SENT TOGETHER // Sara Wolbrecht // August 2, 2015 // Mark 6:6-13
Today we’re going to do what we always do – which is to look at the countless intersections of our lives with the life of God. And to do that we continue to look and listen to the gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels written about Jesus’ life. And we come to it with curiosity, questions, with a longing for God to bring us to life, to energize us, to give us hope and vision for wherever we are at in our particular lives and circumstances. That’s what we do. Because we are learning to trust in this God that is present in our world and in our lives. Let’s begin, for fun, with this video.
Not exactly new news for us, but a fun way to name what we know: that life IS better with community. Period. Not only is it better (for obvious reasons – like a game of one-on-one is much less awkward when you actually have someone to play with), but it is also something we need. We could examine research by social anthropologists, and look at study after study and statistics to prove it, but community/tribe/family/friends: life is better with them AND we need them.
The life of Jesus reflects this reality that we know. Life is better together. And we’ve seen this in what Jesus has been doing so far in Mark’s gospel, back in chapter three Jesus set apart the 12 disciples, these guys, calling them out of the dozens of people who had been following Jesus around. You are my twelve, my people. We observe that and say: huh, the work of the Kingdom of God, the life of God, it is a team sport, not a solo mission. And on a basic level Jesus shows us that even he needed community, a family.
Let’s recall, also what it is that Jesus calls these disciples to actually do, it is two things: Jesus appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them. Mark 3: 14 That is the job description of a disciple. To be with Jesus and be sent by Jesus.
And these disciples - they have been with him. Eating, sleeping, walking, boating with Jesus – experiencing life with him as Jesus has healed and cast out demons and demonstrated the Kingdom of God. Oh, they have been with him. And now. Today’s text. This piece of Mark 6 is where the story for these disciples, and the history of humanity takes a decisive turn. Jesus calls them again and sends them out in the way he said he would.
So far, Jesus has been like, yeah, we hang together, we share life together, and Jesus shows us it is also about being sent together. Notice this and what else Jesus says in Mark 6.
Mark 6:7-13 (NIV) Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
So again, this sending of the disciples, this is the second piece of that job description that Jesus has invited them into. And as Jesus’ disciples today, we read this and know that this is our job description today, too. Our life description. And this text is not a prescription for what we should do exactly – we don’t have to buy a tunic to wear and a staff to walk with. But it does capture the essence of the life Jesus makes possible for us. And to be sent in the way he describes here. We’ll only get to some of the key points today, but let’s consider three things together.
Frist, just what it means that Jesus sends us. That God actually invites us into the world. This past Tuesday, we had a Go-Op, an opportunity to GO and be sent by Jesus together. And nine of us from Salt House went to Hope Link here in Kirkland. Hope Link provides many services for families and individuals in need and in poverty, and we were serving in one of the five food banks they have in the Seattle area. We spent two hours sorting food and stocking shelves.
At 4:30pm as I was getting ready to head over I felt very aware that a part of me just wanted to go home, make dinner, hang with the kids, enjoy the beautiful weather, get a work out in.
Instead, I drove to Hope Link. And was on my feet for two hours. And when we were done, and sweaty, I thought, “Wow. That was great. I would not have chosen to spend my evening any other way.” There was something good, and real, and true and messy about stepping into that space with two hours of my busy week. Did we eradicate hunger on the Eastside? No. Is what we did small in the scheme of things? Absolutely. But it was something. And we got to meet some folks who work and volunteer at Hope Link. We got to connect with folks who came there for food for themselves and their families. These are folks I would never run into in my usual orbit. But they are folks who are a part of this community. And we laughed a ton. With them, with each other as we listened to 90s R&B on the radio. And one of my favorite moments was at the end, when we got to tell Ted, the Food Bank Coordinator, a bit about Salt House and what we’re doing and who we hope to be in this neighborhood. We’ve already continued the conversation about what it might look like for Salt House to have an on-going relationship and opportunity to serve there.
Whether you were there on Tuesday or whether you can recall the times when you have stepped into a place of service – a mission trip, volunteering, even just helping out your neighbor or a friend who is moving. As you think of those times, a question for you: Do we ever walk away from those experiences saying, “Man, I really wish I’d just stayed home.” No! Never! Because there is something core to who we are, to who God created us to be, that comes to life when we live beyond ourselves. When we step into those messy, inconvenient spaces where we can impact the lives of others. This is what we’re made for. When we – to use the language in this text – when we are sent by Jesus. There is nothing else like it.
That’s why Jesus calls us to send us out – because it is what we’re wired to do. To go. To engage. But we notice that Jesus sent out the disciples after they’d spent a lot of time with him. They’d seen what he could do. They’d gotten to know him. They’d settled into this identity of being a disciple, a learner of Jesus. Then they were sent. And so it is for us, that we come alive, we’re called to be sent, but it really flows out of this place of being with God. How Jesus calls us to be with him – how it starts there for us, like it did for the disciples.
