Matthew 10:16-22

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:16-22

Next month will include the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Like all birthdays, it will feel like a big deal in many corners of the world and like just another day in others. As a Lutheran, it means something to me. It means an opportunity to reflect on what it means for me to be a Lutheran, on what earthly good has come from this experiment. Today, reading these verses, I think first of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

For the Roman Catholic Church at the time, the “church was where the bishop was.” The church was conceived of as a hierarchical structure. Something significant happened when a man was ordained to be a priest. He was given special authority and abilities that he hadn’t previously had. He was literally closer to God than he used to be. Luther found that fishy.

For Luther, the “church was gathered around Word and Sacrament.” Ordained bishops and pastors fulfilled a different function within Christian community. Every baptized Christian was ordained in their baptism – their first and primary ordination – to be a representative of Jesus in the world. This remains a sticky issue in ecumenical conversations today.

I say all of that because it is what came to mind when I first read about the suffering that the disciples could expect as Jesus sent them out. It reminded me of the things I was afraid about when I graduated from the seminary and got my first call to Zion Lutheran Church in Houston. I was afraid of many things, all of which could be described as “performance anxiety.” I worried about whether I had what it takes. Whether people would like me or not. Whether I would destroy any congregation foolish enough to extend a call to me.

What I did NOT fear was being handed over to councils or flogged in synagogues or dragged before governors and kings. Throughout history, in many corners of the world, for many different reasons, Christians have been so persecuted. That continues today. But not for me. At least not so far.

I certainly can appreciate trusting that God will give us the words to say when we are called upon to say them. That has been my experience for a long time now. I trusted that when I sat down at my keyboard this morning. But what this means for me is not the antidote to writers’ block but the reassurance that God is with us, in us, and working through us, every step of our baptismal journey. We don’t travel alone and we don’t travel unprepared. We just get confused by overpacking for the trip. We take too much stuff that we really don’t need.

And finally I appreciate the encouragement to endure to the end. That is increasingly meaningful today as virtually everything in our lives seems so voluntaristic and temporary, constantly playing off against our fleeting feelings, our sense of entitlement, and cold calculations of “what’s in it for me?” This text teaches me the value of hanging on, of hanging in there, and of hanging together. Jesus has grabbed us and he is not going to let us go.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, whatever role we play in your church, we trust that you are the one who leads and guides us. May we recognize you in the face of our neighbors and may others see you in us. Give us words when we need them, encourage us to act in loving ways when given the chance, and fill us with resolve when the going gets tough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 10:16-22”

  1. Sharon Says:

    When you said earlier that you were having a procedure, we had no idea that you were having heart surgery. I am in a rehab place after a fractured scapula and a pacemaker. Nothing like you had. Bless you for sending the devotions. Much food for mind and heart.

  2. Donna Koska Says:

    You have come so far since those first years at Zion. It has been a blessing to be along for the ride. Praying for your continued recovery.

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