Have you ever thought about duck feathers?
They’re ingenious, they come in three types, Contour, Flight, and Down. The first keep the water out, the second allow for flight, and the third serves as insulation. They act like armor, water rolls off a duck’s back, yet ducks remain fluffy, warm, and cuddly.
And, I would suggest today, that duck feathers can be an image for us to hold onto as Disciples of Christ—a unique type of armor to help us spread the gospel.
Yes, Duck feathers.
There are plenty of good reasons we might want to be defensive as people sent out with a message and a ministry from God. And to be clear I’m talking about all of you—you all have a calling from God to spread the Gospel.
Look at the argument between Hananiah and Jeremiah. Hananiah’s prophecy
—that God’s going to make everything just fine,
—Hananiah’s quick fix fortune telling
—is seen by Jeremiah as nothing more than pie in the sky wishful thinking—he says, in effect, “You know what—pretty much every prophet I know of, prophecies doom—and by and large they get it right.
If someone prophecies peace, and we find peace—wow! We’ll know God’s is deeply involved in that prophecy, because that’s not usually what we find in this world.”
—people telling folk what the world looks like to God’s eyes
—rarely claim everything is alright, that we humans have everything under control
—instead they point to wars, famines, pestilence. They call out injustices and idolatry.
As you might imagine this sort of thing doesn’t make prophets popular—Jeremiah who we read today, gets shoved down a well and later drug off to Egypt by Hananiah’s political backers—and he is left to die there, lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, which he told folk was going to happen if they bought into Hananiah’s easy vision of their country.
Yes—it would be easy to armor up, in order to safely serve God.
Then there is the letter to Rome printed from Paul’s pen—he describes the human struggle with Sin and Death as akin to enslavement and war.
We’ll always serve a master, either Sin or Righteousness.
We’ll always be at war, the question is do we side with Sin or Righteousness?
That famous phrase he coins, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When he writes wages he’s talking Hazard Duty Pay, Commission, the Soldier’s Wage.
For that matter, we know from Paul’s biography that he’s no stranger to troubles—because of the Gospel he proclaims, he receives:
hunger, imprisonment, shipwreck, lashings, beatings, and a stoning.
With all that, his talk about the armor of God in another of his letters, is not misplaced.
And then we have the ongoing sending of the 12 disciples in Matthew 10—they’re given the important and seemingly impossible task of replicating Jesus’ ministry throughout Israel
—doing so without wallet or backpack or even a change of clothing
—they are to be as sheep among wolves, being hauled before public officials and having to give answer,
demonized—literally—you’re a devil just like that Jesus
—threatened with death, denied—family turned against them…
tough stuff they, and we, are called to… again, enough to get into a defensive crouch, enough to make you expect the worst from everyone you meet—enough to, after a while, demonize right back…
Yet, we don’t stop at verse 39, thank God—Jesus leaves his disciples, and us, with some comforting words.
Guess what—there are people waiting to hear the Word of God from you. People who will welcome you, whose hearts are ready to hold the Gospel, whose ears are ready to hear
–the field is ripe and ready and wide, it is only the harvesters—the workers—we disciples—who are few.
There will be some, along your disciples journey, who are willing to welcomes you as Jesus,
hear your words of prophetic admonishment,
be built up in righteousness and for acts of charity.
What I’m saying is even as we give the Gospel in many ways, we will also receive it
—Part of being sent is being received—being a guest to others.
Sometimes on our Disciple’s journey we need to be held by those who we so often hold!
There will be acts great and small upholding you in your ministries
—be prepared for God to revive you, through other people, to receive you kindly
—we can’t start with the assumption of persecution, because there are also moments of great grace in this vocation of ours.
Receiving grace from those you tell about the Kingdom of Heaven, opens them up to the experience of it.
-You teach a kid about the faith—you may yourself hear the faith afresh.
-You serve the hungry a meal, you too are fed.
-You visit a lonely neighbor, your lives are linked by that connection… It matters to them!
-They care so deeply that you care for them!
-You’ve brought the very Kingdom of Heaven near, that ain’t nothin’!
And these God moments don’t happen if you are closed off… and not only that, they can also eat you alive if you show up emotionally naked.
That’s why I recommend trying on a duck-feather kind of attitude toward this calling that Jesus has on our lives.
Duck Feathers are a happy medium between the constraining-armor-of-cynicism and the vulnerability-of-naïveté. Water rolls off a duck’s back, yet they are still free to move and act and fly!
And that’s what I hope for
all of us Called Ones
—all us Sent Ones
—all us guests invited to minister to our neighbors,
to preach the gospel in many forms
That the love of God may flow from us in natural and good ways—that any obstacle to that ministry might roll off you back and every joy of Jesus might be easily embraced and shared!