He Sent Them Out

Sunday, February 09, 2020
Intern Teleen Saunders 

Mark 6:1-13 

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I’m going to start out with a personal story about my relationship with my husband, Marshall. Perhaps it’s because Valentine’s Day is coming. Perhaps it’s because our text is about going into the world two by two. But I was thinking about the moment that I decided it was time to get married. I was twenty-two years old living by myself on the second floor of an apartment building down in Rochester. It had been a particularly icy spring where the snow melted during the heat of the day and froze again into thin patches of pure menace at night just waiting for someone to slip and fall. That someone was me. I broke a bone in my leg and was on crutches for the next two months. It was about this time that I realized it would be easier to go through life’s ups and downs with a companion.   I decided to get married. Luckily, I already had a boyfriend. And it turns out I was right. Life is easier with a companion. That boy and I have celebrated 25 Valentine Days together as a married couple and I couldn’t be happier.

Companions, partnerships, alliances come in all shapes and sizes. We can be companions with our neighbors, companions with our bowling league, companions with co-workers or classmates, and companions in the gospel. It seems that working and sharing our lives with others is what life is all about.  After all, God has been making companions since Adam and Eve. Words translated as “companion” are listed 63 times in the Bible. [1]  Moses, Ruth, Jesus, and Paul all had companions. We all need companions because we are relational people by nature. It’s in our very fiber. In fact, the whole being of our Trinitarian God is companionship. The delicate dance between God the creator, Christ the redeemer, and the Holy sustaining Spirit moves us towards the understanding that God more than a noun. God is also a verb. The Trinity is in a constant state of companionship with itself… and amazingly has chosen to be in a constant state of companionship with us as well.

In our Gospel message today, we hear that Jesus called together his twelve apostles and sent them out two by two. Now, if you think about this, it’s pretty amazing. When was the last time two Jewish folks knocked on your front door wanting to talk about religion? Let’s face it. Some religions are clearly more associated with door-to-door proselytizing than others. In fact, a great bulk of the Old Testament talks about separateness, purity, and preserving identity. Now suddenly, this Jesus flips tradition on its head and starts sending people out into neighboring villages – two by two. Proselytizing for Jesus starts and ends with companionship.

So, what about you, Augustana? Are you ready for some door knocking? Our tradition in the ELCA is pretty shy and door knocking isn’t really our thing either.  But this doesn’t mean that we hide our faith under a bushel basket. In fact, Mark 6 tells us exactly the opposite. Jesus wants his disciples to tell the story of the loving God of Israel and this doesn’t mean staying put safely behind the walls of the church. This means going out into the community because God, as a verb, is something that needs to be shown through action. This is why we have mentors for Confirmation and sponsors for Baptism. We tell by showing. Jesus wants his disciples to face down evil. Jesus wants his disciples to heal the sick. We can’t just talk about the love of God. We can’t just talk about compassion and grace. We need to BE the love of God. We need to BE compassion and grace. In short, the world has a broken leg and Jesus sends his companions to help fix it.

So, what does this look like? Companionship looks like Elva Kaffe with dancing children, singing butchers, and rice pudding. Companionship looks like letters to college students from the home church. Companionship looks like a warm meal served at the Boys and Girls Club or Loaves and Fishes. Companionship looks like a shower and a cot for the folks at Matrix housing. Companionship looks like a Befriender visit. Companionship looks like an orchestra concert on a cold day.  Companionship looks like a new sanctuary for our partner congregation in Nyamhanga.  On a personal level, companionship looks like a cup of coffee with a co-worker, a visit to the hospital, a birthday card, or helping a classmate with homework. True companionship is authentic because it comes with the power of God as we humbly recognize that God gives each of us unique gifts and opportunities to give through the spirit. We don’t need to worry about failing. We are enough. The rest, of course, is up to God.

Now, I can’t get over the part of our reading where the disciples are told to bring only a walking stick and sandals. (I’m sure snow boots work just as well.) These instructions from Jesus are interesting. Jesus, in a sense, is saying that we should take only what is necessary and leave behind everything that will stand in the way of creating pure and loving companionship. Leave behind self-doubt. Leave behind politics and prejudice for those who are different from us. Leave behind fear of the unknown. Leave behind our self-righteousness and puffed up pride.  Leave behind our animosity and name-calling for we are not called to bully those who disagree with us. We leave these things behind because we don’t need much when we have companionship. Here’s the reality: when we build a community in the name of Christ, we have a community to support us too. Yes, the world hurts.  But we hurt also! We too need a cup of coffee, a place to sleep, or help with our homework. Companionship is allowing others to serve us too in a mutual give and take. It is here where we are living in the dance of the Trinity.

Now there will be times of rejection. Marriages break up. Bands break up.  Corporations dissolve and churches split. Division is painful. And, we pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and move on. This is not the time to start a Holy War. These aren’t the Crusades. Instead of meeting rejection with stewing, holding a grudge, or lashing out, Jesus wants us to move forward with dignity for the sake of the gospel. Jesus wants us to move forward in love, not backwards in hate.

By sending out his apostles, Jesus reveals a sweeping new reality, one of openness, grace, love, and compassion.  He is calling us to be companions in the living gospel by showing the world how to care for each other.  I have a footnote to my broken leg story (no pun intended).  Last winter, my husband had his turn to slip on ice.  He too broke his leg and it was my turn to help him.  Companions are good.  Thanks be to God.

[1] https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/words/Companions

Past Sermons