Sermons 2008
The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 6A 2008 Mt 9:35-10:15

Do you remember the movie The Dirty Dozen? It was a story about a special military operation during the Second World War. It was also a parable about whom is chosen to send when there is a special mission.

This mission was to get behind enemy lines and free some American prisoners of war. The officer charged to of carry out this mission knew that the operation had a 90 per cent chance of ending in failure. He could pick whichever soldiers he wanted. But he didn’t choose the best soldiers –he didn’t want to lose them. And the good soldiers might not have the skills for the special tasks required by the mission.

So he went to a military disciplinary prison for men who had been unable to accommodate to military life and its discipline, who brought their criminal ways and habits into the army with them. They were scoundrels and robbers and murderers, really hard men who had come up the hard way in life, and stayed hard in the Army, and were thrown in the stockade for it. He choose his men there.

These men, this dirty dozen, the twelve chosen for the mission, each had skills that they had used in their criminal lives perfect for this risky mission. And if the mission failed, society would not miss either the men or their skills. One could pick or open any known lock. Another was good with his fists and hands in silencing people, such as sentries and guards. They were all good at lying, concealment, breaking and entering – in short, exactly the skills to get this job done.

One of the appeals of The Dirty Dozen was that it was a story about those whom the world regarded as misfits, inept and worthless dregs of society. Not even the Army wanted them, not even in the midst of a raging world war where infantry casualties were high and the fighting divisions were always short of trained infantry soldiers. But yet, in the right sort of situation, with the right sort of leadership and encouragement, when their imaginations were captured and their hearts set on fire, these twelve losers became heroes. Most of them were killed in the course of the mission. All died with honor and distinction.

In today’s gospel we hear the story of twelve people whom Jesus picked for a risky mission, for which they were neither to be provided nor allowed any logistical support except for the clothes on their backs and the sandals on their feet. But more than that, these twelve were remarkable only in how unremarkable and ordinary they all were. Some were considered losers, the dregs of society. They had no skills at all for what Jesus was sending them out to do.

This is not the way we usually do things in the so-called “real world”. Nowadays when we choose someone for a particular job, or task, or position, we seek the person with the most important qualifications.

The President of a university had a particular person in mind for a very important position. But she had to convince the search committee. She presented his credentials, which were impeccable. He had a proven track record at another university, plus extensive experience in other institutions around the country. She assured the search committee that this person had all the necessary qualifications. But one of the senior deans on the search committee spoke up. He said that as far as paper qualifications went, that was all well and good. But his experience had been that it was best to pick people not only on the basis of what they had done, but also on what we think they can do.

When Jesus sent his dozen out into the world on this mission trip we do not hear a list of qualifications. We aren’t told why Jesus picked any one of the Twelve. For all twelve there is nothing about experience or potential. We are simply told that Jesus decided it was time to choose some people to help him with his work and that he chose these twelve. None seemed special in any way until that time.

But this Jesus always surprises us with how he operates and by what he does. This may tell us more about Jesus, the Jesus who could take commonplace people, ordinary persons, set their hearts on fire, and inspire them to do extraordinary things. This was a risky mission on which Jesus sends these Twelve, this dozen. Eventually most of them lost their lives doing things like this. Perhaps Jesus knew better than to send the holier than thou, piously spiritual sort of people on such a risky mission. Perhaps that’s why he chose tough, realistic, every day, ordinary sort of people, down to earth survivors, full of common sense, and enough weaknesses and faults so that they could relate to the people to whom they were sent. People like most of us.

We may not have the qualifications that we think we need, but, by God’s grace, we have been chosen, called to be his disciples. We can trust God to call those whom God knows can do God’s work in whatever way they are called.


Dirty Dozen and search committee anecdotes from unknown InterNet sources