God will guide you.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Truly this is the Good News.  AMEN.

One Reply to “Still Called and Still Sent”

  1. Pastor and Jack, thank you for doing these posts on your sermon and Bible readings. Even though I was not in Church, I can still feel like I am a part of it (this is it for now for me.)

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