Marshall McLuhan was a philosopher who was popular in the 1960’s. He is famous for just one thing he said: ‘the medium is the message.’ Meaning: The way we say things is just as important as what we say.
For example: suppose I give you a gift of something I know you will really like. My giving is probably far more important to you than the actual gift. My giving says that I think very highly of you.
This idea is very Christian, and it begins with God. The message of the bible is that God is love. The way God expresses his love is by his Son defeating all the powers of sin and death on the cross. So the way God lets us know he loves us is as important as the message. Jesus is actually both the message and the delivery. He is God’s love note to humanity.
Like Jesus, we can become the means of expressing God’s love. When we say ‘yes’ to God, as Mary did, then Jesus is born in us. We can be Christ for others. They will meet him in us. This is just as important, maybe even more important, than what we might say about Jesus or God to someone who doesn’t know him.
As Jesus chose his 12 disciples and sent them out into the villages of Galilee, he turned them and anyone who follows him into that love note for the world.
Jesus had demonstrated to them what it meant to be God’s love note by the way he lived his own life. It was more than miracles of healing - it was also total acceptance, especially of those whom society had overlooked or rejected. Jesus told his disciples to go out and do the same thing. He told them to ‘heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and drive out demons.’
The Jewish people had lost their vision of God. To recover that vision, they needed to be healed of everything that was keeping him from them. In this way the people would know that the kingdom of heaven was near. As his disciples went about, they became the message, God’s agents in the kingdom of love.
Gertrude Stein, another 20th century philosopher, wrote a poem which includes the words, ‘A rose is a rose is a rose.’ She meant that things are what they are. But some things grow into so much more. Think about a simple football scarf. It’s just a piece of cloth. But it becomes something much greater. Football supporters become part of the team. Their knowledge of the team enlarges their spirit; they become part of something greater than they are; they find meaning for life in the wearing of the scarf.
In a similar way Jesus gives to us the possibility of becoming more than we are. On that day when Jesus sent out the 12 disciples to the surrounding towns, they became larger than they ever could have been by themselves. They became what we look at out of the corner of our eye every Sunday in that stained glass window. They became the Christ of compassion. God would work through the 12 to bring his kingdom near.
It is still this way today for the followers of Jesus. You and I can be instruments of the kingdom of heaven, the instruments of God drawing near. What an extraordinary privilege. It begins in our family. As parents and grandparents we show God’s nature to our children by the way we love them. That is how they get their very first ideas of what God is like. They are held securely in someone’s arms by someone who loves them. The kingdom of God has come near. Sadly we often don’t do this very well for our children.
As we grow older, because of the ups and downs of life, we may lose that sense of the love of God. In the natural course of events, we might find it again in marriage. But this is not true for everyone. Even for those who find a life-giving experience in marriage, it may not last a lifetime. So it is in God’s plan that the church, all of us together who love him, should show the love of Christ, and be the instrument of the kingdom of heaven coming near.
Sadly, the church also often fails to do this very well. A lady vicar in Colorado told her church a story about an aquarium. She said that some Anglicans think that reaching out into the community means constructing a very attractive aquarium next to the ocean and then waiting for the fish to jump in.
Just think for a moment how useless an activity that would be: a public aquarium would cost a lot of money. It would require experts to set up, with the right quality of water, the right feeding to sustain the fish, and viewing opportunities for the public. But imagine further that the plan for stocking the aquarium was simply expecting that the fish would want to come and jump in it. The whole project would seem flawed or incredibly naïve. The church can be like that too, in relation to its community.
God wants to send us out, so that we might be a blessing to others. Jesus chose his 12 disciples as God had chosen the 12 tribes of Israel. He gave the 12 a mission action plan for the building of his kingdom: ‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.’ For the most part, those things are performed quite well today by the medical profession. So our mission action plan might look very different. There are other ways to show that the kingdom of God has come near. Even the smallest amount of faith is sufficient for doing this, because each one of us can love those whom God has placed near us.
We usually expect less of ourselves than of what we are capable. We may not be able to say something obviously Christian, but that may often be inappropriate. Disciples are not sent to be clever. The original 12 were sent out to offer the love of God in concrete ways. That might be as simple as extending the hand of genuine friendship, expecting nothing in return. We become the means of delivery of Jesus’ healing love. And of course it starts right here as we practice on each other, in all the multicultural diversity that is Christ Church.
Jesus said that there are employment opportunities in the harvest of souls. Let us pray God to use our presence in the community, to be a means for the extension of his kingdom. Only by doing so will we be able to say, the kingdom of God has come near, and the means of delivery has become the message, that God is love.