Where are your “close to God moments”? Whether it is in prayer, on a run, reading, hiking, singing. Because there, too, connected to the God who loves us, that’s the other place we come alive. When we are close to God we can hear the true story of who we are: Beloved, blessed, broken, forgiven, always being made new, always a work in progress yet radically loved and delighted in by the God of the universe. We come alive there. That’s why we are called to be with Jesus –It’s part of our job description. Which is why we do what we do here together every week – to remember who we are and be together with God.
And called to be sent by him. To live beyond ourselves. To be salt for the earth. So: Jesus sends us. And the second thing that Jesus also shows us here, so clearly in the text, is that we are never sent alone. Jesus sends us together.
In the text: do the disciples go one by one? James, you’re headed north, Thomas you head south, let’s spread out… Absolutely not. Jesus sends them out two by two. Practically speaking, more ground would have been covered if they went solo. But that was not the point. The point was to be sent together. Jesus is saying – sorry folks, no solo mission, no lone rangers in this life of God. We’re in this together, and we do this together. Not only do we hang out and enjoy life together – but we are actually sent together, too.
Which means all kinds of beautiful things – I think of what this would have been like for those twelve disciples. Jesus was sending them to do the things he had been doing – this was risky, new, scary –– I don’t know about you but I would have had no idea where to start. But they were not going alone. They could talk it out with their companion. As they visit towns and talk with people and do the stuff they have seen Jesus doing: they can celebrate the stuff that goes well, they can grieve and process the hard stuff. Better together.
Even for us at Hope Link this past week – it’s way more fun when you’re there together with others, right? But we also got to notice things, process our experience. And be a witness to the staff there – Ted, the Coordinator wrote an email to me saying how much fun our group was, as well as how cool he thinks it is that we at Salt House are committed to creating beautiful opportunities for people to connect and belong around food and meals. …For so many reasons: stepping into that sent-place where we come alive, it is better to be sent together.
And interestingly, this centrality of life together, of being sent together is one of those consistent pieces we observe throughout scripture. God created one person and said, “Huh, you shouldn’t be by yourself, here’s someone else.” And looking through the whole of the bible: there are no examples of lone rangers. Anywhere. It’s always group effort, collaborative, it is always a team in it together. I love that this is a core value of the Christian life. Jesus demonstrates and calls us to a life together.
Jesus sends us together. And what does he give us? Let’s see what he gave those disciples: Jesus began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. Mark 6:7
Jesus sends us together with his authority.
So – what does that means? When it comes to authority, most of us in American culture don’t like authority. We want total autonomy – no one telling us what to do. Or at least we think we want it. But the thing about authority – it is only bad if you’ve never experienced a good kind of authority. Jesus is the embodiment of what a good kind of authority is. Authority is power, influence, jurisdiction. As disciples of Jesus, we sign on to coming under God’s authority. That’s why there is so much language about Jesus and God as King – because it is that same kind of image of being under the care and power of a King. Which I know, we may bristle, we may just say: no thanks. But the authority of Jesus in our lives, is the kind of authority is motivated by love, driven by the desire for helping us become the best version of our selves, to help us live a full and abundant life here and now. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how to do that on my own – but Jesus has the authority to help us live into that.
That’s what we’ve seen Jesus doing in Mark’s gospel, using his authority and power over unclean spirits and over the broken bodies and sickness that he has healed in the crowds of people that have come to him. He goes toe to toe with evil and he wins every time.
And now, as it says here, he wants to take that authority – and what does he do with it? He gives it away. He gives it to us. Which is just mind-boggling. History takes a decisive turn at this point when Jesus sends his disciples, making it clear that our God is not a God who arbitrarily does things in the world, working independently from us, but our God is a God who works through us, inviting us into the work and beauty and endless possibilities of restoring the world. That is the mission that Jesus has been on in Mark’s gospel – he shows up and says “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” It’s here, it is showing up, and all the ugly, painful, broken parts of this world are in process, being restored, made new, healed – and the history-changing moment in all of this: that God equips us with the authority, his power, to actually do it.
I have often wished that Jesus, instead of saying, “Follow me,” had just said, “Watch this.” Right? But the reality is that how God heals and works for justice and changes the oppressive systems of our world, and feeds the hungry, and stocks the shelves of a food back – it is through the hands, and feet, and money, and time, and resources, and prayers, and action of people. You and me. Jesus sends us together with his authority.
I’m going to have the band come back up here. Having heard all of this that, Jesus sends us // together // with his authority, we ask the questions we always ask: What is God saying to me/us? What am I/are we going to do about it? In these three areas – that Jesus sends us (from a place of being connected to his love and delight for us), that we go together (with actual people to be our companions and encouragers), and that we have been given the resources and authority of God at our disposal to do the things Jesus did – is there something that grabs you in this? Maybe a word of comfort for you in something that is uncomfortable in your life? Or a word of challenge to step out into something new? …What do you hear in this, for your life today?
In the next few minutes you are welcome to sing or be quiet or take notes we use this as precious time to respond, to listen, to pay attention to things that have come up for us. Let me pray for us as we settle into this time…