Friday of Pentecost 3 – Matthew 10:5a, 21-33
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them,… 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household?
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
The image you see here depicts the death of Boniface on June 5, 754. The drawing is from about 200 years after the event. Boniface was in Frisia, preparing to welcome new converts to Christianity when his group was set upon by pagan bandits and many, including Boniface, were slain. In the drawing you can see he is holding a book to ward off a sword thrust. If you go to Fulda, Germany today, you can still see that book (or more likely a modern copy as the original is quite delicate.) It has a great gash in it. The bandits, being illiterate left the books and they were later recovered.
Jesus tells us today that we should not fear the one who can destroy the body but not the soul; rather, we should fear the one who can destroy them both. God has numbered the hairs of our head and notices when every sparrow falls to the ground. We are worth much more than the sparrows to him. Just as the sparrow falls to the ground, however, so do Christians. Being a Christian has an alarmingly high mortality rate. The psalmist tells us that the death of the saint is precious to God (Ps. 116:15).
Jesus sends out his twelve disciples on their first mission trip. His words are a clear eyed and brutally honest summary of what they could expect. But it was also a promise. Having risen from the dead Jesus also acknowledges his witnesses in this world and that acknowledgment means everything. He has not called us to an easy life, but he has called us to eternal life. “Fear not,” says Jesus. I do not know what emotions Boniface felt as the bandits set upon his little encampment on banks of the river Borne in modern Holland. He had resolutely set out, however, at nearly 80 years old, on a dangerous mission to violent people to bring them to share in Christian faith. He did not fear what happened. These last months have made many afraid. It is normal to fear in the context of all that has happened. But Christians also can trust. The One who made a promise to us on the day of our baptism keeps that promise today. That trust opens our mouths to acknowledge His Name.
Rev. Phillip Brandt, MDiv, PhD
Plans are for Grace to re-open for in person worship this Sunday, hosting an outdoor worship service on the church lawn. Details will coming your way a bit later. Although we re-opening for a physical gathering, our service will continue to be broadcast LIVE on Facebook, please join us in the format which you are most comfortable with.
Blessed Green Season!