← back to list

    Jul 08, 2018

    Sending Forth Two by Two

    Sending Forth Two by Two

    Passage: Mark 6:1-13

    Speaker: Pat Botelle, Lay Speaker

    Category: Discipleship

    What does sending forth disciples two by two look like in your congregation now? (from Preaching Notes for July 8, 2018)

    For the past four Sundays, Pastor Vivian has talked about the five stones needed to conquer our giants. As a reminder, the five stones are a picture (vision), our tools (gifts), a plan, our training and our nerve.

    As we looked at the story of David and Goliath, we saw how David was prepared with these five stones. Our scripture lesson today talks about Jesus and sending out the disciples two by two to “proclaim that all should repent.” Jesus “ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” This certainly does not sound like Jesus was preparing his disciples the way we learned that David prepared. However, if we look closer at the book of Mark and what came before this scripture, we learn that Jesus, indeed, prepared his disciples for what was to come. 

    Before we look at how the disciples were prepared, what do you think the giant was that they were going to conquer? I think the giant was getting people to believe that Jesus had fulfilled the scriptures. 

    In their preparation to conquer this giant, the first stone is having a clear picture or vision. The book of Mark begins with the start of Jesus’ ministry. There is no birth story. No stories of Jesus as a young boy at the temple. It begins with John the Baptist declaring that one will come who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit”.  Jesus says in Chapter 1, verse 15 “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” This is the vision. 

    The second stone is “figure out your tools.”  What were Jesus’ tools? His disciples. Jesus knew he could not do this alone. He needed help. He needed people who believed in him and in his ministry. He called twelve men to be “fishers of men.” On the surface, however, we may question what Jesus saw in these fishermen, tax collectors and zealots he called to be his disciples. We do know they all accepted the call and followed. Jesus knew what gifts these men possessed, I’m sure the disciples didn’t have a clue what they were getting into. In fact, I don’t think they fully realized their gifts until the day of Pentecost came and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was when the vision stopped being Jesus’ vision and started being the vision of the disciples. 

    Next Jesus needed to develop a plan and train for success. I’m sure Jesus had a plan, it’s just not outlined in the scriptures. The author of Mark does give us extensive detail about the training the disciples had. Starting in chapter one until the end of chapter five, Mark tells story after story of Jesus healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching, and challenging the scribes and Pharisees. The disciples were there to see and hear everything Jesus did. 

    Chapter six starts with Jesus being rejected by his hometown. This is not the first time that the gospel of Mark tells of Jesus being rejected and thought crazy or thought to be overstepping his bounds. After all, he was not a trained teacher or rabbi but a carpenter. What right did he have to interpret the scriptures? The crowd even brings doubt about Jesus’ birth by calling him the “son of Mary” implying he had no legitimate father.

    This is the final lesson the disciples learn before being sent out. Not everyone will accept you. You are not to let that get to you. Keep your nerve (our fifth stone).  Stay the course. Stay focused. 

    Then Jesus sends them out two by two. I wonder how he chose whom to send together. Did he keep brothers together or separate them? Did he send a young Peter out with a more mature disciple to keep him focused? I’m sure Jesus knew who would complement who and paired them accordingly. Then he said, don’t take anything with you but the clothes on your back, your sandals and a staff. This sounds harsh to our 21st century ears. But remember, hospitality was the norm at this time. Welcoming strangers into your home was expected. Jesus had lived this way himself, so disciples had experience with living the itinerant life . 

    And they were successful. Verse 13 tells us they cast out demons and cured the sick. 

    While preparing for this week’s message, I found this question on the UMC Discipleship website as part of the preaching notes for today’s scripture: What does sending forth disciples two by two look like in your congregation now?  I asked some who are involved in our outreach ministries how their ministry got started. I found each ministry’s success is loosely based on the same five stones we’ve been talking about. Some of the giants that these ministries are conquering are hunger, lack of community and homelessness. And while they are not just groups of two, most ministries started small and grew over time. 

    The visions are simple – feed the hungry, build community, help the homeless. Some of the visions came from other people, usually a pastor, asking them if they would be willing to try something. Our coffee houses started when Pastor Vivian asked Darlene Gobrecht to take over the praise band, Washed Anew. The food pantry started with George and Marguerite Maynard and some shelves in what is affectionately called the “Old Kitchen”. Pastor Dick Harden asked the VIM team if they would be willing to provide light refreshments for the Mission of Mercy staff. 

