Two as one make the demons run!

Mark 6: 1-13

The hometown for Jesus today is the Church. That is the place where his family live — so I am amazed at our lack of faith in what he tells us.

We are his brothers and sisters in the world today, but we make him weep because we don’t understand what he tells us and how to make peace. (Luke 19: 41) His home is now global, as well as local, and Jesus can’t do the miracles among us unless we have faith in what he tells us and in what he does.

When two disciples ask Jesus where his home is, or where he is staying, he invites them to go with him and they will see. (John 1: 38). We don’t get told what they saw, but we are invited to follow Jesus and we will find out that his hometown is every town and he lives everywhere. His home town is not located in one local place today, for his home is a global church and many who hear him are amazed by what they hear.

This might begin to sound like more of Richard’s crazy theology, but this is the picture that came to me as I reflected on this text on an afternoon walk during the week. The gospel story of over 2,000 years ago is intended to have endless meaning so if it is prophetic and Broadway has become my home town I had better move on somewhere else!

Today we take offence at the thought that Jesus can come to life in the ordinary people of our communities who are delivering a prophetic message of hope that will produce miracles. I am amazed at our lack of faith in the Christ in each other because it is the heart of our gospel hope to grow from FOLLOWING HIM to BE LIKE HIM.

The Spirit of the Lord is breathed into you because you are anointed to preach good news to the poor. YOU are sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind and to release the oppressed as YOU proclaim the Kingdom of heaven to be near!” (Luke 4: 18-19)

The Risen Jesus isn’t going to produce a miracle and reveal the Kingdom of heaven in our community until we recognise his presence in the lives of the ordinary people among us. We don’t give glory to our Father, honour to Jesus or praise to the Spirit when we don’t listen to the message of the carpenter, builder, teacher, baker, butcher, fisherman or dustman. I am amazed at our lack of a living faith when we can talk it with such passion!

We can be so inspired by what we hear, but so easily persuaded to doubt the wisdom by others in our community who can’t believe a local boy can achieve so much. So, it is in this context of a doubting and questioning community that Jesus calls the 12 to him and sends them out two by two.

He does it again later with 72 and I can’t imagine they are all happy, agreeable relationships because the disciples are still engaged in their arguments about who is the greatest (Luke 9: 46) and some abandon him when the teaching gets “too hard.” (John 6: 60) Jesus wouldn’t get much done in the Church today because this mission item on the Elders agenda would be referred to Church Meeting for discussion and we wouldn’t want to send people out without food and adequate resources.

We would consult with the Synod Evangelist or a Mission Enabler called Justin Case for advice on how to best approach this call from God and the instructions to take nothing with us becomes a long must have list….. A torch JUST IN CASE we get lost in the dark…. a screwdriver JUST IN CASE we are locked in a lavatory…. A compass JUST IN CASE we can’t find our way home….. a penknife with a bottle opener JUST IN CASE something needed opening or cutting. Of course, there must be a mobile phone JUST IN CASE of an emergency and a tablet JUST IN CASE there is time to watch the England football match while away or Andy Murray in the next round of Wimbledon.

Some people will volunteer for the missionary team but will want to speak to dad first JUST IN CASE he dies before we get home or say goodbye to the family JUST IN CASE we don’t get home for dinner. Others will have to make plans for running of their business JUST IN CASE the manager can’t cope with the responsibility.

I want to jump at this mission opportunity JUST IN CASE there isn’t another chance. Jesus can’t wait for us to be ready and delay while we prepare so he gives us the instructions for what we must do and he doesn’t call a committee meeting to discuss the plan!. I am amazed at our lack of faith because we want to pack our bags full of everything we want JUST IN CASE God doesn’t provide what we need.

The challenge confronting the 12 — and later the 72 — is to show that they have faith to trust that God WILL provide their every need. That is the timeless challenge of then and now, but we are reluctant to follow the instructions of the prophets from our hometowns who have great spiritual wisdom.

Take NOTHING for the journey demands that we take off our wrist watch; don’t take a mobile phone and leave behind our wallet and empty our pockets of cash or cheque cards. You don’t need keys or glasses. All you need are the shoes on your feet and the clothes you stand in so unpack your rucksack — or two suitcases — and get ready for a mission in faith and trust in our God to provide.

If you can do that you will be ready for today’s big challenge to empty your heart and mind of all your religious and traditional baggage because Jesus wants two to become one to make the demons run. This is a timeless message for having faith and trust in God among doubting, questioning people and so you are about to cross boundaries of religion and tradition as you go on a mission in partnership with someone different to you.

Black or white; male or female; young or old are no problem we will claim today, but this is a mission to break down walls of resistance against the Kingdom of God so, I am sure, Jesus will be sending us out as Anglican with Pentecostal; Catholic with Methodist; URC with Baptist — and I can hear the screams of protest because we are all so different. It’s not a mission with a friend from our local church, but a partnership with someone different from another church!

Oh no, we can’t stand the smell of the incense; we can’t understand their prayer book; we don’t agree with their doctrine or the preachers go on for an hour (or more) are just some of the protestations articulated. I am sure you have many more reasons for staying at home!

I can hear Jesus saying in reply: “I don’t like the way you think or what you do, but I still have to work with you!”

If we overcome our differences and work together the sick will be healed and the demons will be chased away because you are representing the Body of Jesus Christ in a partnership of your diversity. Take nothing with you — other than a shared faith and trust that God will provide and if you are not welcomed or listened to then shake the dust from your feet and move on somewhere else!

As Jesus calls us together to send us out with the instructions to take nothing with us on this mission in partnership with someone who is different to us is there something we CANNOT leave behind?

People invented the clock, but God made time so what is more accurate? God gave people arms to embrace; smiles and tears as expressions of emotions; words to encourage and inspire as we look each other in the eye, but people created computers and phones. Do you want to be remembered as a voice on the phone and words on a screen or through the touch of a hand and the beauty of your smile? God gave us the gift of love with which to care for the world, but people created money with which they want to purchase the world, so which do you trust?

I will let you keep your glasses, but with or without them can you see as far as God sees — so whose vision do you trust?

God gives us the keys to the kingdom, but our keys are for houses and cars so which do you most want?

There is nothing wrong with having our clocks and watches; computers and phones; money and keys, but we don’t need them for our mission. Leave EVERYTHING behind and trust God to give you everything in all your weakness and vulnerability. It’s the good things we do, not the good things we have that will encourage people to repent and send the demons running. If people follow because of what we’ve got that’s what they will want so go with nothing and they will see you for who you are! Christ in you with authority to make the demons run!

There is a sign over my desk that says: “Sometimes, to get what you want the most, you have to do what you want the least.” I want to see the demons run and the Kingdom come — and that means going with nothing of my own to receive everything from God!

Who will be my partner in mission and be amazed by the miracles we can perform through Jesus who sends us out two by two to show how near the kingdom is…?