St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-02-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-02-2017

The Cost and Joy of Discipleship

Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

Before Kathy and I left for our vacation last week we were warned that some flights from Phoenix to Tucson were being canceled because the smaller planes that are used for this short hop had trouble getting off the ground in temperatures over 118 degrees and the temps in Phoenix were exceeding that limit.

Fortunately, by the time we were traveling, the temp’s dropped a bit (to about 112 or 115 degrees) and we made our destination without delay, happily finding that Tucson’s temps had dropped also; only about 108 to 110 in the suburbs where we were staying.

One of the first things a first-time traveler will notice when arriving in Tucson (besides the warmth) is the ruggedness of the landscape. The city is surrounded by mountains, the sides of which reveal more rock and gravel than they do vegetation. With the combination of heat, intense sunlight owing to a lack of moisture in the air, the lack of streams or ponds, and the sparse growth one might wonder if there is any animal life at all and wonder why in heavens name any human ever thought this was a good place to live.

But, given a little time, one is bound to appreciate the beauty of the arid ruggedness itself and the way a great diversity of life thrives in such an inhospitable place in unimaginable ways. Owing to our cousin’s pan of water in her back yard, Kathy and I were treated to a constant parade of coveys quail, doves, wood peckers, finches, humming birds, hawks and other foul along with more rabbits than we see in a year here in Pennsylvania, squirrels, and prairie dogs just to list a few of what exists in the valley and not mentioning the things we preferred not to see like rattle snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas or what can be found in the higher altitudes where we didn’t venture in this trip.

Interestingly, around that little water supply, there was peace. There was no squabbling between members of the same species nor between members of different species; squirrels, rabbits, and birds of all kinds drank their fill side-by-side knowing that everyone’s life depended on it to carry them through the work of finding enough food to live another day and start all over again tomorrow.

Once this natural diversity is seen, and allowed to sink in, it is inevitable for one to think of the wonders of God’s creation and how God cares for it; providing everything needed for life to inhabit even the harshest of places on earth.


It is uncertain how and when humans first inhabited the area. It may have been up to 15,000 years ago when the weather was wetter than it is today and those people simply remained and adapted to the slow changes. Or it may have been more recent when scarcity of food due to growing populations forced some native people to venture further from more tolerable places and learn to survive in the desert. Either way, the point is, even humans learned to live here and happily thrive.


In these thoughts, still fresh in my mind, I find a wonderful parallel to the history of Christianity and a metaphorical connection to today’s Gospel reading.

Today’s reading is the end of a chapter-long recount of Jesus preparing his Disciples to go out and preach to all the towns of Israel. In the very beginning it is written,

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (9:36-38).

Then he calls the 12 together and authorizes them to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons” (10:8). He tells them to take nothing with them; no extra clothing, no money, nothing (10:9). And he warns them that they are being sent out “like sheep into the midst of wolves” (10:16) they will be persecuted “and will be hated by all because of [his] name” (10:22). And he tells them to not be afraid as they go about doing God’s work, reminding them that even though “two sparrows [are] sold for a penny. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (10:29).

The Disciples are being sent into an inhospitable world to face the heat of hatred, the drought of love, and the endless search for spiritual food, with nothing more than their faith in God’s provision; but that is enough, that it is all they need.

Now look at the parallels between the desert and Christianity I mentioned.

In the desert there is beauty to be seen in the ruggedness. In Christian life we can find beauty in the ruggedness of the world around us if we open our eyes to it.

In the seemingly inhospitable desert life thrives with God’s provision. In Christian faith life can thrive in the inhospitable world around us with God’s provision.

Even with the scarcity of water in the desert, there is peace around the water hole. In Christian living there is peace for all, among all, amidst any scarcity.

In the desert, no amount of natural heat can stop life from thriving happily. In Christian faith no amount of hateful heat can stop life from thriving happily.


Like the humans and the creatures that live in the desert, and like the 12, we, too, live in an inhospitable environment. We too, as the disciples, are called to go out among the sheep without a shepherd as sheep among wolves to spread the Good News. But, just like those in the desert and like the original 12, wehave a shepherd who will provide everything needed for Christian life to inhabit even the harshest of places on earth.

Knowing this, we can go confidently, fearlessly, onto the highest mountain and the deepest valley, in the lush forest and the arid desert as laborers in the harvest!



Romans 6:12-23
6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,
6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.
6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.
6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Genesis 22:1-14
22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.
22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.
22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”
22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Psalm 13
13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.


Matthew 10:40-42
10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;
10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”