PRELUDE + MEDITATION, Psalm 86:16-17

Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.  Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.


Breathe on us, Holy Spirit. Renew in us a sense of purpose, of a life filled with joy, of a heart drawn to justice and mercy. Move us to compassion, to action, to lead lives of hope. Fill us with Your abundant love, so that we may love those who are hard to love, forgive those that are hard to forgive, and may we be reminded that You love us, forgive us, and renew us, every day. In the name of Jesus, who was filled with Your Spirit and resisted temptation, and full of Your Spirit calls us into New Life, we pray. Amen.


Most wonderful God, our Parent and Friend,
we praise you for the riches of love that enable us to come together
in this house of prayer to celebrate your goodness.
Please lead our truant minds away from petty concerns to larger commitments,
away from tiredness or apathy towards a sense of awe and wonder,
away from self obsession to the holy intoxication of your awesome beauty,
humble power, and your unspeakable love.
We realize we never seem be able to thank, praise and enjoy you
to the heights that we should,
but we do pray to be able give you the best worship that at this
time is possible.
Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

SCRIPTURE               Matthew 10:24-39

24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


Who are your heroes of the faith?  Who has modeled the Christian life?  Who has lived out the love of Christ?  The Apostle Paul?  Dorcas?  C.S. Lewis?  Nathaniel Saint?  Corrie TenBoom?  John Calvin? Billy Graham?  Oscar Romero?  William Wilberforce?  Eric Liddell?  Mother Theresa?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer?  Your parents?  A pastor?  A Sunday School Teacher?   Your next door neighbors?

Clarence Jordan is one of my all-time favorite Christians. He was an agriculture major at the University of Georgia and a Master of Divinity graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also earned a PhD in New Testament. Jordan founded the racially integrated Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia in 1942.

Just to be clear: 1942. You may be familiar with Jordan through his Cotton Patch Gospel translations of the New Testament or because the Habitat for Humanity movement originated from the Koinonia Farm.

To my mind, Jordan’s heroism comes through in his sense of humor. Once accused of fraternizing with Myles Horton, a reputed communist, Jordan retorted, “I really have trouble with your logic. I don’t think my talking to Myles Horton makes me a Communist any more than talking to you right now makes me a jackass.”

Likewise, when the Koinonia community tried selling peanuts from a roadside stand the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the stand. Stubborn like most saints for justice, Jordan put up another stand. It got blown up too. Finally, the Koinonia Farm resorted to mail-order ads: “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia.”1

I begin with Clarence Jordan because if ever there was a text for militant Christians, Matthew 10:24-39 would be the one. Go out in the light, shout from the housetops. Not peace but a sword. Cling not to fathers and mothers but to Jesus, cling not to this life but give your life for the sake of Christ. No middle of the road, conciliatory Christianity here. No compromise, no accommodation, no middle path.

Beyond zealotry, there’s the matter of persecution. Jesus invites his disciples to share his fate. This requires not merely social exclusion and the loss of family, but active hostility to the point of death. Early Christians knew the fear of violent resistance. Jesus encourages his disciples to live beyond fear. They know that God cares for them more than they can possibly care for anything themselves. They likewise know that their confession of Jesus wins them Jesus’ recognition on the last day. These words have brought peace to many a Christian over the years. To me, however, they also bring fear and apprehension. Not once in my life have I found it comforting to be told not to fear. This passage is for those militant Christians who somehow enjoy confronting both fear and power.

But most congregations aren’t made up of militant Christians. Most of us will find it difficult to identify with the disciples as we encounter them in Matthew. Sent out on mission, carrying nothing to provide for or defend themselves and warned of persecution, the disciples seem far removed from us. How may we connect our puny imaginations with the experience related by this text?

Our challenge isn’t primarily exegetical. We understand why early Christians would see themselves as a vulnerable minority in a hostile culture. Jewish followers of Jesus, such as those envisioned by Matthew, would likely find comfort in the reminder of God’s care for them. We understand these things, but we do not relate to them.

Maybe we need to be reminded of heroes in the faith, like those mentioned at the beginning of my sermon, especially those who have endured opposition for the sake of the Gospel. The stories like those of Clarence Jordan – that have a humorous spin – can remind us of our call to live out our faith in Jesus Christ. We must also remember heroes like Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi voting rights activist who was beaten so badly in jail that she could not lie down. Yet Fannie Lou Hamer led a jailhouse choir.

Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.
Had no money for to go their bail, let my people go.
Paul and Silas began to shout, let my people go.
Jail doors open and they walked out, let my people go.2

The history of Christ’s disciples range from comic hope to mortal contemplation, and continues to call the church to imagine the possibilities of faithful discipleship and the dangers that attend it.

Certainly, we will not foster a sappy and sentimental glamorization of suffering for Jesus, the sort of “If we were really following Jesus, we’d be persecuted too,” line of thinking. Matthew remembers people who abandoned home and family to announce the reign of God, in a time and a place where that could get a person killed. Yet that sentimentality bears a certain truth that merits exploration. Even in our society where religion is so effectively tamed, faithful discipleship does occasionally provoke resistance. Some among us do protest militarism, some speak out against de facto segregation in our communities, some express solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. Those persons often claim gospel grounds for their actions. They rarely experience violence as a result, but they know the scorn that comes from family and friends–often from their most churchgoing loved ones. Without sentimentalizing the cost of discipleship as Matthew depicts it, we may name those places where the gospel calls us beyond the zone of comfort into the realm of risk.

Matthew 10:24-39 contains some of the hard sayings of Jesus. Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid, but to be weary of sin—to be like him, and resist the evil in the world. Jesus tells the disciples this will be difficult—to follow Jesus means that families will be divided. “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword” reminds us that to be faithful to God sometimes will cause us to be in conflict with those around us. To love Jesus is to follow Jesus’ ways, to put others before ourselves, to be willing to risk in order to gain. This is not the safe path. This is not the easy way. This is the way of Christ, which is the way that goes to the cross, that puts sin to death.

Following Jesus is not easy. We may be ridiculed, we may be rejected by those around us, even our friends and family. But to be faithful to God, we must live out God’s ways of love, justice and mercy—all of which may seem foolish to the world and to those around us. But if we remain faithful, God is faithful to us.

Commentary provided by Stanley Saunders, Rick Morley, Greg Carey, Mindy Welton-Mitchell, Bruce Pewter, Amy Butler, Colin Yuckman, Victoria G. Curtiss,


Father God, creator and sustainer, we thank you for nurturing us like a mother. We praise you that your care and protection surround us like a father. On this Fathering Sunday, we remember all the people who have nurtured us, especially the important men in our lives, those who have seen, not just with their eyes, but with their heart. Hear our prayer for fathers around the world.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers, whose families are torn apart by jealousy, fighting and misunderstandings. We remember fathers who are older, but who still bear the responsibility of raising children and grandchildren. And we remember fathers who mean well, but make mistakes.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers who are unable to support their children, and are forced into unimaginable decisions, who have to sell a child into marriage or human trafficking in order to feed his other children.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember men who, because of various circumstances, are unable to become fathers. We remember fathers who have adopted children and fathers who given up their rights as fathers.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers who rejoice in the achievements of their children. Who joyfully watch a new generation take hold. We remember fathers who are single parents, who through personal sacrifice and perseverance provide a loving home for their children.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers who helplessly watch their children suffer and die from malnutrition because of famine, drought, flood or war. We pray for the fathers where recent disasters have occurred and those taking their children in hope onto the high seas. We remember fathers whose children are sick or disabled and who will try anything to cure or help them.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for fathers and their children around the world caught in the terrors of violence and living in fear — in Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan. We weep with the fathers of those who inflict violence on others..
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Nurturing God, thank you for those who have nurtured us. Open our eyes to the plight of so many fathers and mothers around the world for whom life is difficult. Help us share your love and mercy with them.
Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the silence of this moment, hear the prayers of our hearts. [pause]
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful God, Mother and Father of us all, honor our prayers, spoken and unspoken, humbly lifted to you in faith.

Help us always, Lord, to remember our promise to you
that we will care for our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.

–who taught us to pray: 

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.  Amen.


As you leave this place, remember that you may be the only grace
someone will meet this week.
We go, to share God’s graciousness with all.
Remember you may be the only love someone will encounter this week.
We go, to be the love of Jesus for all.
Remember you may be the only peace  someone will find this week.
We go, to share the Spirit of hope and reconciliation with all.