So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I want to talk a little bit with you about something that everyone experiences but we’re not very good at how to deal with it when it happens. It’s something everyone in the pews has experienced and something that even the followers of Jesus, 2000 years ago, experienced too. So to explore what that is, we need to talk a little bit about the story of Jesus we’re going to hear. And to do that, I’ve got a picture.
So what do you see in this picture? There’s groups of people two-by-two knocking on the doors. It seems like there’s a road, a path, and a lot of these groups knocking on doors. What do you think they’re doing?
What we’re going to hear is that Jesus asks his disciples to go ahead of him into places Jesus plans to go. Jesus is going to villages located with folks who were Samaritans. Samaritans had similar beliefs to Jesus’ own Jewish background but there was enough differences that they didn’t get along. Jesus, as a very religious Jewish person, wasn’t supposed to hang out and eat meals with Samaritans. But he went to see them anyways cuz God’s love, regardless of beliefs or religion or culture or background, is for everyone. Jesus told his disciples, who were probably mostly Jewish like him, to go ahead of him. He sent them in groups of two and told them to bring very little with them. They won’t bring money, extra clothes, or extra shoes. Instead, they’d have to rely on the generosity of others – of people not exactly like them – to help take care of them.
So do you think it would have been easy or hard to accept that kind of help?
It was probably really hard because it could go really well or it could go poorly. And if people didn’t accept them or didn’t talk to them or told them to go away, the disciples would have felt like the failed Jesus. Failure is something we all experience – when we try something and it just doesn’t work. We fail at school when we take a test. We’re not always the best player on our baseball team. We sometimes come up short in the championship game. Or we try to beat a level in the game we’re playing and we just can’t do it. Sometimes we fail because we didn’t practice enough, study enough, or do the work we needed to do well. But sometimes we fail because our best just wasn’t enough or because we were never going to be successful as we thought we were. Failing is a hard thing to experience and, when it happens, we might think we – over all – are just failures too.
We’re going to hear in our story that the disciples that were sent out were successful – but that Jesus also did something special for them. He also prepared them for failure. He prepared and talked to his disciples about what happens when someone turns them away or when things don’t go as well as they wanted. He told them to shake the dust from their shoes – which is a weird expression – but one that could be like shrugging shoulders and saying “oh well” when we fail. It’s a way to admit we haven’t been able to do what we set out to do. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel angry or upset or frustrated because we’re allowed to feel those things. But we don’t have to blame ourselves or believe that because we failed, we ourselves are a failure. Instead, we learn to move on; to try again; to be okay that we’re not supposed to be the best at everything. We’re going to fail and that’s okay because God’s love for us doesn’t depend on whether we are a success. God loves you; God cares for you; God will guide you; and because we have been baptized and brought into Jesus’ special family, it’s safe for us to try and fail because Jesus will never let us go.
Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 7/3/2022.