Get out there
Matthew 10: 32-42.
Today sees the conclusion of Jesus’ least inspirational talk of last week.
If you were here last week you would have heard how the disciples had basically gotten round Jesus because they were afraid.
And instead of Jesus inspiring them to get out there and take over the world because no one will be able to stand in their way...Jesus tells them that they have a point, that they will be out in the world like sheep among wolves.
Think about that.
They are against wolves that have vicious claws and sharp teeth, and we are expected to fight these creatures with nothing more than the body armour of wool.
And Jesus concludes that inspirational talk with these words.
‘Those that welcome you welcome me.’
Now the worship group decided to get their teeth into this passage because it wasn't very long and it seemed too short a statement.
So they thought about it and at the end of the thinking they came to this horrible conclusion.
Jesus isn’t giving us a choice.
We have to share our faith with others.
Jesus says, ‘Those that welcome you welcome me.’
People can only welcome us if we go to them with an invitation.
We can only go to them with an invitation if we literally ‘go to them’.
Jesus doesn't say, ‘Only those with confidence should go to others and should share their faith with others.’
Jesus doesn't say, ‘Only those with the gift of evangelism should share their faith with others.’
Jesus doesn't say, ‘Only the ministers and paid staff should share their faith with others.’
Jesus really doesn't say what we would hope he says, ‘Don’t worry about it, someone else's job is to share their faith out there. You don’t need to do it if you don't want to.’
Jesus is talking to ALL the disciples, ALL the disciples, and he is telling ALL the disciples that the world he is sending them out to is a world of danger where they will be rejected and attacked for their faith. And they aren't to hide or conceal what they believe, they are to go out to others and share their faith.
I was going to give you a hard time on this.
It would be so easy for any Church of Scotland minister to give any congregation a hard time on this.
Any elder that was at the last Presbytery meeting found out that the Church of Scotland is the fastest decreasing church in the western world.
We are losing church buildings, but not as fast as we are losing ministers, and not as fast as we are losing members. I believe the most horrific statistic was that we have lost a third of the members of all the churches in the last 10 years.
What that means is that we have less and less ministers looking after more and more church buildings with less people in them.
Last week alone my wee sister in Glasgow phoned me to say she is thinking of leaving the church that our family has been a part of for over 50 years.
I heard of a minister who has decided that she will just walk away from being a minister, not leaving her church and feeling she has been called to another church, just feeling that she isn't called any more, or if she is called then she can’t do it anymore.
Ministers are leaving, members are leaving.
And no one is replacing them.
If you want a church to be full then the way to do it is to threaten to close it and have a meeting about it.
The number of times I have heard of a meeting where the future of the church building is under threat and the members who never turn up, the community that never supports it, are all out saying that the church is deserting the community. And the truth is that the community, the members, have deserted the church.
The sad thing is that the members of this church, all churches, feel that the church should be there for them...they do not see the truth that they are there for the church, and our roll as members is to be stewards of this community to pass it on to the next generation.
Our job is not to pass the building on to the next generation, our job is to pass the community of faith onto the next generation, and we only do that if we build up the community.
That’s what the worship group thought about it anyway.
They wanted me to give you such a hard time about how rotten you are as disciples.
So who’s feeling uncomfortable right now?
I want to give you two truths that might help you.
They may not make you feel any less comfortable, but they will help you.
The first truth is this.
Jesus was telling the truth. We are like sheep among wolves.
And that makes us feel vulnerable.
To share something with someone is to make ourselves vulnerable. And that isn't the way of the world. Look at any dialogue out there.
The Brexit negotiations. All we get in the media is about how the British negotiators are trying to prove that they are going into these negotiations from a position of strength.
It’s the same thing when Union Leaders and Management come together. The Unions go in saying that they have to strike because they have to show management that they are no pushovers, that they are going into negotiations from a position of strength.
And if truth be told we don't like being vulnerable. So when the church has tried to share its faith with others it doesn’t want to be like sheep, it wants to show strength.
