What does God want from Us?
This weekend’s gospel is a retelling of what happened after the Apostles returned from their first mission, which we heard about last weekend. It was then that Jesus sent them forth with the important ministry of teaching. Yes, He gave them the power and authority over unclean spirits and the capability to heal the sick. But before doing this they had to teach about their Master, explain about the Kingdom of God, and inform them that they were part of Gods plan for salvation. If I can summarize what their “Lesson Plan” might have contained perhaps it was something like this:
God is waiting for Us: Whenever the Good News is taught and preached it must state, from the very beginning, that God is waiting for us to respond to His invitation. Faith is always made available and is never forced because God gives us freewill, and faith must be a decision on our part. I guess you could say, “freely offered and freely received” and the Lord wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s Lesson #1.
God is ready for Us: Did you ever think that God is ready for us, not only go to Him in times of need but also to respond to Him when needed? Sure, there are many things that occupy our time but making ourselves available for Him must be high up on our list of things ‘to do’! We aren’t asked to do the impossible… but the possible, and He allows it to happen. That’s Lesson #2.
God is Blessing Us: This sounds almost too obvious to say but some people, both in the days of the Apostles as well as today, need to be told about this. We take for granted that God loves us, Jesus came to save us, and the Holy Spirit continues to guide our lives. Can you imagine the learning curve that the crowds Jesus’ followers taught and preached to had to navigate? At least in today's world most people know about Christianity even if they are not believers. That’s Lesson #3.
God is sending us: Todays Gospel is not just an anecdote from 2,000 years ago…it still is the ‘plan’ that we follow. As the Apostles were sent out to do their ministry and missionary work, so too are we. Our destination is usually closer to our residences or places of work than theirs was. They had to hit the ‘dusty trail’ and leave home, family, and friends, and seek out people and places to being their message of peace and blessings to. Considering what they were challenged with, we probably have it much easier. That’s Lesson #4.
God is Here: A particularly important detail in our Gospel is that after the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus about their successes, they probably spent a great deal of time bragging about themselves. I’m sure that Jesus patiently listened to them, but He then offers them an invitation to something that was just as important as the activities they performed in His name. He tells them they must go with Him ‘…to a deserted place and rest.’ Although the implication is that they were probably very tired and need a break, it was more than that. Jesus wanted them to rest with Him…to spend time with the Son of God…to be in God's presence and take in some quiet blessings. Isn’t this still an important part of our Christian calling, to spend daily time in God's presence? Of course, it is! Recognizing that God is available to us should remind us that we must return the favor and take time for and with Him. That’s Lesson #5.
So, this is what I think the ‘ faith plan’ was for those first Apostles. What do you think? Are you aware of something that might have been omitted on their “to-do” list? Before you critique my list, make sure that you can say that these things are part of your own experience with God. If they are, then you are more than ready to take the Gospel out to those who are needing to hear it. Be encouraged because we are better prepared for this mission then they probably were. Like them, we are to teach what we believe and not be too concerned with the ‘Lesson Plan’…you should already know it by heart. We follow in their footsteps, pick up where they left off, have already begun the mission, and now it’s time to report back to the Lord about our successes. School may on summer break for our children… but for the children of God there is no such recess!