“Let us go forth…”
When I was in seminary, we used to talk about the gathered church and the scattered church. The gathered church – everybody together in a church building doing “churchy” things – is much easier to visualize and understand. We know what that looks like; we know how to do it.
The scattered church, on the other hand, is harder to grasp. This is the people of God going forth into the world – into daily life – and living out our Christian values at work, at school, in the neighborhood. It’s every kind word and deed of mercy we offer; every contribution of money; every ethical decision we make; every time we speak out against injustice and prejudice when we see it. Many would say that the scattered church is the most important aspect of our Christian lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is training his disciples to become the scattered church. I’m sure they were much more comfortable just hanging out with Jesus, listening to his wise words and watching him teach and heal people. But Jesus pushed them out of the nest to go do ministry themselves. He sent them without any money or other supports, so they would have to relate to the people they met. Imagine going on a trip without a credit card in your pocket!
When they came home from their “mission experience,” they were pretty excited about what had happened – they taught and healed in Jesus’ name, and many people welcomed their message! Some even wanted to become part of the Jesus Movement – part of the gathered church.
This is the challenge for us who live after Pentecost: to go forth into the world in the power of the Spirit, to speak and act in the name of Jesus, to be the scattered church in a world that desperately needs God’s voice of love and justice. JBM