Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (The Inclusive Bible)
Jesus appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few; therefore, ask the overseer to send workers to the harvest.
“Be on your way, and remember: I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves. Don’t carry a walking stick or knapsack; wear no sandals and greet no one along the way. And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be upon this house!’ If the people live peaceably there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the laborer is worth a wage. Don’t keep moving from house to house.
“And whatever city you enter, after they welcome you, eat what they set before you and heal those who are sick in that town. Say to them, ‘The reign of God has drawn near to you.’ If the people of any town you enter don’t welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God has drawn near.’
“Anyone who listens to you, listens to me. Anyone who rejects you, rejects me; and those who reject me, reject the One who sent me.” The seventy-two disciples returned with joy, saying, “Rabbi, even the demons obey us in your name!” Jesus replied, “I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning. Look: I’ve given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions—even all the forces of the enemy—and nothing will ever injure you. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice in the fact that the spirits obey you so much as that your names are inscribed in heaven.”
Learning Time: “What is our Mission?”
Our daughter Naomi just graduated from her Master’s program in Library and Information Sciences from Western. She was not able to attend the ceremony since she’s moved to Halifax for a job at their new central library.
Our family had a Zoom celebration in her honour. Naomi and her partner Max, and Joel in Waterloo, and his girlfriend in Vaughn, and Lexie and I in Kingsville all ordered sushi, and we ate together, with purple and white decorations all around us.
Lexie reached out to some of Naomi’s friends, relatives, and co-workers, and asked them to send memories, best wishes, and words of advice. Here are some of my favourites:
Take the opportunity to travel (or maybe even live) internationally if you can. That was from a family friend who currently lives in Egypt.
Be sure to find room for joy. Invest in loving relationships. Seek out genuine community.
Know that you are amazing.
Let happiness be the great surprise of your life, rather than a daily goal.
If you ever have leftover cake, try making French toast out of it!
Lexie reminded me of advice I have always given our kids, and almost anyone else who asks, which is “make your world big”. By that I mean stretch beyond convention, push boundaries, take risks, and work to have a wide range of interests and relationships in your life. That way if one area in your life is not going well, you have other sources of confidence, affirmation, meaning for your life.
What we heard in the gospel story was Jesus giving the 72 he sent out, some words of advice before they hit the road.
They were sent out in pairs to every town and place Jesus intended to visit. It’s a good strategy. Send out advance scouts so you know what kind of reception your larger group may expect. They could also cultivate relationships, so when Jesus and his whole group arrived, they would have an idea about what kind of hospitality, and support might be there.
Jesus encouraged his missionaries to embrace the adventure but be smart about how they travelled. He told them he was sending them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. I am grateful no one said that to Naomi!
Jesus told them to travel in pairs, which was safer than going alone. They were to carry nothing of value, like a walking stick or a bag, or even sandals. The roads they walked were hunting grounds for bandits. Remember the situation described in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
Jesus encouraged them to make friends and accept hospitality when they arrived at a village or town. He specifically told them to eat or drink what they were offered. It could be that a host would offer something outside of what was normal for Jesus’ followers. They were to open their minds, their hearts, and their mouths. Set aside scrupulous adherence to the dietary laws of their faith, just be grateful. Set aside their misgivings about new foods, and just dig in.
Right after the first mention of food, Jesus told his missionaries not to keep moving from house to house. I wonder if that was a way of saying- don’t go looking for meals you are used to, just accept what is given. Don’t worry so much about doing things the way you’ve always done them.
Jesus also said to tell the people in each new place the reign of God has drawn near to them, and to heal those who are sick.
They had real work to do, helping people along the way. They weren’t only advance scouts, they were part of the Jesus movement.
They were to teach people, by word and deed, about God’s love, and how love could change how they connected to God, what they believed about themselves, and how they treated one another.
Did the missionaries ever wonder how they could live up to the role, of representing the love of God? Did they feel up to it? Did they see themselves as part of the reign of God, the Jesus movement spreading from town to town?
Even so, and likely because they were the real deal, Jesus warned them they would face opposition. He said,
“If the people of any town you enter don’t welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God has drawn near.’
It’s beautiful language, that may inspire each of us to remember moments when we have felt drawn near to the reign of God, when God, and God’s love have felt real in our lives, and that has made a difference.
We are all gathered here this morning because in some way, we have heard the call of God’s love, through the message of Jesus. Someone in our life first brought us to this church, or another one, or taught us about the love of God, maybe at their house, or out on a tractor, or beside a lake, or out in a backyard under a blanket of stars. Somehow, we got the message, and we joined the movement.
It matters enough to us that we come here, even on a hot, sunny Sunday on a holiday weekend. Maybe we come out of habit. Maybe we come because we crave community. Maybe we come to get our spiritual batteries recharged. Maybe we come to be reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
We are part of the Jesus movement, that has the job of loving the world in God’s name. Jesus keeps inviting us in, and sending us out again, to spread the word. Amen