Monday, June 12, 2017

Harassed and Helpless

As he and his team moved about on their ministry of teaching, healing, and giving hope, he saw them. The invisible. The downtrodden. The poor that propped up the rich. The marginalized who propped up the powerful. He saw them. Not as census numbers, customers, work-units, herds, "others", inhuman subhumans, fodder, pawns, losers... he saw them as people like him. He saw them as a flock that did not know where to turn because the harassing wolves nipping at them. He saw them as helpless lambs without a protector. Lost sheep.

He turned to his students: "The need is great, but the Helpers are few. Pray without ceasing, asking for more Helpers."

Then he sent out the Twelve, that they may start their own ministries. He sent them first to their sisters and brothers, the lost sheep of Israel. Later he would tell them to expand their mission field to the rest of the world. But for now, familiar territory, shepherds with familiar faces and voices sent to the flocks. He sent them unencumbered.

"Make sure they know the good news of the Kingdom's closeness that they won't lose hope this close to home. Use your gifts to minister to them freely, for freely they were given to you for such purpose. Find good people who will support you and lift you up. If some won't listen don't shout, or berate, or argue, or intimidate them, move on - there are many in need of your presence. I'm sending you to stand between the sheep and the hungry wolves, so take nothing for granted; be not too comfortable. You must be wise and discerning to know the wolves, to discover their tactics, to avoid their traps. You must be good people or you too will become wolves.

Beware of them. Do not ally yourselves with wolves. The wolves will hate you because by refusing to become like them you judge them in their eyes. Those in power will try to humiliate you, beat you down, drown you out, but your persistence will encourage the sheep, your resistance will give them courage, your love will give them hope. There will come a day when the wolves can no longer tolerate you, when your mere existence is a challenge to their power and wealth. And that day, the Spirit will be with you. No longer to speak to you, but to speak directly to the wolves through your mouth.

There will be intentional division and fragmentation to weaken the flock. Families will be divided. Friends will become afraid of being open with each other. You will be hated by wolves, and jackals who would be wolves, because you speak up for the sheep in my name. But endure. Abide until the end of your life, and you will be with me forever."

In our reading from Matthew 9:35-10:23, Jesus tells his followers that if they become persecuted for following the way of his teachings, they should move on down the road. Jesus for much of his ministry did this same thing. But let us remember, there may come a time when your choice may be to stand and die for others, or to become a wolf. 

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