7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2013
Luke 10: 1-11kb16-20
This week has been a sobering one, with the death of 19 young Hot-Shots in Arizona. The story hits so close to home among us. I was not here when our own Hot-Shots died in a Colorado fire, but I have been touched by the many ways that their memory is still so alive here. They were our children, they were part of our community, there is still grief for the loss of such youthful promise, and for lives that will no longer contribute to the building of our lives. The gifts of community are powerful and rich, and the loss of anyone diminishes the lives of the whole community, not only the lives of those who were connected by birth and by blood.
On this holiday, Independence Day, were are torn between the understanding of our closely held values of independence and interdependence. We want to be proud to do things on our own, but we know how vulnerable we are, and that the best that we can be is through depending on each other. A dream becomes reality through the nurture and resources of many who help the dreamer craft her vision, meet supporters, find resources, and contribute to the courage to dare the dream. From the beginnings of life to its feeble end, we need each other to expand, to hope, to dare, to accomplish, build and to plant.
The power of community is what stands out in this reading from Luke’s Gospel this morning. Oh, I know, that there are snakes and scorpions, evil personified that the Disciples can tread on, and Satan falling from the heavens as they cast out evil spirits and heal and raise the dead. But as I listen to the world unfolding around me at the end of this scorching holiday week, what touches me most is that Jesus sends these disciples out two by two, expecting that they will be received with hospitality, and that they will offer their words of hope in exchange for a place to stay and a meal plan.
If you notice, these disciples are not the core twelve, but seventy people. They go out as advance men telling their story of Jesus, getting people ready to hear God’s word that will free them from the baggage of the church that has condemned and excluded them. Jesus will be telling people that it doesn’t matter what they have believed, or whether they’ve ever gone to church, but that God loves them and welcomes them into God’s family, and that they can now love others with the freedom with which they have been loved. It is a message of blessing and grace and forgiveness, not one of judgment and scolding.
What we would want if our mission was to go out and get people ready to hear Jesus. Would we be able to walk away from someone else doing the preaching about Jesus and just tell our own story about what a difference Jesus makes in our life? Would we be able to leave behind our building, not relying on it to create “church” for us, but creating sacred space with our words and actions in people’s homes and workplaces? Could we learn to use our Bibles from the memory of how the words of patriarchs, prophets, psalms, and stories of Jesus have connected to our own lives and led us forward when we were ready to abandon all hope? Could you do it?
I couldn’t. Not alone. Maybe if one of you came with me. Maybe if I knew that it was as much of a struggle for you as it is for me. Maybe if I knew that we were all out there, talking about our faith, inviting people to hear about God’s love and power to heal and bring hope. Maybe if I had the experience of the Holy Spirit putting the right words in my mouth to say something helpful and healing to someone who needed to hear it.
It’s hard for us, the Frozen Chosen, to think outside of our Church, and our comfort here with our beautiful four walls and our budget and pastor and leadership in place. But we live in a day when 60% of the people under 35 have no relationship with a church, and don’t know anything about what that would be good for. It is easy for us to sit here and pray for them to come worship with us, but I think that’s not enough.
Christians, grappling with tragedy and despair, clinging to their faith and the prayers of their community to keep going every day, wonder how people without the confidence of their trust in God manage to cope with the world. How will these young people face the disasters of life without us to tell them about God’s love in Jesus? How will they know that God wants to change your life of worry and striving and fill it with love and hope? How will they know what it means to be loved for who you are, and what it means to be part of God’s desire to change the world so all can be fed, and healed, and treasured? How will they know that the Spirit that speaks to us in creation is the same Spirit that binds us into one beloved community? How will they know without us?
“The harvest is plentiful,” says Jesus, ”but the laborers are few.” We are the beloved community that is sent out of our comfortable box into the fields that are ripe. “Whoever listens to you, listens to me,” Jesus reminds us. Make no mistake, the Spirit is already at work in the hearts of those who will hear us. Those disciples thought they were advance men, preparing people to hear Jesus, but they came back with joy, because the Spirit was ahead of them, opening the way for their words to become the words of salvation. The challenge is both scary and exciting. And it lies before us as we head into the future. How will we do it? What joy awaits us as we leave behind our comfort to speak words of hope to those who are longing to hear them?
Now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.