thinking theology

Reflection on Matthew 9:35-10:8

In Matthew 9:35-10:8, we read about Jesus’ commission to the disciples. Unlike the idea of a message for the nations, this set of expectations is about renovating one’s own home first. Jesus compares the needs of the communities they visit with their capacity to respond. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father in law reminds Moses that the work of leadership, must be shared to be effective. Similarly, Jesus tells the disciples that they are to go into the villages, not as judges but as healing servants.

Jesus recognizes the consequences of feeling powerless and disrupted, so he encourages the disciples to rouse again the hope of Israel. Their task is to remind the people of their sacred calling as the people of righteousness, the people of mercy and compassion. The task is not at this point to align themselves with the messengers from other faiths and nations, but to restore the vision and mandate of God’s chosen.

If the villagers refuse the help, the spectre of destruction and judgement that the names Sodom and Gomorrah evoke, will be all that is left of their hope. It is a harvest of tears and despondency or a harvest of new beginnings. They will become a people of ashes and judgement or hear and respond to the good news of restoration and renewed purpose. The disciples are to invite the villagers to live in the light of hope and promise of liberation and health, by the example they set of courage and service.

For ourselves in our time, we might want to ask if we have set our own homes in order. Do we believe that by service, by faith, that we can reflect the light of Christ? Or do we look harassed and lost? Are we waiting for a shepherd, or are we ready to pick up the instruments of the harvest: healing, vision, hard work, encounter with change? Are we committed to the harvest or are we hiding, expecting disaster and failure? Are we the people of the resurrection, the people of the outrageous Spirit, or did we forget to leave the tomb?



I would like to offer this empowering poem by Marge Piercy, “The low road:”

What can they do to you?
…They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter,
ten thousand, power and your own paper,
a hundred thousand, your own media,
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

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