20 centuries ago Jesus sent out the 12 – the first, but as we know not the last missionaries of the Church. Today, in just the same way, Jesus will send us out into the world tonight.
Some of his instructions are specific to those men in that moment, some are applicable today. Jesus says to go only to the lost sheep of Israel – His own people who, as St John wrote ‘knew Him not’ (S. John 1.11). But soon, as we know, the Word would spread and across the world – Jew, Gentile, Slave and Free – people would be drawn to Christ and find life in His Church.
But Jesus’ marching orders are still good for us. To go in peace, seeking peace, not wealth or acclaim. To not imagine that wealth, or clever technology, or anything else will be the secret of our success as His disciples and evangelists – instead to know that growth in faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are being called to participate in His work – not imagine that God needs our clever ideas.
The world is certainly just as tumultuous now as it was then. Followers of Jesus are still being beaten, imprisoned and killed. Families and communities still suffer from violence and hatred – for the sake of Jesus, and for the sake of greed, politics and plenty of other reasons too.
But Jesus sent those 12 ordinary men, and He sends us. To do what?
To heal the sick, drive back evil, bring in His light, to proclaim that He and His Kingdom is near at hand and that this news changes everything, for everyone, for ever.
Amongst our evening psalms, and prayers at the close of the day, we pray tonight for healing and wholeness. For ourselves, for someone we know and love perhaps, for the countless children of God who are in pain or distress or sickness tonight across the world.
In the end, it all comes down to a petition we all pray every day, and one we will say again in a few moments time: Thy Kingdom Come.
Jesus sent out the 12 to heal and convert and bring peace and all the rest: all of that is because they were to be living signs of His Kingdom. The healing and faith that Jesus gives then, as now, is not the result of a magic spell, it is a consequence of the spread of the Kingdom. To pray for healing is to pray Thy Kingdom come, and to pray Thy Kingdom come is to pray for healing and wholeness, peace and life, as it will be in heaven.
Like all prayer, it is a mystery.
Like all prayer it is an act of Love.
Like all prayer it is a work of Faith and Hope.
Like all prayer, it is a recognition of the Holy Spirit at work in us – the Holy Spirit who is ceaselessly praying within us (Romans 8.26). The Holy Spirit is within us, praying perfectly – in perfect loving Communion with the Father. The Holy Spirit is at work out there [in the world], bringing the Kingdom of God to its fullness, in every act of faith, hope and love. Our part is to see what is going on – within and without – and join in with the prayer and work of the Holy Spirit. To leave behind (just as the 12 did) ambition and bright ideas, possessions and positions of power – and simply seek first the Kingdom of God, because only then and only when the Kingdom comes in its fullness will we really know life in all its fullness.
Tonight, in our still damaged and confused world, bearing our troubles or the troubles of those for whom we pray, we eagerly pray Thy Kingdom Come. Because only in His Kingdom is true justice and peace, joy, and healing, hope fulfilled and life without end. The Bridegroom is coming, let us go out to meet Him.