June 20, 1999

Matthew 10:24-39

Disciples are not better than their teacher, and slaves are not better than their master. It is enough for disciples to be like their teacher and for slaves to be like their master. If people call the head of the family Satan, what will they say about the rest of the family?

Don't be afraid of anyone! Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. Whatever I say to you in the dark, you must tell in the light. And you must announce from the housetops whatever I have whispered to you. Don't be afraid of people. They can kill you, but they cannot harm your soul. Instead, you should fear God who can destroy both your body and your soul in hell. Aren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don't be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.

If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers. But if you reject me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you don't belong to me.

Don't think that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came to bring trouble, not peace. I came to turn sons against their father, daughters against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. Your worst enemies will be in your own family.

If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughter more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples. And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it. [CEV]


1. This is really an old-fashioned concept -- "students aren't better than teachers, slaves aren't better than masters." In a hierarchical structure this makes sense. In a democracy it runs counter to our instincts. An important model for a democratic church is that of mutual ministry. Not ministry "to" or "for" but ministry "with."
     Let's imagine that the status model is helpful. Of whom are you willing to be a disciple or slave? Will this also be true in good times as well as difficult times? How much guff are you willing to take for your teacher or master? Will you go "to" others and minister "for" their best eternal interests?
     This is a digital model built on the "yes"/"no" approach. You are either right or wrong, on the path or off it. Can you abide that in a world that seems more attuned to the spirit blowing where it will and it being important to walk with folks in their shoes? This is a challenge to us.

2. Don't be afraid of anyone? The hierarchical model helps with this concept. You are saved or you are not. Religious wars are mounted on this kind of approach. It does have the benefit of surety and motivation. Everything is going to be found out so let's test the opponent. This is not a "let the wheat and the weeds grow together until harvest" time. This is the boldness to pull up the weeds even if some wheat get pulled up alongside. Sort of like we had to destroy the village to save it.
     I do wonder if we can afford to not be afraid of the anyone known as our self. It is so easy to claim our teacher as the Teacher, our way as the Way and wade in where angels fear to tread.

3. God counts sparrows. By implication, God counts you. You are counted. Hooray! Now get out there and do what you are told. This non-fear based approach to motivation is helpful when there is trouble on the horizon. It keeps us focused on the blessing of counting for something. In this time of millennialism fear becomes the unconscious media that surrounds our every moment. To be able to escape the fear might help us better discern the spirit of that which we have chosen to most inform our decision-making. Is our teacher or master leading us into battle or helping us learn to suffer? Are we expecting a graduation gift of economic security or do we go out without an extra pair of shoes? Do you expect to soar like an eagle or fall like a sparrow? Is God's love great enough to encompass all of these and other polarities?

4. So into this life come the polarities, the choices. None of us are strong enough to work out our salvation without fear and trembling. None of us are exempt from mistaking our will for God's will. None of us can love Jesus more than we love our neighbors or our self. If Matthew was writing during a moment of persecution it would be understandable how comforting this approach would be. Does this model of "faithful follower" consistently work for you? Are there times when this approach works for you? Has this way never worked for you? Perhaps we need to hear again a prelude to these words from Matthew 10:16 -- "I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be wise as snakes and as innocent as doves." Know when this way is appropriate, but also know when to forgive rather than demand allegiance.

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