When I was serving in my first congregation in Tama, Iowa I led Sunday afternoon worship services at the nearby county home.
This residential home, for those with disabilities, had services every Sunday afternoon that were led by the area pastors.
When it was my turn to lead the worship services, I truly found those worship experiences to be very meaningful and deeply spiritual.
It was an opportunity for me to share the good news of the Gospel with the residents at that place.
Many of the residents there were so happy to have that simple service.
In fact, when I walked into the building some of the residents would yell to each other:
“Church is here!”
“Church is here!”
“Church is here!”
To the people of that place I was the church to them.
I was seen by the people as not simply Tom Dowling walking into the building but I was actually seen as the church coming to the people.
I love the memories that I have of leading those simple services at the county home.
Whenever I recall those services at the county home and the voices of the people when I arrived, “Church is here!” “Church is here!” I remember once again that I am called and sent to be the church in world.
And it is not only me that is called to be the church in world.
All of God’s people are called and sent into the world to be the church.
The word apostle in the Bible means those who are sent.
Apostles are sent with a mission which is to tell others about Jesus and about God’s ways in the world.
From the Gospel reading from Matthew for today we see that the mission that God sends us on is centered around two callings – on healing others and on speaking about God’s kingdom.
What does this look like right now to heal and to speak about God’s kingdom?
First, let’s consider this healing work that God sends us out to do for others.
In the Gospel reading Jesus gives authority to his apostles over the unclean spirits and he gives them authority to heal those with diseases and sicknesses.
When I was in seminary I worked for a short time as an intern chaplain at Gunderson Hospital in La Crosse.
When I first started visiting with patients in their rooms or when I was paged to the ER to offer pastoral care, I can remember thinking to myself by what authority am I doing this work?
Will the people even listen to me?
Will the prayers for healing be heard by God?
And who am I anyway to offer healing and prayer for these people in need?
To make matters worse sometimes I was not welcomed as a chaplain.
Sometimes I would enter a room and then I would be asked to leave the room.
But as my work continued at the hospital, I began to see that God was calling me to be a healing, non-anxious presence for the patients.
I was to listen to their needs, to read them Scripture, and to offer prayers of healing.
And if I wasn’t welcomed in one room, I would often find that in the next room I would be welcomed.
Jesus’ words from the Gospel became true in that my peace would return to me if I was not welcomed and if I was welcomed, I would leave God’s peace upon the visit.
Now in the world today think about how much this work is needed.
There are people who are sick.
There are those who are suffering from the evils of racism.
There are those who are struggling with mental illness.
There are those who are lonely and afraid.
Jesus says to his people, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus is asking us here to pray this prayer and then to be the answer to this prayer.
Can you be the answer to this prayer?
Can you be a worker in this harvest?
This coming week how can you put this prayer into practice?
How could we reach out and offer a healing word or a healing prayer?
Might the Lord be sending us out to do this healing work that he first called his disciples to do?
During this time of social distancing we have learned that there are still many ways that we can connect with others.
In fact, we are even being encouraged now to use the term physical distancing instead of social distancing.
This is because we are simply not to be in the same space as other people not that we should not be social anymore.
We are still to be connecting with one another even at this time.
At this time, we are to be the church outside of this building.
Church is here, church is here, church is here.
We are indeed the church even outside of this building.
Our Lord is still sending his followers to do kingdom work.
Let me give you this example.
Think about the healing power of prayer.
Prayer is so powerful that we do not even need to be in the same room as the person we are praying for.
We can offer a healing prayer for a person even if we live in a different country as that person.
We know this to be true.
There are no walls that can stop a prayer.
No distance that can stop a prayer.
Even science backs up what we already know by faith.
Time and time again studies have shown that patients in hospitals that are prayed over even from a distance heal faster and heal better.
But we already know this to be true by faith.
We believe in God’s healing power in our lives.
We already believe in the power of prayer.
We know that God sends us out to bring more healing and love into the world.
This is something that we can do.
By what authority do we do this work?
By the very authority that comes from God!
God gives us the authority to heal and to bring the light of Christ into this world.
Let us be a healing church.
Now let’s consider the message.
God sends us out to give a message to others.
The message that Jesus gives to us is a message of life and hope.
This same message of life and hope is to be shared with others.
We are to bearers of this good news.
We are to offer concrete expressions of God’s caring and love.
As the church we are to be faithful to this task.
We communicate the Gospel through real acts of compassion.
We are concerned for the souls of our neighbors along with their day to day needs.
We share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
And we do all this work by traveling lightly in life.
As Jesus taught us, we must not let the excesses of materialism stand in our way or throw us off track and distract us from that which is most important – sharing the message and offering healing to those in need.
In the church year we have now begun the Time after Pentecost.
During this season of the church year we will dig more deeply into the teachings of Jesus.
We focus on his teachings, we pray for healing, and we live by faith.
God’s call for us here is so strong that it empowers us live out our lives in witness to our faith.
God’s love and future glory awaits us.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!