May 21, 2009
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter
(Note: In the Arlington Diocese, The Ascension of the Lord will be celebrated on Sunday, May 24. Today, we use the regular readings for Thursday.)
When they opposed him and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your heads! I am clear of responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." So he left there and went to a house belonging to a man named Titus Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next to a synagogue. Crispus, the synagogue official, came to believe in the Lord along with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard believed and were baptized. Acts 18:6-8
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Are you discussing with one another what I said, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me'? Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. John 16:19-20
Send us forth as you sent Mary Magdalene, to announce the good news, the only news, the news forever new; your resurrection.
Send us forth as you sent the twelve, to confront murderous power, to walk peaceably amid the fires of violence.
Send us forth as you sent the first Christians, to act as fools for your Christ's sake.
Send us forth that reviled, we may bless; that persecuted, we may endure; that slandered, we may reconcile.
Send us forth to places likely and unlikely; to the seats of power and strife, that we may deny their dominion with a fearless word; to the dwellings of the powerless, that we may bring hope, and win hope.
Send us forth to those who love, to those who fear, to those who are indifferent; that we may sow love where there is no love, and so bring forth love.
Send us forth as your word goes forth, and returns heavy with a harvest of peace.
Send us forth bid us return, knowing that near or afar, our names are written in your heart. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer service on the Christian Peacemaking Teams web site.
In his regular preaching, during the “last lecture” of John 13-17, and after the Resurrection, Jesus tells the disciples what to expect when they go out and proclaim the Good News. Some will hear and believe; others will neither heard nor believe. He urges them not to be discouraged but to go on proclaiming the Word. Matthew recounted Jesus’ original advice to the disciples: If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words – go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Matthew 10:13-14
This gesture of shaking the dust off your feet means that the disciples must completely and fully sever ties with anyone who rejects the Good News. According to Wesley’s Notes on this passage, “The Jews thought the land of Israel so peculiarly holy, that when they came home from any heathen country, they stopped at the borders and shook or wiped off the dust of it from their feet, that the holy land might not be polluted with it. Therefore the action here enjoined was a lively intimation, that those Jews who had rejected the Gospel were holy no longer, but were on a level with heathens and idolaters.”
In Acts 13, we see another example of Paul and Barnabas performing this symbolic gesture.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit. Acts:13:50-52
Today’s example of Paul shaking his coat out similarly severed ties with those who rejected the Word he preached. However, not only would they face rejection. At other times, the Word falls on willing ears. Jesus also reiterated the message of hope in those who heard without seeing and were blessed – whether or not they were Jews. After the Resurrection when Jesus encountered St. Thomas, the disciple believed in the Risen Christ because he was able to put his fingers in the nail marks and his hand in Jesus’ pierced side. Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29
Where can you bring a Christ-like attitude today? To work? To school? To commuting? On vacation? Sometimes, in the most unlikely people we encounter the presence of the Lord. Last week, while travelling home from New Orleans, we had a discussion with the woman who was tending to the breakfast served at our hotel. She was thrilled to tell us that the Holy Spirit blessed her to accept all people and serve anyone who entered into her dining room. Be on the lookout for the “breakfast lady” you will encounter today who will be open to the Word and Holy Spirit.