Matthew 10:5-15 (CEB): Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. Workers deserve to be fed, so don’t gather gold or silver or copper coins for your money belts to take on your trips. Don’t take a backpack for the road or two shirts or sandals or a walking stick. Whatever city or village you go into, find somebody in it who is worthy and stay there until you go on your way. When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace!’ If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if the house isn’t worthy, take back your blessing. If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city. I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than it will be for that city.
A couple of thoughts. Firstly, I have a real problem with traveling salesmen preachers who beg for financial assistance so they can continue God’s work. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is quite clear that we aren’t supposed to be making money off the Gospel. Sure, ‘workers deserve to be fed’ but that rests in the hand of God. I have been at too many services where the traveling preacher is dressed better, owns a better home, drives a better car, and has more money than most people in the congregation. Yet, they have the indecency to ask for money.
That’s one of the things I like about the Lindisfarne Community. Our clergy don’t get paid for being clergy. We are called to be bi-vocational, ontological priests. This helps relieve the burdens of others. Now, certainly, if the ones for whom we are serving wants to make financial donations, that’s one thing. But to stand up and say things like, ‘I can’t continue in this ministry without your financial support’ is an outrage. I think, we as the congregation, should ‘shake the dust from our feet as [we] leave’ the service and not go back while that person is there!
Secondly, there is the last sentence, ‘I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Judgment Day than it will be for that city’ who refuses to welcome or listen to the message of the Gospel. This has always been seen as ‘proof’ that there are degrees or levels to ‘Hell’ (which is understood to mean ‘eternal conscious torture’). However, the only thing that it supposes is that there are degrees of punishment. That is, all judgement is not the same. Just like in our own society, we do not have a blanket sentencing for all crimes that are committed (stealing a piece of candy does not get the same punishment that a child rapist and murder gets). ‘The punishment must fit the crime’ as the saying goes. It appears that Jesus is stating the same from this passage. And that, taken with the account that the end result of punishment is to correct not destroy, serves to show us that even the judgement of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ and those who rejected the words and actions of the disciples is not eternal conscious torture but corrective in nature that leads to faith and good deeds.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC