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Sent by Christ

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Ezekiel 2:1-5 & Mark 6:1-13
5th Sunday after Trinity
(8-7-12)

The Olympic torch travelled through Cambridge yesterday – did anyone go to see it? A light being passed on from one place to another all around our country. Similar to Jesus sending His disciples out in today’s gospel reading. Sending them out to pass the light of Christ on and out into the world.

How does He prepare them for this task?
Firstly He leads by example. Before he tells the disciples to go out there and do the work of the ministry, He was out there doing it first. He’s a very hands-on, practical Saviour.

Secondly He teaches them: He starts by telling them how to do it. He sent them out two by two. God never intended us to do the work of the ministry by ourselves. We need help and we need encouragement.

He continues by telling them what they mustn’t do! They mustn’t take things with them: no bread, no bag, no money, no extra shirt. The bag they were prevented from taking was probably a begging bag used by travelling teachers at the time. (why I’m against collections!)

They are to depend totally upon God's ability to provide for their needs and find them lodgings every night. He then teaches them how not to offend people...

Travelling missionaries depended on local hospitality. In Jesus day there was competition to see who could host the latest, most interesting speaker. Richer hosts tried tempt the better ones away from their current hosts with better offers.
Jesus tells them to accept what’s offered first of all. Don't look for better, we shouldn’t pursue riches and comfort at all costs, but accept what God has graciously given us.

All of these things, His teaching, His guiding, His instructions point to Him making sure they weren’t about to try and do Christian mission and ministry in their own strength. They were to do it in His strength only.

As usual these guidelines are not just aimed at the original disciples. They apply to us, His disciples today. In Willingham this passage has a special message this year as we seek to live and work out the aims of our Mission Action Plan (MAP).

Ely Diocese requires us to have a MAP because we are being sent out in mission. As Jesus sent His disciples then so we are being sent now. And as they needed teaching, showing and being aware of His instructions so do we. Which is why the PCC chose two specific aims for this church to pursue this year. I wonder if you can remember what those aims are?

1) to become energized by our faith
2) listen for what God wants us to do.
I’ve discovered the phrase ‘energised by faith’ is not perhaps easily understood. And, as what we are doing this year, is being done in preparation for us beginning next year to start passing Christ’s light on to others it’s important that we get to grips with its meaning.

What does it mean to be energised by faith?
Well, it’s illustrated in this passage.

Why did Jesus instruct the disciples not to take things with them? Not to worry about their accommodation. Because He wanted everything they did to be driven by God.
Jesus told them to travel light was so they would be totally committed to their mission, and not preoccupied with material things like food, clothes and accommodation. In our 21st century comfortable lives it’s easy to forget we’re supposed to be here on a mission! We’re here to win people for Christ, here to minister to the needs in people’s lives!

Think for a moment what motivates you in life? You all know something that motivates me. My grandchildren. All of my life I have been a workaholic. I like working. When I first became a vicar I was notorious for not taking my day off.

But that changed the day I became grandmother. I love my grandchildren to pieces – my desire to see them drives me to take a day off. What drives us is very different for each of us. Where our treasure is; there is our heart also.

So, if education drives us, we’ll get what education gives us. If money drives us, we’ll get what money gives us. But if our love of God drives us, we’ll have everything we need, for all eternity. My love of my grandchildren motivates me to carve out a day to see them but my faith in God is what energises my whole life. Where our treasure is; there is our heart also.

Our temptation is to want Christianity without commitment. Without the commitment and surrender to God that results in a changed heart and life. We see today the sad result of churches who have for too long felt that it’s all right for nice people to get together in Sunday best, sing familiar hymns and hear little sermons that make them feel good about themselves.

"Just tell me how nice I am, how righteous I am. Give me Christianity, but don’t talk to me about conversion. I don’t want to change. I want to remain exactly the way I am."
That’s what the Bible calls sin, putting ourselves where God should be.

It’s fed by the values of the Western world which teaches there’s no real authority other than our own opinion and so there are no moral absolutes.  

It’s supported by a consumerist mentality.  "The customer’s always right. I’m the customer, so I am always right.  I should get what I want."  

It’s supported by materialism as people seek security, pleasure and worth in things they buy and possess.
It’s encouraged by hedonism: seeking pleasure, life is all about feeling good, feeling happy is all important.

Sadly, the church is not immune from this. Many people may assess the value a church service about how it makes them feel. 
 
Somehow along the way, in all our independence and freedom, we’ve forgotten the greatest freedom of all. Jesus went to the cross and gave His life to gain our freedom from sin. And that’s a message that we need to hear and pass on today. And we can ONLY do it if our lives are totally driven by that faith. By our adoration for what He’s done for us.
There’s a story about a church in the Soviet Union a few years ago that was forced to meet secretly because the holding of house church services was illegal. They tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as they gathered on Sunday to worship: they came at different times, casually walking into the house until all had arrived and they’d closed the doors, pulled the curtains, and then quietly worship.

But one Sunday, in the middle of a service, two soldiers broke into the room, and at gunpoint lined the Christians up against the wall, shouting, "If you wish to renounce your faith in Jesus Christ, leave now!"

Two or three quickly left, then another, then two more. Again they commanded, "This is your last chance. Either leave now and renounce your faith in Christ, or stay and suffer the consequences." Another left, then another, hiding their faces in shame as they went out.

But the rest stood their ground, children stood beside parents, trembling, crying as their parents stood with their hands in the air, expecting to be gunned down or imprisoned.

After all who chose to leave had gone, the soldiers closed the doors, looked at those who stood against the wall and said,

"Keep your hands up - but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ. We, too, are Christians."  They explained that they’d once been sent to another house church to arrest the Christians there. But in the process, they’d heard the gospel and had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. But, they continued, "We’ve learned that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted."

Our prayer should be that, like those who stayed, our lives are energized/driven by our faith. That we will never compromise it. That we will grow in it and want to share it with a world that desperately needs to hear the only truth that guarantees our freedom for all eternity.

There’s a saying “the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today”. He teaches, equips and sends us if we allow Him to drive our lives.

Many people say, "I can’t serve the Lord! I’m not strong enough! I can’t do it!" And do you know what they are right! WE are not strong enough. But Jesus does not asking us to do this in our own strength. He gives us all we need. If we were in this on our own, then I would quit myself. But we’re not alone!
Christ is our energy – that’s what should drive us! "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” Philippians 4:13

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