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Deanery Licensed Ministers: Sermons

Suitably Qualified?

Sermon Preached at All Saints, Hanworth, on 15/06/2008
Revd Sue Groom, Director of Deanery Licensed Ministers

Proper 6
Reading: Matthew 9:35 - 10:23

Jesus had many disciples. From amongst them he picked out twelve leaders, who were called apostles. Their names are listed in today’s Gospel reading. So, who were these men and what qualifications did they have?

Today, companies screen people for management positions and church authorities screen people for positions of leadership. Let us imagine that Jesus sent the twelve apostles to a firm of consultants for a similar screening. The following report, marked ‘Private and Confidential’, was sent back to him:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for submitting the résumés of the twelve men you have picked for leadership positions in your new organisation. All of them have now undertaken our battery of tests. We have run the results through the computer, and also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologists and vocational aptitude consultants. The results of all the tests are included, and we advise that you study each of them carefully.

It is the opinion of the staff that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. Besides, they do not have the team concept. We have found ample evidence of jealousy and rivalry among them. Therefore, we would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience and proven ability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper – definitely not the man you would want to head your organisation. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. He is just a follower. The two brothers, James and John, are too hot-headed. Besides, they place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would undermine morale. Matthew, the tax-collector is undoubtedly a man of ability, but he would project the wrong image for an organisation such as yours. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus have radical leanings. Hence, their unsuitability.

There is one of the candidates, however, who shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, good with people, he has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. That man is Judas Iscariot. We recommend him as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Yours sincerely,

Jordan Management Consultants.

The assessors had a point. The apostles had some obvious faults and weaknesses. But so what? After all, they weren’t angels, they were imperfect human beings, just like you and me.

The twelve men Jesus chose were just ordinary people. They came from ordinary walks of life – a number of them were fishermen. They had no special qualifications. Far from being perfect, they possessed the same human faults and failings we find in ourselves:

Simon Peter blew hot and cold. At times he was as solid as a rock, as his Greek name petros suggests. But at other times he was more like a blob of jelly. Yet, in spite of everything, his heart was in the right place. At the end of the day, it’s the heart that matters. It is the heart that God looks at, not the outward appearance.

James and John were so hot-tempered that once they wanted Jesus to call down fire and brimstone on a Samaritan village that refused to accept him. They were also full of personal ambition, and wanted to have the top places in Jesus’ kingdom, sitting at his right and his left. This caused dissension amongst the others. Yet Jesus loved them, accepted them and forgave them.

Matthew was a member of a hated class – he was a tax collector for the occupying Romans. Yet when he met Jesus, Matthew had the courage to repent, change around his life and follow him. Simon belonged to a band of people called the Zealots whose aim was to get the Romans out of Palestine. Today Simon would be called a terrorist. Imagine a collaborator with the authorities working with a terrorist!

Thomas earned himself a nickname. He became known as the Doubter. Yet when he saw, he believed. Then of course there was Judas, who actually betrayed Jesus, with a kiss no less. Judas became a traitor through the choices he made in his life. He wasn’t a demon. He was a very ordinary human being who could have become someone very different if he had made different choices in his life.

So there we have the twelve. But, Jesus saw the good in each one of them, even in Judas. It shows that we do not have to be perfect or to possess all the talents in order to be called by Christ.

Choice is a privilege and an honour, but it is also a responsibility. The Israelites were chosen to be a light to the nations. And the apostles too were chosen for a task – to help Christ with the harvest. Through our baptism we are all chosen and called by God.

Do you know what you are chosen for? To what task is God calling you?

Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." It is just as true today as it was two thousand years ago. So many people are searching and experimenting with spiritual experiences. They are like sheep without a shepherd, wandering aimlessly, not quite sure which direction to take.

The harvest is immense. But, there is no need to be discouraged. We need to be realistic. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. For a start we can pray. Apart from the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus doesn’t often tell his followers what to pray for, but this time he does. Go to the farmer, he says, and beg him to send workers to bring in the harvest. After all, the harvest belongs to God and he is the one to choose the workers. But, note that as his followers pray that prayer, the answer comes back surprisingly quickly: you are, yourselves, to be the answer to your own prayer.

As you pray for God to send people to go out into the community of Hanworth and to bring in the harvest to All Saints, do not be too surprised if you discover that you yourself are part of God’s answer! Through our baptism God calls each one of us to serve him. All we need is a heart for God and a willingness to respond to his call.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography
Adapted from Flor McCarthy, New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies: Year A, Dominican Publications, 1998.
As with any sermon, various ideas come together over a period of time and it isn't always possible to retrace my steps to every source of inspiration. I will gladly acknowledge any other sources if brought to my attention. Thank you.

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