After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
16Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
6 Pentecost, Lectionary 14
July 4, 2010
Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20
“The seventy returned with joy….” Luke 10: 17
Have you ever been on a Mission Trip? Packed up your stuff and headed off with a group to build houses in Mexico, or Vernonia, Oregon, or Biloxi, Mississippi? Ever been a camp counselor or led a church campout with a bunch of kids? Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone to lead a Bible Study or be a retreat leader? Ever served in a soup kitchen or taught Sunday School? Then you know something about the story we have in front of us this morning from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has sent out his special twelve disciples previous to this morning’s reading, and today he sends out ‘lay leaders.’
They are preparing the way for Jesus to follow on his way to Jerusalem, toward the end of his physical ministry here on earth. Then it will be up to his followers to complete his mission in the world. He gives these ‘lay workers’ the opportunity to practice their mission while he is still around to give them advice and support them in their first mission trip.
If you’ve trotted off to Mexico or other unusual places, you know that you leave your security behind. You sleep where they have room for you and eat what the people you work with are eating. You get short showers, if there are any, and water that must be boiled to drink. You come with an open heart, expecting that you will be welcomed, but sometimes find misunderstanding instead. So Jesus prepares his crew: accept what you are offered, bring peace with you and bless those who will receive the peace you bring, don’t expect to get paid, just to receive what those you meet have to share. And don’t ever forget that what you witness to the real existence of the presence of God in this world.
You think you are bringing something useful to the community you go to serve. You bring your labor, you bring your care, and you are aware that you bring the witness of God’s presence, even if you don’t exactly understand what that might mean to the people you go to visit. No matter how unworthy you feel, you trust that your desire to serve is God calling you to use your gifts somehow. No matter how small your service seems, you come because you love God’s people, and because you are God’s people, and that’s how God’s people live in the world.
All of that is true. But something happens to you. When you give your hands and your heart to God’s work in the world, you reap a blessing you never expected. You learn more than you teach, and you also receive the joy of seeing God’s Word take root in a child’s heart. You see the nutrition necessary to the bodies who taste your food, but you also see the warmth that comes from the human interaction around a table. You see your drywall-hanging skills refurbish a waterlogged house, but you also see a family restored to its home. You get the blessing of being a blessing. It brings a joy far greater than the actual work you have accomplished, and you begin to see that you – yes, you – are the hand of God, or the face of God, in the work you have done.
The seventy returned with joy, says the story this morning. They may have set out with trepidation, asking if they really could do everything that Jesus was asking them to do. Worrying about where they would sleep and eat, what they would say, what they would be required to do. It’s duty that makes us worry. We know we are required to accomplish certain things, and we feel so unprepared. But we forget that we are sent by Jesus with all the power that he has to upend heaven and earth.
The very power that brought Jesus back from death is the power that calls us to speak and do in the mission field we live in. It is the power which moves our hearts to care, and moves our fingers and our feet to go. God’s love for us, God’s forgiveness of our failures to be the perfect disciples, means we can dare to be God’s hands and heart in the world for the joy of it, not out of duty. It is this joy which makes evil wilt and keeps us safe, because we know beyond any doubt that such joy and peace comes only from the love of God which passes all understanding.
So don’t ever discount the things you do for Love – being a Smart Reader, volunteering at the Library, sewing quilts for people you will never meet, teaching restless kids about Jesus’ love for them, calling or visiting someone who is sick, or even going to another part of the world to listen and learn and witness. Rejoice that you can do it, rejoice that you fight evil and fear in the lives you touch, rejoice that your name is written in the kingdom of heaven, but most of all, rejoice that you reap the blessings of being part of bringing in God’s kingdom in this very place.
And now may that peace of God which truly passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the joy of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.