Text: Mark 6:6-13 on the occasion of the Admission to Holy Communion of four young people
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Our gospel today tells the story of Jesus sending out his disciples, to spread the good news of his Kingdom to the surrounding villages and towns. The disciples have lived with Jesus for some time, heard his teaching, seen mighty wonders, and witnessed the intimacy of his life of prayer to the Father. Now it is their turn to take over, and I can’t help but wonder how they might have felt.
I don’t really like the idea of being sent anywhere, I’d much rather choose for myself, thank you very much. I remember when I was a teenager, my little brother would be sent to bed each evening. Because of the positions of the bathroom, the open-backed stairs and the TV he always managed to drag going to bed out, to get to see a whole extra TV program. He was afraid that by going to bed he would miss something more exciting. We too can feel afraid, that we might miss out on all that the world has to offer, if we choose to obey Jesus command. If you ask non-believers what they think about Christianity a good number will tell you it’s about being good, obeying a load of rules that mean you can’t have any fun, and it’s boring.
The disciples probably also felt that they didn’t know what to say or do. They had seen and heard Jesus teaching and performing miracles. Mark’s gospel has already told the stories of Jesus calming the storm, the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, demons being driven out of a man and into the herd of pigs, that ran over the cliff, the healing of the woman who had been bleeding for years. So the disciples have already seen all of this. He has taught using fabulous stories that capture the imagination, that we are still inspired by 2000 years later, the parables of the sower, and the mustard seed. And now he’s telling them its their turn. Jesus was different, they knew they couldn’t do that. I bet they were terrified of getting it wrong. Can you imagine the embarrassment standing there telling a leper to be clean, and nothing happening.
He wasn’t even letting them go with any kind of back up. No plan B, no cash to buy some medicine for anyone they failed to heal, not even an extra coat if the weather turned nasty, or a snack in case they got hungry. He even warned them that lots of people were not going to welcome them and their message.
So I suspect that the disciples felt reluctant, nervous, and totally inadequate. But still they obeyed him and went.
This is the pattern of life with Jesus, in his community the church. We gather together for the Mass, to spend time with God, in worship and prayer, to receive the sacrament and then we are sent out. In fact the word Mass comes from the same root as mission and dismiss, and means sent. One of the prayers that we regularly use at college after communion says
“Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.” After we are fed at the Lord’s table today we too will be sent out
If you listened closely to the gospel you will have heard that the disciples were sent out in pairs. We are not sent out alone from the mass either. In receiving communion, which Cara, Erin, Jessica and Sophie will be doing for the first time today, we receive Jesus body and blood, and become part of his body, so we can never be alone. All other food that we eat becomes part of us. When we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus we become part of him.
And then we will be sent out into the world with Jesus, to school, to work, to go shopping, to the cafe, to our homes and families, friends and neighbours, with the good news that the Kingdom of God is near.
So what happened when the disciples went obediently? They found that they too could perform miracles in Jesus name. Life was more exciting than they could possibly imagine. They might have thought that they were insignificant and didn’t have the power or ability to change anything, yet when Herod, the King and political ruler of Judea, heard of what they were doing he was scared. The powers of this world still do not understand the Kingdom of God. The abolition of the slave trade, the Fairtrade and trade justice movements, the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, all happened because people obeyed the call to proclaim the good news that God loves everyone equally.
And so today with great joy we welcome Cara, Erin, Jessica and Sophie to the feast of the Kingdom, to be fed for the journey out to proclaim the good news that life as a friend of God, and part of Jesus Body is more exciting than you can possibly imagine.