The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Leo Tolstoy wrote a story about a lonely shoemaker named Martin, who was promised in a dream that Jesus would come to his shop. The next day Martin rose early, got his shop ready, prepared a meal—and waited. But the only one who showed up that morning was an old beggar who asked for a rest. Martin gave the beggar the room he had prepared for Jesus.
That afternoon, an old lady showed up with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asked for some food. Martin gave her the meal he had prepared for Jesus.
As he was closing the shop for the day, a young boy showed up. He told Martin he was homeless so Martin took him home with him afraid all the while that he would miss Jesus. That night in his prayers he asked Jesus, “Where were you? I waited in my shop all day for you.”
Jesus answered, “I came to your shop three times. Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was a beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave to eat. I was the homeless boy on the street.”
Yes, Jesus wears many disguises. In the Gospel we hear Jesus sending his apostles—a word that means “sent”—out into the world. They were to continue his work, the principal mission being that of healing and spreading the Good News of God’s love for all.
They would soon find out that living God’s values in the world is demanding. They would accept no pay. They were to take no supplies. They would rely on the kindness of others to provide their basic needs. They would bring God’s peace—God’s Shalom—to anyone who would receive it.
The gospel is good news for many—particularly to those who are oppressed in one way or another. It is good news for those who acknowledge their need to be restored and made whole. But it can be pretty bad news for those whose worldview is shaped by dominant cultural institutions. The gospel can be objectionable and repulsive to those who live according to the letter of the law—as did the Pharisees—and not according to Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved us.
Clayton Schmitt, Professor of Homiletics at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, says that the gospel—the core message of Christ—is a challenge “to be inclusive, to be willing to touch the filthy, unholy mess of humanity in order to share God’s love. To sink one’s hands into poverty…to sit beside the smug, rank, slovenly sinner and share a meal with him; to ask him to pass the bread and then eat it when it comes to you from his greedy hand.
“Or to smile at a harlot and offer her the possibility of dignity; to look at her and see not her painted face and tainted past but her promising future. Jesus called for change and when his followers lived a new kind of life, they got a lot of trouble for their efforts.”
What Schmitt’s talking about in his teaching is healing. And healing is not only about one’s illness or physical problems. Healing is about restoring us to wholeness and assuring us of God’s love and compassion no matter who we are or how deep or shallow our faith. Healing is what the shoemaker offered his three visitors. It is a sacred commodity for which many are desperately in need. How many in the crowds are still harassed and helpless?
This morning we will recognize the importance of this gift that Christ has entrusted to the church as we commission five ministers of healing to serve in our community and in the world as conduits of God’s healing grace. Health does not always come from medicine. Most of the time it comes from peace of mind. Peace in the heart, peace of soul. It comes from laughter and love. We are all apostles—sent to be the bearers of God’s Shalom—that peace which the world cannot give.
Dale Turner writes in his book Different Seasons: “One of God’s great gifts—perhaps the greatest gift to each of us—is being born into an unfinished world and given a share with God in creation…”
That’s the awesome vocation to which the Apostles were called. When we follow in their footsteps, we can be assured that Jesus will visit us…perhaps as a beggar with bruised feet or an elderly person who is hungry or a homeless teenager…or our next-door neighbor…or even the person sitting next to us in church. Yes, Jesus wears many disguises.