Summary: For deacon ordination: deacons are like spies, of whom the world is suspicious; but we win their confidence by serving them.
Agent Double-Oh-Seven has it all. Movie buffs know that when you hear him intone his introduction, "Bond, James Bond", you are in for another adventure, during which this intrepid spy will single-handedly defeat the enemy, win the affections of three or four women, line his pockets with money, and earn the admiration of one and all. Agent Double-Oh-Seven, if he is the model of what a spy is, is a "wow"! We’d like to be like that! Spying seems glamorous!
But what if the spy is working for the other side? What if espionage is directed against us? That feels very different, doesn’t it? If the spy is named John Walker, and he has used his position in the U. S. Navy to sell secrets to the enemy, that’s not so attractive. If the spy is Aldrich Ames, and he has built houses and bought boats and lived it up with money paid to compromise America, well, that’s not very attractive, is it? That’s horrendous! We cry foul! We abhor that kind of spy!
What’s the difference between Double-Oh-Seven and Aldrich Ames? What’s the difference between the dashing agent who foils plots against motherhood, apple pie, and the American way, over against the grim-faced spook who sells his soul and his nation for a mess of pottage?
Two things: first, whose side is he on? It makes a difference whose interests a spy represents. Are you with us, or against us? Are you on our side, or on their side? The difference between Double-Oh-Seven and Aldrich Ames is that Bond is ours and Ames is theirs. That’s pretty simple.
But a second observation: neither one is the real truth. Neither Bond nor Ames is really what spying is all about. Neither the glamour of Double-Oh-Seven nor the tawdriness of a CIA traitor is the real spy. The real spy is a day-by-day, slug-it-out kind of person, whose life may look very ordinary, and whose work is one of service rather than sleazy sleuthing.
We Christians are spies. We are spies for heaven in the middle of the world. We are out there exposed. It matters which side we are on. But our spying is going to look a lot more like service than sleazy sleuthing.
Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery, and packed him off to Egypt. They thought they would never see him again. But Joseph had prospered, and now was the chief man in Egypt, next only to Pharaoh himself. A time of shortages had come; back in Canaan, these fellows had heard that Egypt had plenty of grain to sell, and so here they were, ten of them, down in Egypt, representing their father, just trying to buy food.
Now they stand before their long-lost brother, Joseph. They don’t know him, primarily because they never expected to see him again; but Joseph has recognized them, and he has decided to playa little mind game with them. His tactic is to accuse his brothers of being spies:
"You are spies. You have come to see the nakedness of the land." You know, those who have places of power in this world are anxious about Christians. In their anxiety they believe that those of us who are on mission are really only there to reveal their nakedness and to make an issue of their neediness. The people of this world, in their obsession with status and glamour, in the midst of all their worries about power and prestige, quickly misunderstand what we Christians are about. They think we are spies, come to see the nakedness of the land. They believe that we are there only to put them down, serve our own interests, figure out their weaknesses, and just get what we want for ourselves. The world is suspicious of those who are spies of heaven.
In such an atmosphere it is easy to become defensive. In such a climate it would be easy to forget what we are about. Joseph’s brothers almost got caught in that. Listen to them trying to deny his accusation: "No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies." That borders on being defensive.
But what Joseph demanded from them is essentially what the world demands of us. What Joseph wanted is what is always expected of heaven’s spies. Joseph said, ’’’You are spies. Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother come here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you.’ And he put them all together in prison for three days."