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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 10:9–23       

Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (NRSV)

In this passage, Jesus acknowledges that there is danger in the world, betrayal and failure and violence. There are brothers betraying brothers and parents and children betraying each other. How do we survive? It’s challenging to find the good news in these few verses.

When I get stuck while I am studying the Bible, I often back up and expand how many verses I am reading. I try to figure out the context of the verses I’m reading. Where is the good news? Where is the hope and the helpful teaching in this story, this chapter, or this book?

In this case, I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t sending the disciples out to be tourists. He sent them out with a purpose: to share the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near and to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment” (Matthew 10:8, Common English Bible).

It’s in this context of giving that Jesus reminds his disciples of the difficulties they will encounter. It’s difficult to give without wanting to get back. It’s hard to take a risk, knowing the danger that exists in the world. The gem I find in this story is Jesus’s instruction to trust and persist. Trust that God will give the words we need to say when we need to say them. And persist in looking for the people who will welcome you and listen to you. Leave one household or town if necessary and find another.

Shake the dust off your feet and let your peace return to you. But keep trying to share that peace with others. Try again in another place. You’ll never run out of places to offer your help, even until the end of time and God comes again.

Holy and merciful God, grant me trust and persistence. Help me to look for the places where I can help and serve others. Fill me with your grace so that I may generously share myself and my resources with the world. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life

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