Matthew 9:35-10:15/ Genesis 18:1-15
Hope of God’s Reign
These days, I am thinking of what George Floyd said as he was being choked by a police officer; “I can’t breathe.” I can’t breathe metaphorically because it is utterly exhausting living daily as a person of colour in this part of the world. Almost 70 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and the civil rights movement started in the United States, we are still experiencing systemic racism, as well as more subtle racism that comes in the form of microaggression. We live in a society where people of colour live as second-class citizens. Of course, since Rosa Parks, a lot has changed for African Americans; but at the same time, little has changed. The trauma from the pandemic got worse by the racial trauma that caused another Black Lives Matter movement. We can’t breathe. We are frustrated. We are exhausted. We are traumatized. In this social climate, I find myself being overtaken by negative thoughts and emotions. It is not easy to keep up our hope and soldier on. I find myself needing more prayer than usual just to keep myself from drowning in frustration and despair.
After experiencing the death and resurrection of Jesus, after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit for which the first disciples had to patiently wait, we are now reflecting on the hope of God’s reign; the hope that belongs to God. The Bible and our history are full of stories of unlikely dreams and hopes coming true. Today, we start from the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were old and without children. According to the Bible, Sarah was barren. But then, a lot of barren cases in the Bible were supposed to be the women’s fault. God promised Abraham a son from his wife, but since it was not humanly possible, they doubted. In today’s story, Sarah laughed because that promise seemed ridiculous. Listen to what the Lord said to these doubting humans; “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
I learned that hope is faith in action. We can hope in unlikely situations because we have faith. Do you think enslaved Africans ever believed their children could become, not only free, but important leaders of the society? Do you think gay people hiding in the closet and loving in secret ever believed that they would one day legally marry each other and adopt children? We’re hearing a lot of rhetorical questions today because the answers are obvious. Nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. No dream is too impossible for the God who loves justice. This is the hope of God’s reign.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we see the disciples of Jesus being sent out to build the kingdom of God in their society. Not unlike us, Jesus and his people were living in a time that felt without hope. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” Jesus said in verse 9. Then he sends his disciples out. If we read on after 10:8, Jesus warns them about the danger of the world into which they are being sent; they are like sheep being sent into the midst of wolves. In this scary mission, they are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The disciples are to remain pure in heart, but not so innocent as to become trampled by the wolves; they also have to be wise as serpents. In activism, sometimes, peaceful protesters deal with the police force that uses violence against them. In that case, being wise as serpents might mean, the protesters fight back and demand their civil rights. It’s like peace keeper troops taking arms, not to invade or attack, but to protect the vulnerable.
Jesus was worried about the world into which he was sending his disciples. They were being sent into the midst of wolves. Jesus would be worried about us if he were alive today. No, because the Holy Spirit replaced the human Jesus, we can say that the Holy Spirit is worried about us even as we are sent out into our world to spread God’s love and justice. I can tell you as a person of colour, it is not easy to picture a North American society in which people of colour are truly equal as white people. However, I learned from my university years when I was a student activist, that even when things look bleak today, we carry on guided by the hope for a just society. Today from the Bible, we hear the same message. Let us hope the hope that belongs to God, not to humans. Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Of course not. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the reign of God, the reign of love and justice is possible; God just needs more laborers for the job. So, today, I invite you to join me in this hope for God’s reign. Let us never stop hoping and working to turn our community into God’s kingdom of love and justice. Come Holy Spirit and make us ho*pe and dream, and act. Amen.