Becoming More Fully Human

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Third Sunday after Pentecost/Year A: June 21, 2020
Proper 7/Gospel: Matthew 10:24-39

THANKS BE TO GOD!! WCEC’s first Sunday gathered as a community since March 8. 10:30 a.m. Mass. Celebrant/Preacher: Mother Adrienne Hymes (“The Divine Winner’s Circle”, Matthew 10:40-42). Lay Ministers: Dr. Jeanette Rollins, Mrs. Herfa Roach; Mr. Warren Groomes; Mr. Pete Soto, Mrs. Sharon Soto, Mr. LeGrand Jones, Ms. Chris O’Donnell, Ms. Karen Bauer. Music: Ms. Gina Spano, Ms. Katherine Knippel. Join us next Sunday in-person (reserve seat by 5pm on Saturday at www.wcepiscopalchurch.org) or online here on Facebook Live!

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, June 28, 2020

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is a saying that is often attributed to Buddha and theosophists, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Teachers appear in many forms and in many contexts. Beyond their work with specified curricula, teachers are, at their core, change agents. These change agents impart knowledge to individuals; meet those individuals where they are in their ability to optimally receive the knowledge; and encourage the use of that knowledge to catalyze change. In order for the knowledge transfer to take place, there must exist a readiness by the student to be taught.

In our gospel passage in Matthew, Jesus, the change-agent teacher, held a session with his 12 disciples in the Discipleship 101 class. “A disciple is not above the teacher…it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher…” said Jesus (10:24). In what probably felt like an ordinary teaching session, Jesus presented to his disciples a litany of expectations for the extraordinary lifelong discipleship to which they had been called.

Disciples were to become like their teacher, so what Jesus did, in his public ministry, and what would be done to him, was to be understood as the model for his disciples’ lives which included persecution. In light of this reality, Jesus told the disciples not to fear those who have a limit to what they can do; human beings can only destroy the body, not the soul. Rather, they should fear the limitless Being with the power to destroy the body and the soul.

Then, there’s the eschatological parallel (of the now and the not yet) that the teacher, Jesus, presented, which is noticeable by the shift in verb tenses. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus now, Jesus will acknowledge before his Father in heaven; but whoever denies Jesus before others now, he will deny before his Father in heaven. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.

The teaching goes deeper into the source of what would cause an otherwise faithful disciple to waver and deny Jesus—and that is the temptation to hold on to one’s attachments to people and things of this temporal world. Inherent in being Jesus’ disciple is the necessity to cut the ties with anything and anyone that an individual might place above God. God requires unwavering loyalty that surpasses all other loyalties in a person’s life. That extraordinary loyalty requires turning away and detaching. In doing so, one takes up their cross and follows Jesus, willingly dying to the oppression of this sinful world, and turning toward the freedom of life in Christ.

This dying to the self is necessary in order to rise again in one’s new life of discipleship now and in the life yet to come with God. In our epistle, Paul’s letter to the Romans, reminds us that it is through baptism that we die to sin and are made alive to God in Christ Jesus—uniting the baptized with Christ in his death and uniting the baptized with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:5). This is indeed good news!

It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher. If we, as faithful people, have set before us, the expectation that we are to be like Christ, it is imperative that we remind ourselves, and each other, about who Jesus is. In the person of Christ, the divine and the human natures are unified. That means that the nature of Jesus is 100% divine and 100% human. I have encountered many people of faith, who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, yet do not fully comprehend his identity. Faithful people must guard against solely focusing on the divinity of Jesus, and ignoring his humanity.

Emphasizing the miraculous healings of Jesus over his human emotion of compassion, which led him to stop and notice the suffering of ordinary human beings in the first place, misperceives the purpose of Jesus’ earthly mission.

In the midst of these extraordinary times in the life of humanity, and in our society, which more often reflects the degradation of humanity, we must look to the human nature of Jesus who came to teach and model for us what it means to be more fully human. Too often the tendency for 21st century disciples is to glorify the miraculous and be blind to the ordinary smile that can be miraculous, for those in society who are invisible. Or, how a caring touch can feel miraculously healing for the untouchable.

Jesus modeled how to be more fully human by his teaching, preaching and healing; and how he fiercely loved all people—those suffering on the margins, and even those in power who persecuted him. Imagine a society in which human beings love each other so much that crimes against humanity, racial and socioeconomic injustices, and anything that denies the dignity human beings, simply cannot be conceived.

Consider then, my fellow evangelists, what a miracle the gospel teaching can be to souls in the depths of despair—souls where there exists a student ready to be taught. It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and to be powerful agents of change in the lives of individuals, who are then formed by the community of faith, into the full stature of Christ. It is also a life-long commitment to be taught by Jesus and to serve as an instrument for His teachings which bring about the wholeness of humanity, not its destruction.

A commentary on the cost of discipleship by William Barclay tells a story about someone who was talking to a great scholar about a certain young man. The person said to the scholar, “So and so tells me that he was one of your students.” The great scholar answered, “He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students.”

May our lives in Christ reflect the truly divine, truly human nature of Jesus Christ, so that when we see him face to face, He will know that, as people who claim to be his disciples, we didn’t just attend the Sunday lectures; Christ will affirm that we were indeed his students.

Amen.