So it goes in with strong terms...
‘Either believe in what we believe in or you will go to hell.’
We are no pushovers, we are the ones with the eternity of your soul in our hands.
Think about that.
We are trying to tell people that there is a God that cares for them, a God that loves them, and that God shows his love and care by threatening them with hell if they don’t do exactly as he says.
Or rather if they don’t do exactly as that denomination says what they should do, or not do.
Because some church folk say that dancing is a sin and you are going to hell for that.
Others say that going to the cinema is a sin and you are going to hell for that.
Others that you fall in love with the wrong person and you are going to hell for that.
Others that you believe what that others church says and you are going to hell for that.
The truth is, the real truth is...is that we believe in a God that wants to have a relationship with us, and according to the Bible that God is willing to do anything to start the relationship, even become vulnerable.
What threat is there in the child that lies in a manger?
What threat is there in the carpenters son who talks about loving your enemies?
What threat is there in the man hanging on a cross?
We see our vulnerability as a weakness. Trust me it is our strength.
We are not out there to threaten people into seeing there is a God who cares.
We are there to inspire people into seeing there is a God who cares.
Within the next two months my daughter will give birth to a right handed baby girl.
That’s how good the scans are now-a-days. They can even tell what the dominant hand of the baby is going to be.
This baby when she is born will be completely vulnerable.
That baby will not be negotiating with her parents from a position of strength.
That baby will not be able to threaten her parents with anything.
And that baby, from a position of complete and utter vulnerability, will inspire love and have her parents running to her every whim.
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness.
Telling folk that there is a God out there that loves them enough to send them to hell...that’s a weakness, and just stupid.
So if we have to go out there weak, then what should we do?
I would say pray.
But pray for the right thing.
Don’t pray that you will have opportunities to reach out to others.
Don’t pray that you will have the strength and the courage to tell others about your faith.
Don’t pray that others will be open to the message that you have.
Pray that you will have love.
Because here is the real truth that should scare us.
Sharing of our faith is just sharing our lives.
Sharing of our faith is just walking with others on their journey.
Sharing of our faith is just being there with them.
As they face life they see that they don't need to face life alone.
That’s all sharing our faith is.
And the real reason we don't do it is because our fear is greater than our love.
Our fear that we will be embarrassed, our fear that we will look silly, our fear that we will be rejected, is greater than our love for them.
One of the saddest sights I ever saw was when my children were little.
We had a public park just over the hill from where our house was.
And on a Saturday, if it was a good day, I might walk the children to that park and we would play tickle monster. I would chase them up and down slides, I would chase them round the swings...and if they were caught then they got such a tickle.
I was terrible as a tickle monster, something about being a monster seemed to slow me down, the number of times I was so close to catching them and they would just be out of fingertip reach...and off they would go screaming down the slide just as they were about to be caught.
And this day I am walking over the hill to the park when I hear the sound of a child screaming her head off in glee. Obviously someone else had had the same idea and was already there. But as soon as we got over the hill and were seen, the father stopped. And you could see the child suddenly realising that something was up and not understanding why her dad had stopped what was obviously a brilliant game.
But I understood.
His fear of seeming silly in front of another adult was greater than his love of his daughter.
That incident happened over 20 years ago and I can still see it today.
And it still sadness me.
God wants us to help others because we deeply care for them.
God wants to us to share the very best advice we have with others because we deeply care for them.
God wants us to walk with others on their journey, to influence them for the better, because we deeply care for them.
I interfere in my kids lives all the time. I give them advice whether they want it or not.
And I do that because I care, and if they don't take my advice I don’t stop caring, I just prepare for picking them up when they fall. And when they do things right I encourage them.
I don't care if I embarrass them or myself, I don't care if I look weak or silly...because my love for them is more important than my fear.
We share because we care, we care because we love.
So pray that you may love...for if you truly love someone, you will care.
And if you care you will do whatever it takes to help...because that’s what God did for us.