Today we honor George Augustus Selwyn, bishop of New Zealand and of Lichfield, England, in the mid-to-late 1800s.
Bishop Selwyn was best known for his work in New Zealand. On his voyage there, he mastered the Maori language and was able to preach in it upon his arrival. During a ten-year war between the English and the Maoris, he was able to minister to both sides with integrity. His treatment of the Maori people was so tremendous that the Maoris still make pilgrimages to his grave in England today.
Bishop Selwyn seems to have taken our gospel lesson from Matthew to heart. The sending out of the twelve is full of action. They are to go and proclaim the Good News. They are to cure, raise the dead, heal, and cast out demons. They are to rely on the kindness of strangers – and brush off those who do not show them kindness. They are to take nothing – no money, clothes, or staff. Jesus’ instructions are full of work, but they are also stripped of all the creature comforts that might have enabled the disciples to do the work. Much like Bishop Selwyn jumped on a ship to New Zealand, to a land whose language and culture he did not know, with obstacles like war to navigate, the disciples too are tasked with dropping everything and jumping into the unfamiliar.
Just recently I had a conversation with a local clergy person about a potential mission partnership. There were many things about the partnership that intrigued me – but there were also many things that made me wonder if this was “the one.” There were aspects of the mission relationship that made me think that this would not be an “easy relationship.” In the middle of confessing my concerns to the other priest, I had to stop myself, and said, “You know what – this trip makes me a little uncomfortable – and that’s how I know we’re heading in the right direction.”
What I have learned, Bishop Selwyn knew, and the disciples found, is that doing Jesus’ work is not easy. Jesus promises that the work will not be easy in the gospel lesson today. But inherent in Jesus’ instructions are also promises of deep joy. There will be people who welcome the disciples and they will develop deep, meaningful, profound ministries that they will be equipped to do. They will be cared for, even when their natural tendency will be to care for themselves. When we can trust Jesus to do all that he says he will do, then we can have incredible experiences with God’s people. The adventure awaits! Amen.