    Some visions are more personal. Linda Finley knew something needed to be done for the homeless community in Reisterstown. Lani Hoffmann felt a call to go beyond providing bags of food to welcoming people into our “home” for a meal. 

    The tools or gifts are as varied as the ministries. Some can cook, organize, play instruments or sing. Like the disciples, there were times when they probably didn’t fully realize their gifts but answered the call anyway. The biggest gift that everyone who is involved in ministry gives is the gift of time. A willingness to give time to see what will develop.  Lani said she likes working with a partner, she feels stronger and she tries to pick someone who has skills she doesn’t have. She asked Mary Chase to partner with her. Lani is the organizer and Mary is the cook. The Community Lunch team has grown from two to six with others coming and going as schedules permit. 

    The initial plans for these ministries were probably not as well defined as a business plan or construction project plan, but things happened and continue to happen. Sometimes plans had to change, but God always provided. 

    Mission of Mercy lunch started out as soup and sandwiches and developed into casseroles, soup, egg salad, garden salad, bread and desserts. The group started around twenty years ago with six people serving lunch once a month and now there are two different teams of people serving 140 to 160 meals a month and involving 30 to 40 different people over the years. They also get support from community businesses that provide the bread and desserts. 

    Our food pantry has expanded from a few shelves in the old kitchen to a well-organized separate space at 308 Main Street. Plans have had to change as the food pantry has grown. It is open regular hours and serves hundreds of clients each month. The number of volunteers has grown as well. They also partner with other organizations like the Maryland Food Bank and Wawa to provide the food needed for the families. 

    His Hands and Feet – our homeless ministry – started out taking food and basic supplies to the homeless in our neighborhoods. While it worked for a while, circumstances prevented the ministry from continuing. Rather than giving up, they regrouped and started the weekly shower ministry. Sponsored by the United Methodist women, this ministry offers a safe place for the homeless to gather to get refreshed, get some food and feel accepted and cared for. The plans changed completely, but the vision remained the same. 

    Training for all our ministries is ongoing. Each gift a person brings will be worked with and new people are helped and instructed by those that have been doing things for a while. 

    Which brings us to their nerve. Some ministries may not appear to need as much nerve as others, but all need some level of nerve. Some had to deal with naysayers when starting their ministry. Some had to deal with contention and upheaval among the members and the congregation. Some had to deal with personal safety issues and stepping outside their comfort zone. Some ministries were an immediate success, so momentum is easy to maintain, some ministries had to survive on the nerve of the organizers to persevere until the new ministry caught hold. 

    All stepped out in faith and answered God’s call. 

    Now we come back to the first part of our scripture lesson:  how have we, the members of the RUMC church family, reacted? Were we astounded that some of these ministries were successful? Did we take offense? Did we list all the reasons why the ministry would not work? Did we discourage with our unbelief? Fortunately, for us, those supporting these ministries did not shake the dust off their feet and leave. However, how many ministries or ministry ideas are not successful or even started because of our unbelief? 

    At our Church Council meeting in June, we discussed two new ministries. There is a vision for each and small groups of people are figuring out what tools are needed, and plans are being developed. God is constantly challenging RUMC to reach out to the community around us. Both ministries will help us do that. 

    It is not only new ministries that need us to step out two by two. We have existing ministries that are suffering for lack of support. We all need to be more willing to let God take control and provide what we need when we step out in faith. 

    Jesus could not do mighty works in his hometown because of the unbelief of his family and friends. We all know how discouraging it is when we don’t get support for something we are trying to do, especially if we need support from our family – at home or at church.  Jesus’ ability to do mighty works didn’t go away. He still had the authority to do mighty works. I think he was heartbroken and discouraged and that made it hard for him to use his ability to do anything. Likewise, if we as a faith family are not supportive and encouraging, the ministries of RUMC will not be successful and people will “shake off the dust” and move on. We also need to welcome new ideas and encourage those who step out. 

    The disciples were successful with just a staff, their sandals and the clothes on their backs. Jesus had trained them, mentored them and gave them the authority.  They were also welcomed in the places they went, and their message was received. We have been given the same tools and mentor the disciples were given – Jesus Christ — and faith that God will provide for all our needs as we step out two by two.