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Dear Church Family,

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading saw Jesus sending His disciples out into the local towns and villages to heal, preach, and declare that, in Jesus, God’s Kingdom had come near. This week the story continues as Jesus warns and encourages His friends about what will happen to them for His sake. He is training His followers, to see if they have been paying attention – to see if they have understood just what He is there to do. He demands nothing less than total commitment to Him and His Kingdom because things are going to be difficult.

Jesus tells the disciples three times in the passage, “do not be afraid.” This is an often-repeated instruction in the Bible and for good reason. Jesus repeats it as He seems to know what those around him are thinking as He lays down this challenge.

Don’t be afraid of threats - everything that is said in secret will be made known to all. (Verse 26)

Don’t worry about physical attacks – your soul will be safe! (Verse 28).

Don’t be afraid – you are valuable to God. (Verse 31)

However, fear him who can destroy both the soul and body in hell! In other words – don’t let the dark forces at work in the world lead you into the destruction and death that corrupts the soul. The word Jesus uses for hell in this passage is ‘Gehenna.’ This was a real place that people would have understood as it was the local dump. It was the place outside the city (in which Jews understood God to reside, in the temple) where there was a fire burning 24/7 to get rid of the rubbish. It was hot, fiery and a place of total destruction. It provides a parallel image of Jesus carrying His cross to Golgotha, outside the city to be crucified. Yes, Jesus goes to hell and back in our place.

What Jesus is asking of His disciples (and us as His followers now) is that we continue to put our faith in Him wholeheartedly. He is not asking us to abandon our families and marriages, but He is challenging us to look at the things we hold dear.

This lockdown period has been, for many of us, a time to reflect on what is important. Without the ability to shop whenever we want, drive wherever we want (government advisors aside), see whoever we want, or spend our money how might like to – we have been given a chance to do a little spiritual spring cleaning. Where have you seen a deepening in your faith and a persevering with your Christian walk in new and exciting ways? What opportunities has Christ presented you with recently and have you been brave enough to take them? Or have you been led down the path that leads out of the city towards the dump?

As I mentioned, this is a challenging passage and a fresh call to discipleship. Is Jesus the Lord of your life? If not, then who or what is? Have you taken the opportunity to listen to pray, read the scriptures, attend the Biblical Foundations course, serve in the Food Bank, or give some extra money away to those in need? Could you commit to helping our parish continue to run the six-day a week foodbank for the coming months?

How can we all as a church continue to declare that Jesus is Lord in our lives and in Hutton? How will we draw those on the margins of our community into the life and love of God’s Kingdom? Where we will see that growth and new life spring up as we begin to recover from the lockdown?

There is a lot to consider as we take heart from Jesus’ teaching this week. Please do read the passage through a few times this week and think about the questions it raises for you. I am happy to chat through anything it may raise for you.

If you are able then please do join us on the Facebook page for worship this Sunday at 9.30 am.

You can also listen to my sermon on Matthew 10: 24-39 on the YouTube Channel from 10.30am on Sunday.

With every blessing,

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