“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Do not carry any gold or silver or copper in your belts. Take no bag for the road, or second tunic, or sandals, or staff; for the worker is worthy of his provisions.
Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy there and stay at his house until you move on. As you enter the home, greet its occupants. If the home is worthy, let your peace rest on it; but if it is not, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
Peace be with you!
St Francis of Assisi, took this text literally and gave his life to obeying it. I have committed my life to trying to understand this and apply it to my own life and to teach it. It is a calling to a way of thinking and living more than a literal application of three principles. If it were easy, then we’d have a lot more people doing it. But this is a challenging text, one that requires us to commit to a new way of living and of seeing our lives. One that calls for us to redefine our priorities. In a lifelong process of learning and transformation and repentance.
As tertiary’s of the Order of St Francis, we have three aims: (1) To make Jesus known and to bear witness to him, (2) to spread a spirit of love and harmony and (3) to live simply. This is how we have interpreted this text and the principal of Jesus’ teaching in it.
When confronted with a scripture like this, it is a challenge for us to take this to heart and be obedient to it. The early Christians found the teachings of Jesus so difficult to follow that they opted to leave mainstream society and go and live in the desert. A scripture like this could make us think that we could never be the type of Christian’s that Jesus wants us to be.
Being a Christian requires obedience to God’s word. All of us are called to apply ourselves to it. But how do we do what this scripture asks? What is the Christian faith all about?
The questions that we need to ask ourselves when we read this text are:
Do I bring healing to the world around me? Do I bring peace and reconciliation to my conversations and to my interactions with others, am I a divisive person or a peacemaker. Emotional healing is of far more importance that physical healing, and much of our physical condition results from our emotional and spiritual brokenness. Jesus brought peace and hope and repentance of sins everywhere. Every encounter Jesus had, transformed the person’s life because Jesus showed love and compassion and mercy. You can bring healing to society, starting within your existing circle of influence – your home – by embracing Christ’s command to heal. What healing does your family need today – what are you doing to bring about that healing? What healing does your neighbourhood need today, what are you doing to bring about that healing?
Raise the dead – the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6 :23) By faith in Jesus our concept of life is reordered completely. In our own time we have experienced the death of so many and so much in this pandemic. Our hopes and dreams for life have died, as we have been affected by the response to stemming the spread of the pandemic. Simple social interaction has died and everyday activities that we expected to be part of our life have died and so for all of us a piece of us has died. We need to restore hope and raise life from death as we reimagine life and as we find new ways to live in a changed world. What can we do to rebuild hope in our families, and community?
Cleansing the leper was a simple way of saying bring back the outcast – those who are ritually unclean, whose lives had put others at risk. This is an enormous task in our society today – it is about giving people back their worth – drawing them back into the community where they can be loved and cared for. Again, people need emotional support, the pandemic has caused physical isolation, emotional isolation and spiritual isolation. We all need to reach out to our neighbours and love them back into the community. People are living with guilt, shame, and fear. As people emerge from isolation, as survivors of the pandemic reintegrate with society after their illness they need to be welcomed back. Whom do you need to reach out to, even if it is via text message or from 1.5m away – you can bring back a broken hearted person a shunned person a person living in isolation.
Driving out demons – or drive out evil – we should understand this broadly to include negative thinking, addiction, corruption, criminal behaviour, in fact anything against God’s will. Our antidote for the evil of this world is the Love of God. We have seen how criminal activity is rife in our community. Corruption is at its most basic level – using what is meant for the common good for your own selfish gain. Or using something for a purpose that it was not intended for. Driving out corruption can begin with us! We can drive out evil by sowing love. By caring for each other, by living for each other and not just for ourselves.
What “evil” needs to be driven out of your life and the life of your family and community. What things are allowing evil to prosper in your life? What affections or conditions make it easy for evil to be present in your life? Repent and allow Jesus to heal you, give you new life and draw you back into his love.
Verses 9 and 10 call us to live simply and not be overly concerned about material wealth. Our consumer culture is all about material gain and status is measured by the clothes you wear, the car you drive and the cellphone that you have, but we are called to live simply, to not chase material gain but only use what we need and not be wasteful.
Lastly. Jesus warns that even if we go in love and heal the sick and drive out demons and raise the dead, some people will still not accept the love and the life we offer (vs 14), don’t let that deter you, keep sowing love and where it is received keep giving it, and where it is rejected, accept that too and don’t allow others doubt to drown out your faith.
This is not the sort of text that you can easily apply, but it is a command that we are given. As St Francis taught each of us has to respond to it in our own way and do what we believe God is calling us to do.
I pray that each one of us will read this scripture and find ways to make it real for ourselves, find ways to respond in obedience to Christ. As the organised church, we seek to teach and to provide a community that seeks first the Kingdom of God, seeks to do what Scripture teaches and to follow the example set by Jesus, who is our saviour, redeemer and king.
Let us pray.
Father God give us the courage and the strength to make Jesus known through our own lives, to share the love of Christ with all the world and to live simply and devoted to your Kingdom.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.