Opening Question: When was the last time some carried you? Gave you a piggy-back ride? Carried you with two other people?
First Reading: Exodus 19:2-6
Terry heard the sound of laughter and the tumble of bodies. "Tickle fight!" he heard someone yell from the other room. He had to be part of that fun.
Terry ran into the room at full speed and jumped into the pile. His brother and his friends fell about the room laughing so hard they cried. "No, no. No more," Terry's friend George said between breathes. "No, more?" Terry asked as he signaled to his brother. Terry and his brother picked up George, carried his out of the room, down the hall, and into the backyard as they sang a marching song. "Oh-wee-oh. Yo-Oh." (Just like the guards' song in the movie, "The Wizard of Oz.")
When they reached the backyard, they reminded George, "Who carried you out here?"
"You did!" George said still laughing.
"Okay!" Terry and his brother threw him into the backyard swimming pool. Then, Terry threw his brother into the pool. And then he jumped in himself. One by one, they got out of the pool, because they were out of energy. Their friendship for each other, their share of the fun, made for a wonderful memory they would tell years later.
Friendship, sharing, fun. All these things bring us together, carry us through the bad times, and give us good memories. God's friendship with Israel carried them through the bad times into freedom. God's sharing gave his people life and made them special. All they had to do was listen to his voice and walk with him.
Bridging Question: What was your all time favorite gift? Who gave it to you? Did you thank them for it?
Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Many people began to follow Jesus because he taught and healed them. When Jesus saw the how many people there were, he felt sorry for them. They were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his followers, "There are so many crops ready to be brought in, but there are only a few workers to help. Ask God, the owner of the crops, to send out workers to help gather the ripe crops in."
Then, Jesus called his Twelve followers. He gave them the authority to throw evil spirits out of people and to heal every sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve out with the command: "Don't go into Gentile areas or the towns of the Samaritans. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel, and tell them: ‘God's kingdom is near!' Heal the sick, raise the dead, heal people of terrible skin diseases, and throw evil spirits out of people. What you received as a gift, give as a gift."
The gift you receive, give as a gift.
Timea had a room full of dolls. Barbies, China dolls, even action figures. Her friends' mouths dropped every time they visited Timea. "Wow!" one exclaimed. "All those dolls are so beautiful."
"It took you a long time to collect all those dolls" said another in awe.
"I know it cost you a lot to collect all these dolls," a third proclaimed. One adult described the collection as candy for the eyes. Fragile, exquisite, colorful, overwhelming.
But Timea's favorite doll didn't hold the eye's attention. It didn't overwhelm the visitor with finely painted lines, a fine flowing dress, or a fragile ceramic surface. No, it was an old Raggidy Ann doll her mom gave Timea as a birthday gift. The doll wore the dirt of many years. It had only two buttons on its shirt where three originally were sown. One eye was brown and the other was yellow. Its stuffing sagged from too many hugs. Timea couldn't even sit the doll up. Every time she tried it flopped down.
While the doll lacked in beauty, it had history. Her great-grandmother owned the doll as a child. During the Great Depression, her great-grandmother moved from state to state because her family picked fruit for a living. Farmers hired everyone in the family one day at a time. If the farmer had work on a particular day, the family had a job. If the farmer didn't have work, the family didn't make any money that day. They had to little food and so few clothes. That Raggidy Ann doll was the only toy great-grandmother had. And she loved it dearly.
Her great-grandmother gave the doll to her grandmother. Her grandmother had a better life on a farm, but she still worked hard. Before school, she helped clean the barn. After school, she chased the herds back to the corral. But in those rare free times, her grandmother loved to play princess with her doll. The doll would bow to her, serve her, and whisper an oath of eternal loyalty to her. Actually, it was all pretend, but those times and that doll made life on the farm a whole lot easy for her grandmother.
Timea's grandmother gave it to her mom. While Timea's had more toys that her grandmother, that Raggidy Ann doll had a special place in her mom's heart. The times when her mom felt alone, the doll got hugged. The times her mom felt joyful, the doll got tossed around. The times her mom needed a friend, the doll became a companion. The doll was close to her mom's heart.
Now, it was Timea's turn to have and hold the doll. But, with the doll came a note. "This is a special gift of love to you. Care for it and it will care for you. And, when the time comes, give it to your daughter as a gift."
Like that doll, Jesus gave all his followers a gift he received from his Father: the message and power of love. Love can heal and it can bring good news to a lonely, friendless world. But to use this gift, we must pass it along. So, let us obey the command Jesus gives us.
The gift you receive, give as a gift.
Closing Question: How can you give a little of yourself to a friend or family member this week?