Abalding friend remarked, “I try to make life easy for God. No one will have trouble counting the hairs on my head. Oops, there goes another!” It never fails to get a laugh. In the midst of what could sound like a tirade, Jesus pulls the disciples into a circle of compassion and love. He offers them the secrets of the kingdom. It used to be a mystery, but all is in plain sight, he says, so proclaim it from the rooftops. We can imagine a stutter- ing disciple countering with these words: “But, Jesus. We’ll get slaughtered.” To which Jesus answers, “Oh, don’t worry about that . . . you are more precious than sparrows.” Worth more than sparrows? God counts the hairs on my head?
As harsh and demanding as Jesus’ words with his disciples seem, grace is never far away. The disciples have received their commission. Here Jesus makes the connection between master and slave, teacher and disciple. And then he speaks the words “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” three times. The disciples will become as the teacher, but they have nothing to fear—they are of more value than sparrows.
In a time when people are more likely to be ridiculed than praised for being Christian, we remind ourselves of Jesus’ promises to his followers: “I also will acknowledge [the one who acknowledges me] before my Father.” Jesus promises eternal life, the gift of the Spirit that leads into all truth, and his everlasting presence.
Without the gift of grace and the empowerment of the Spirit, none of us can live up to Jesus’ invitation to discipleship. None of us has that innate capacity. But in the divine presence, abso- lutely af rmed as beloved and cherished, right down to the hairs on our head, anything and everything is possible—even the possibility of transforming the world for good.
Loving God, may we hear your word of grace and serve you without condition or restraint all the days of our lives. Amen.
Implicit in the story of Hagar and Ishmael is the threat to Isaac and to God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah. The psalmist captures the terror by unnamed forms of destruction that may threaten an individual or people. Paul raises the specter of that most universal threat—death—but does so within the context of the new life won by Christ’s resurrection. Matthew describes various ways in which the enemies of Jesus threaten his disciples because of their association with him.
• Read Genesis 21:8-21. When have you felt burdened and outcast? What was your experience of God’s hearing you where you were?
• Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. Do you pray in the confidence that God hears and will answer your pleas? If not, how could you learn to pray in that manner?
• Read Romans 6:1b-11. Paul speaks of dying to self and rising with Christ. How has your Christian faith given you a sense of freedom from sin?
• Read Matthew 10:24-39. What makes God’s presence real to you? How does God’s intimate knowledge of you—the number of hairs on your head—make you feel?
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