Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Job Description

Matthew 9: 35-10:8

Last week, I talked about how we have to find out who we are, our core two or three things, and organize our lives into ways to do that stuff well. I talked about how Jesus realized that, in his human form, he was limited in his capabilities, and at the end of that story last week, found that he needed to empower the disciples in his name to go out and heal, exorcise demons.

Now, it’s kind of fun when the Thursday Bible study covers the same story that the Sunday lectionary does. Luke’s version of today’s story is what we covered, this week. In Luke, they are sent out to cure disease, exorcise demons and proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom. In Matthew, this morning, the job description is to “proclaim the good news, the Kingdom of God has come near, and to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons”.

William Barclay, the author of the Thursday study we’re in right now, makes a distinction between apostle and disciple. An apostle is one who is sent, from the Greek apostolos (according to Barclay; I don’t know much Greek, other than gyro and baklava). This isn’t just sent in the sense of “you, go there”, but where they go, they are the representative of the one who sent them. They are like ambassadors, in that tan apostolos has all of the power and authority of the one who sent them. Note that it isn’t the authority that they have themselves, but they operate only under the authority of the one who sent them.

A disciple is a learner. So, in this study, one who wants to be like Peter, and Andrew, and the other Disciples, must be both a learner and one who is able to be sent under God’s authority.

You can’t just hear the message and run off repeating the message. In our world, that’s essentially doing the job that an iPod could do. Press play, repeat message. No asking questions of it, no discussing with it, just repeating the message. That, I think is part of the problem with the way evangelism and the preaching of the kingdom is done—people go out without the training, wisdom, and maturity that God requires. It is an incomplete witness. They just go out and repeat what they’ve heard or memorized, and get flummoxed when someone becomes interested, but has questions.

Barclay says it properly, I think. You have to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Here’s his line: “The missioner must be with Jesus before he goes out for Jesus. We can never introduce anyone to someone we do not ourselves know.”
There’s more to Jesus than the salvation moment. There’s more to being saved than just the moment after the Jesus prayer. Why is it that we can understand that it takes time and practice to learn to play piano, to ride a bike, to run the machines on an assembly line, but becoming a full, mature Christian can come instantly? Even Paul had to spend a good deal of time in the presence of the community at Antioch before he was allowed to go out and build churches.

There is a time of training, and the true disciple of Christ, I think, understands that they are always in learning mode. One should always be humble about that they know, because they don’t know it all. They also should hold no knowledge as suspect or with contempt, because Jesus has worked in the lives of humans all over the world, not just the ones we understand. That’s a true disciple.

In that learning, God decides when it is time to become an apostle, an Ambassador. And when you do, it is important to make sure that you understand what you are being sent for. It is a matter of prayer and discernment to figure out what God is calling you for. It would be great if God would fax a list of duties to us, but he doesn’t. It takes a matter of paying attention; what are you good at? What are you excited about? What opportunities lay before you? How easy is it to get into them? This is why Christians pray, and journal. In that journaling, in that paying attention, an idea about what you’re called to emerges. This is the job description.

Those first twelve Disciples had it easy. Jesus was standing right in front of them, flesh and blood and voice and breath, telling them they should go, how, what they should take, and how to handle rejection. It’s actually a great speech that takes up our passage all the way through to the end of Chapter 10. We don’t have it so easy. Our leader isn’t a flesh and blood Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit. The miracle of the Holy Spirit is that we all can connect to God at any time through her, but hearing her message takes rather a bit of practice and prayer.

As a Christian, we have a job description. The job isn’t to believe in Christ. In corporate terminology, that’s the philosophy of the organization, but not the mission. We are not called just to believe. Disciples learn. We are always learning, if we are truly in Christ. No, the job description, armed with our knowledge of Christ, our discernment about what we are called to do, and our humility in knowing we do not represent ourselves, is to go and serve Christ in the world. Sitting here on Sundays is the discipling bit. Going out there, doing VBS, going out in missions to other communities, meeting people telling them about the Kingdom, metaphorically healing and exorcising and raising the dead, that’s our job description.
How we go about that in our lives is the reason we pray and meditate and talk with our soul friends. How we go to the plant and do this; how we go to roof a house and do this; how we cut hair and do this; how we do this when we are retired, or still in school. This is why we pray.

Our job description is there for us. The Holy Spirit holds it for us. In this post-Jesus-on-earth age, part of our job is to figure out how we are to heal the sick, exorcise demons, raise the dead, and proclaim the good news that the Kingdom of God has come near. In other words, what is the mission before each of us, in the name of Christ? That will be our job description.

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