The Twelve Apostles
10Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
The Mission of the Twelve
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”
When I think of apostles, I think of those closest to Jesus, which of course is to forget what the word means altogether: 'apostle' means 'sent'. Today, in our gospel, Jesus gives the ones to whom he's closest the privilege of being sent.
I think of Jesus, I think of this gospel, and I'm reminded of the words to an old country song: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"
It is a strange thing that the ones closest to Jesus would be sent farthest away, but then it's also strange that the one who would be greatest must be like one who serves. That is, it's a strangeness we've come to expect from this Jesus.
A slight aside: I often hear folks remark that they need more quiet time, time spent close with God--and sure this is a good thing! a true and right instinct--but I seldom hear folks say, "I've spent my time with God, now show me some strangers!"
In fact, a small group of us, a small group from church, meeting on Wednesdays, had been hoping to enter into conversation with folks outside of the Church--non-Christians--we wanted their insights--we longed to hear their stories--when we were suddenly humbled to realize two things:
One: we didn't have many non-Christian friends, even between us,
Two: the non-Christians we did know weren't at all interested in being guinea pigs for a small group in our church.
How can I miss you if you won't go away?
We are called--all of us--to go away.
The theologian and teacher Stanley Hauerwas writes this about apostles and sending:
"Christianity is not a philosophy that can be learned separate from those who embody it. If the truth that is Christ were a truth that could be known 'in principle' then we would not need apostles. But the way the gospel is known is by one person being for another the story of Christ. Jesus summons the disciples to him, and, so summoned, they become for us the witnesses who make it possible for us to be messengers of the kingdom. The disciples are not impressive people, but then, neither are we. Their mission, as well as our own, is not to call attention to ourselves but to Jesus and the kingdom."
To call attention to Jesus and the kingdom--to be sent out--yes, to come--and to be sent out again--this is our calling.
Who was it, I wonder, in your life, who first embodied the story of Jesus for you?
To whom might you embody--to whom might we embody--the story of Jesus still?