The Plan: Motivation, InSpiration, and Personalization; Matthew 9:35-10:8

Sermon:        The Plan: Motivation, InSpiration, and Personalization
Scripture:     Matthew 9:35-10:8
Preacher:      Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location:      First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date:             June 14, 2020poussin_ordination_grt

Our text today comes from Matthew 9:35-10:8. Jesus has a plan he wants you and me to follow and this plan revolves around three words I want us to remember: Motivation, InSpiration, and Personalization. As we hear our text, keep in mind Jesus is reflecting upon the words of the Prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 34, Ezekiel confronts the sad reality that the spiritual and social leaders of Israel were failing to do their God-directed jobs to be the leaders, the shepherds for their flock, the Jewish people[1]. Listen to Matthew’s Story.

 Matthew 9:35-10:8

                  35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10.1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.[2]

This is one of three times in Matthew’s gospel that he outlines Jesus’ job description and purpose.  Did you hear it? Jesus traveled about and did what three things consistently? He preached, he taught, and he healed.[3] This is the outline for his ministry. He preached the good news, taught, and healed broken people. Straight away, Matthew is outlining what Jesus’ purpose was and is and our text is showing you and me that it should be our purpose as well.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Dr. Hunter Farrell, the Director of the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, began his presentation by showing the audience a picture. It was a shot of a college-aged student on a mission trip. She was an attractive young woman, her eyes are fresh and bright, magnified by this beautiful smile. She was sitting on the ground and was surrounded by several poor children of color, presumably from Africa. Her arm was extended out with her cell phone in hand and was smiling for the camera but all the bedraggled children in the photo with her looked puzzled and confused. You see, the only one smiling in the picture was the young woman.

Dr. Farrell went on to say that the Church, particularly the Presbyterian Church and other Mainline denominations, who were once known for the power and impact of their mission endeavors, have over the last several decades traded impactful mission for photo-ops. He said, “Whereas there was a time when churches were known for building universities, schools, and hospitals, the church’s current mission seems to fulfill the needs of the missionary as opposed to the ones for whom the mission is to be done. We’ve exchanged meaningful mission for mission selfie experiences that last for a fleeting moment.  Sure, they make us feel good but is our work making a meaningful impact in the long term?”[4]

What Farrell is getting at is what is the motivation behind our missions? We look for our motivation to be modeled after Jesus’ motivation which was what? Compassion for the people. “For they were like helpless sheep without a shepherd.”

Friends, compassion is not just a feeling for someone; it’s experiencing the actual brokenness, sorrow, and needs with that person. Their need becomes our personal desire to alleviate because we feel their pain. Dr. Denise Thorpe, also from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, writes, “Compassion frames what Jesus sees, his vision of the harvest. It shapes his charge to the disciples (9:36–37). Participation in that harvest is given to the disciples; received without payment. They live in grace’s unrepayable debt (10:8).”[5]

Can you think of the only publicly held team in the NFL? It’s the Green Bay Packers!  It is not owned by a family or a corporate sponsor but by the fans of the Packers themselves! So, when in January 2012, The Green Bay Packers were to play the New York Giants for a Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field after a night of nearly a foot of snowfall, the fans who had an investment in the team came to shovel out all the tons snow in the stands and on the field.  The City workers did not do it. A private company did not do it. The fans were motivated by their investment and stock in the team did it!  At 4:30 in the morning of the game, nearly 1,300 people showed up in the subfreezing temperatures to wait for the privilege to blow, shovel, and clean the stadium from tons of snow. On that day, the spectators became the players on the field. It was the spectators who made the game possible in the first place![6] Their feelings for their beloved Packers were the motivation to get them engaged, involved, and making a difference.

What kept Jesus going was his motivation to make a difference in the lives of his countrymen and women by proclaiming the kingdom of heaven was near, correctly teach what the Old Testament prophets actually taught, and brought healing to the broken ones.

God’s got a plan and there is specific motivation driving it. God’s plan must also have InSpiration. Throughout the gospel stories, Jesus is always trying to get away alone and pray. Another way to think of prayer is that it is a time of and for InSpiration. Our English word for inspiration comes from two Latin words “in” and “spirare” which literally is translated, “To be in-breathed, in-Spirited.” Isn’t that what we are about while we pray?  It’s a time to be in-Spirited, inhabited with Spirit, as we seek God’s way in our prayers.

Jesus rues with his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few; pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers to glean the harvest that awaits!”[7]  Missional work requires in-Spiration, in-Spiriting from God! In other words, beloved, we have to be in prayer so that God reveals 1) what mission you and I are to undertake, 2) what mission we as a church are to undertake, and 3) that God will gift our motivation for that mission with resources of gifted persons and financial and tangible resources to make the mission a reality.

God’s got a plan for mission and it requires motivation and inspiration. Yet, the plan is just a plan until it receives personalization! So, Jesus looked out at the motley crew in front of him and he began to personally call out twelve of his followers to help in fulfilling that inspired motivation.  There was Matthew, a despised tax collector. There was Peter, wrapped up in compulsivity whose mouth always blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. There was big-hearted John Zebedee who deeply felt Jesus’ compassion.  There was Andrew, the quiet networker who had this gift of getting the right people together at the right time. Oh, and there was Judas, who in his extremist views ended up selling Jesus out because Jesus did not fulfill his personal expectations.

Jesus calls out personal individuals, warts and all, to put skin on his compassion for others in the world. Jesus is motivated, driven by his love for people and for their relationship with God and with each other. He uses the in-Spirited resources he has to get the job done even when others reflect at the end, “Who would have ever thought?”

Beloved, what motivates you in your life in Christ? Is it primarily what you “get” from God in Jesus or is it that burning compassion for those he loves in the world?

Beloved, are you taking time throughout the hours of the day to be in-Spirited by God in prayer? Are you taking the time to hold yourself up to God and say, “Lord, I’m motivated, now reveal to me if I have or can discover the resources needed to make a difference.”

Beloved, are you personally making yourself available for mission, or are you expecting someone else to do it for you?

Motivation, InSpiration, and Personalization – this is God’s plan. The question is, are we motivated. Are we inSpired? Are we making it personal?  Let’s think about these things. Amen.

Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission.   All rights reserved.

[1] See Ezekiel 34.

[2] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[3] See Matthew 4:23-24 and Matthew 11:2-6.

[4] Dr. Hunter Farrell at a plenary presentation for the June meeting of the Central Florida Presbytery, Wycliffe Bible Translators Discovery Center on June 7, 2017.

[5] Dr. Denise Thorpe, Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship: Year A, Volume 3, Season After Pentecost by Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, et al.

[6] “Packers fans wait hours for chance to shovel Lambeau Field,” by Alex Morrell, Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 13, 2012. Accessed on 6/14/2017 from

[7] Matthew 9:38.

About patrick h wrisley

A Mainline Presbyterian Orthodox Evangelical Socially Minded Prophetic Contemplative Preacher sharing the Winsome Story of Christ as I try to muddle through as a father, friend, head of staff, colleague, and disciple.
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