Reflection – 25 July 2021

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 25 July.

If you’d like to join in our online worship follow this Zoom link. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85061262911?pwd=SjFoODcvOVdFZUhTengxRVRkNzJPUT09

Our worship session starts at 11.00 British Summer Time.

Mark

Take off your shoes!
We are standing on holy ground.
Shake off the dust!
We are ready to start afresh.
Let us worship God and receive Christ’s teachings,
that we may be renewed and strengthened
to share God’s love with the world.

Opening Prayer

As Jesus sent the disciples out into the communities,

so we are sent to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.

We are eager to share your love, without expecting a reward.

We realize will not always be made welcome.

When that happens,

let us move on

because there are many more places that need to receive your grace.

May your Spirit speak through us in truth.

Lord Jesus, equip us for the journey, we pray. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

As it’s café service here’s the quiz.

Can you identify these double acts?

You’ll find the answers at the end

We’ll come on later to why we are looking at double acts today, but I thought it gave me a good excuse to share this with you. This is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen in television. Perfection in comedy.

Morecambe and Wise from their 1979 Christmas Show.

So we’ve had a couple of weeks away from looking at the different ways the gospel writers record the same stories. I thought I’d go back to another one today.

Let’s have our reading

Mark 6:6-13

The Mission of the Twelve

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

That’s Mark’s version of this familiar story. And as we know it’s almost certain that Mark’s version came before Matthew’s and Luke’s. So let’s have a look at the differences. Here are the three versions.

First of all what do the three versions agree on?

Here are a few of my thoughts

The 12 were together

Jesus gave them authority and sent them out (Apostle means ‘sent out’)

He told them to travel light – what was that about? Plenty of small communities – probably not far from home anyway

He told them to ‘shake off the dust from their feet’ if they went somewhere they weren’t welcome.

They do as they were told

Our first song this morning is a new one that popped up in a monthly list of new songs that I get sent from the Christian Copyright people. The latest list of just 6 songs came in on Wednesday just after I’d decided what to talk about this week and one was called ‘Shake the Dust Off’.

It was clearly meant to be so here it is.

The King can’t lose His balance

He’s never caught off guard

His throne will not be overcome

We’ve never been forgotten

We’re never too far gone

Who lied and told you darkness won

Shake the dust off

Let the fear fall

Turn the light on

Take heart take heart

Let the praise rise

Lift the King high

This is how we fight

Take heart take heart

Repeat

Talk

Having looked at what the Gospel writers agreed about I want to talk for a short time about 2 things that struck me where the accounts differ.

Firstly Matthew adds this text to Jesus’ instructions:

‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

Neither Luke nor Mark record this. There are no limits in their versions as to where the apostles should go and not go.

Why might this be?

Did Jesus say it but Mark and Luke decide it wasn’t important enough to record? Or did Matthew add it in for his own purposes in telling the story as he wanted it to be heard?

Well we’ve talked before about who Matthew’s audience was – he was writing his account of Jesus for the Jews. It’s fairly clear to me that Jesus saw his own mission, at least in the first instance, as to the Jews. Just like the prophets before him Jesus’ message was – ‘you’re missing the point’. God chose this group of people but they were getting so many things wrong, getting tied up with rules and regulations rather than trying to love and achieve justice for all.

The very fact that he was sending out 12 apostles is symbolic – that’s one for each of the 12 houses of Israel – one for each of Jacob’s sons.

And it was the Jews who were expecting there to be a Messiah.

So it’s not surprising perhaps that Jesus might offer an instruction to concentrate on getting his message to the Jews.

There’s another clue from the context. In Mark’s original version the story of sending out the twelve comes immediately after Jesus is rejected by the people closest to him – in his home town of Nazareth. That’s a sure sign that there is a great need to start changing people’s mind with those nearest to him – to the Jews. Jesus comes to bring clarity about God’s message and in this case clarity perhaps should begin at home.

It would not be surprising, then, if Jesus gave these instructions to the apostles and it would suit Matthew to include them. But it would have been most inappropriate for Luke, who was writing primarily for the Gentiles, to include those words in his version. It would send completely the wrong message to them. Later events would make it abundantly clear that Jesus’ message was indeed for everyone.

Secondly Mark has these three short words ‘two by two’.

Matthew and Luke omit them.

Now this time I don’t necessarily think there is anything that significant going on. It may just be that Matthew and Luke thought it not worth including on the grounds that it’s just plain common sense. I don’t think there were Health and Safety laws in first century Palestine but you just wouldn’t send people out on their own into unknown territory with a message that you know won’t be well received everywhere. Of course they’re going to go in pairs.

But there’s also this, from Deuteronomy chapter 19

A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offence that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.

Jewish law says that a single witness has no standing, but the evidence of two witnesses can be relied on. Against this background if two people go out together, backing each other up, telling the same version of events, then they’ll be much more likely to be believed.

I think there’s important message we can take from these three words ‘two by two’ as well. Something that applies to us today.

The disciples weren’t acting as individuals, but as teams. And today it’s us that are the apostles for Jesus. We are the ones being ‘sent out’ to do things. And we need to work as teams sometimes too. Because we all have different skills and abilities (and different shortcomings and weaknesses come to that.)

Let’s go back to Morecambe and Wise. There are several reasons why they worked together so well.

One is that they complemented each other. There’s no doubt that Eric Morecambe was intrinsically the funnier of the two men. But if you’d cloned him and had a duo called Morecambe and Morecambe it wouldn’t have worked nearly so well. He needed another type of character to work against. Ernie Wise wasn’t exactly a straight man but the slightly pompous, whilst still ridiculous figure he portrayed just made Eric’s clowning all the funnier.

Another is that they trusted each other. They had some brilliant scripts, but either one of them might ad lib – make a bit up on the hoof – and the other one had to be able to react to it. Each could trust that the other one wouldn’t complain if something happened off script. So long as it was funny they’d back each other up all the way.

A third thing is that they got along together very well. They were friends as well as work colleagues. That made the partnership much, much stronger.

And finally neither of them considered themselves better that the other. It didn’t matter that people might laugh more at what Eric said or did than at Ernie. What mattered is that people laughed. They got the results they were looking for by working with and for each other.

That’s the way successful double acts and successful teams work. That’s why Jesus didn’t send out individuals.

Because it’s not about the individuals that are doing the work – it’s all about doing what needs to be done.

We’re going to close with a song we’ve had before. It’s a different version this time of the song ‘You shall go out with joy.’

You shall go out with joy

And be led forth with peace

The mountains and the hills

Will break forth before you

There’ll be shouts of joy

And all the trees of the field

Will clap, will clap their hands

And all the trees of the field

Will clap their hands

The trees of the field

Will clap their hands

The trees of the field

Will clap their hands

While you go out with joy

Time for Prayer

Intercessions

Closing prayer

God,

just as You called King David so long ago,

so You call each one of us

to speak and act on Your behalf in our world today.

Forgive us when we are hesitant to follow:

when we question Your call

or make excuses for our abilities;

when we complain about our lack of time

or hoard our resources.

Give us courage to step out in faith,

to go where you send us without hesitation or fear,

trusting that Your presence goes with us,

and that You will provide all that we need.

Amen.

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

If anyone has any questions or comments about the above, or would like to talk to me about it don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mark Taylor

07954 172823

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

Quiz Answers

  1. Morecambe and Wise
  2. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
  3. Tom and Jerry
  4. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor
  5. Laurel and Hardy
  6. The Two Ronnies
  7. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson
  8. French and Saunders
  9. Ant and Dec
  10. Dalziel and Pascoe

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