SERMON: Called to be missionaries to our own hearts

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley by Andrew McKearney on 4 July 2021

‘Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two….He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.’

These words have echoed down the centuries in the ears of Jesus’ followers.

I’m thinking of people like Francis of Assisi.

The first person who wanted to join Francis was a man called Bernard. He was a magistrate in the city of Assisi, held in high regard and the owner of a handsome palazzo. He was intrigued by Francis, wasn’t sure that he was genuine so invited Francis to spend a night with him in his palace.

The event that moved Bernard most was not so much the answers that Francis gave to his questions, but what Bernard saw him do during the night.

As soon as Francis thought Bernard was asleep, he got up and spent the whole night in prayer, saying out loud, over and over again, some very simple words:

          ‘My God and my All.’

The next morning this wealthy, influential man said he wanted to join Francis. Francis felt uncertain and decided to rest the matter with the scriptures.

Together they went to the nearby parish church along with a third man, Peter. After praying for a while Francis opened the Gospels at random and read the first words he saw:

          ‘Go, sell your possessions and give the money to the

          poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.’

A second time Francis opened the Gospels:

          ‘Jesus ordered them to take nothing for their journey

          except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their

          belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two


A third time the Gospels were opened:

          ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny

          themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

The Franciscan way had started.

Bernard stood outside his house and simply distributed everything he had to anyone who cared to take them. The poor of Assisi, honest and dishonest, carried away his furniture and the contents of his house; the more respectable looked on astonished; Francis was elated! And these words of Jesus formed part of the Rule of Life for Francis and his companions:

          ‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.’

These words are not just about externals such as purses, bags and sandals, but also about inner dispositions, the attitude of mind with which we live.

What was it that persuaded Bernard to throw in his lot with Francis?

Was it the many little churches that Francis repaired with his own hands in and around Assisi?

Was it the answers that Francis gave to all the questions Bernard put to him over supper?

Or was it watching Francis all night in prayer, saying these simple words out loud over and over again?

          ‘My God and my All.’

We’re called to be missionaries to our own hearts, to seek an inner simplicity that mirrors the outer simplicity that Jesus asks of his disciples.

The first part of tonight’s psalm expresses something of this inner disposition we’re called to cultivate within our lives.

Last night all eyes were on the England game; but this evening where should we turn our eyes?

Tonight’s psalm that we read together gave us a very clear answer:

 ‘To you I lift up my eyes,

to you that are enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us.’

Keep your eyes focussed where they should be, travel light, be vulnerable, trust.