Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | July 4, 2010

2010.07.04 “Still Sent” Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20

Central United Methodist Church

 “Still Sent”

July 4th, 2010

Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20

Pastor David L. Haley

       “Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go.  He gave them this charge:

       “What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands.  So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.

       “On your way! But be careful — this is hazardous work.  You’re like lambs in a wolf pack.

       “Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.

       “Don’t loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.

       “When you enter a home, greet the family, “Peace.’  If your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay. But if it’s not received, take it back and get out. Don’t impose yourself.

          “Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don’t move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town.

       “When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, “God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’

       “When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, “The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we’re giving it back. Did you have any idea that God’s kingdom was right on your doorstep?’ 

       “The one who listens to you, listens to me. The one who rejects you, rejects me.  And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me.”

       The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!”

       Jesus said, “I know.  I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky.  See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you.  Not what you do for God but what God does for you — that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” – Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20, The Message

       Welcome to church on Independence Day, the Fourth of July.  It’s unusual for two reasons.

      The first is, because we rarely celebrate Independence Day on Sunday. The last time we did was 2004. I remember it well because I preached a sermon from Galatians about how those of opposite political persuasions – Democrats and Republicans – ought to be able to get along, like my grandfather and his best fishing buddy did, without throwing each other out of the boat. But when I preached that sermon out in fiercely Republican DuPage County, somehow I was misunderstood and four members left.  But that was six years ago, and I was young and foolish then, so I’m not preaching that sermon today.  Nor will I have to for awhile, because the next time the Fourth of July falls on Sunday won’t be until 2021. By that time many of us won’t have to worry about it (I hope).

      The second reason it’s unusual is because, with it being the Fourth, it’s also the day of the INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE here in Skokie. As you know, I usually don’t dress like this (in jeans and clergy shirt). I know some of you were worried back when we did the Adam Hamilton series, because in some of those he was obviously preaching in jeans and sport shirt, and you were thinking, “Uh-oh, Pastor’s going to get ideas.” Well, you know, the history of Christian missions dictates that we should – in fact – dress in the style of the indigenous people we’re trying to reach, so – here I am. Baby boomer that I am, I must say: “It feels good!”

      Of course the reason I’m doing it today is because I have to get from here to a parade that starts at noon, in which I’m going to be riding a Harley (2010 Heritage Classic, black), and there’s no time to change in between.  

      It’s worth it, I think, because it’s important that our church should be present and accounted for in the Skokie Fourth of July parade.

      The reason why is provided clearly in today’s Gospel, in the story of Jesus’ sending of the seventy.  As Jesus traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem, he . . .

      “selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go. He gave them this charge: “What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands.  So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.”

      You have to give Jesus credit.  As he traveled, and saw so many needy people, he knew he could only be in one place at one time. He knew he was outnumbered and needed help (as opposed to most of us, who think we can bring God’s kingdom in all by ourselves.)  So, to proclaim God’s kingdom in word and deed, Jesus sent out the seventy.

The mission on which Jesus sent them was simple: Go declare God’s kingdom in 35 or more different villages and towns in the region, show signs of the reality of the presence of God’s kingdom (including healing the sick there), then come back.  Perhaps, if Jesus had known the words that would be attributed centuries later to St. Francis, he’d have used them:  “Preach the Gospel.  Use words, if necessary.”

But if the mission was simple, the opportunities to mess it up were also great. That’s why Jesus gave them instructions about what to take along (and what not to!), how to behave, and how to leave, especially if things weren’t going well.

      In the verses which follow, especially as rendered by Eugene Peterson, there are admonitions that are practical and humorous, but also some that are irresponsible and even dangerous if taken literally.

      Consider, for example:

      “Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.” Like the disciples carried Samsonite, hairbrushes for their long locks and toothbrushes. (None of those are Scriptural, so just get rid of them!) They didn’t need equipment; they were the equipment!

      What about this one?

“Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don’t move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town. “When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, “God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’”

        The one to think twice about, is the one about treading on snakes and scorpions. I’d take that metaphorically and not literally if I were you. Please don’t try this at home (or anywhere else, for that matter.)  If you do, don’t tell anybody you got it here.

      What Jesus did not demand of the seventy, were courses in ministry, graduate degrees, any kind of certification or ordination. As far as we know, he didn’t even give them T Shirts.  He sent them out, to learn by doing.  Just as we’ve been doing in the church ever since.

The main point, however, I think is obvious:  As Jesus’ modern day disciples, we are still sent out! We dare not ignore Jesus’ words of commission as if they were a modern embarrassment, outmoded advice for ancient times.

What I have to say next largely repeats what Taylor Burton-Edwards, the Director of Worship Resources for the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship, had to say in this week’s lectionary comments, because I think Mr. Burton-Edwards is right. 

What he had to say, was this: Today, there are Christians in every nation of the world. Though not all people on the earth have been reached, there are Christians who can reach them. In many places, particularly in the Global South and East, Christians are doing just that, and Christianity is on the increase.

But not where we are, in the Global North and West. In these regions, Christianity is on the decline. It is so not just because the populations of these regions are becoming ethnically and religiously diverse, though that is happening, too. It’s because our Global North and West Christian cultures have a long history of presuming that everyone around us is Christian, because, for centuries, as a matter of cultural fact and often civil law, they were. Mission was something one did to reach “those people” “over there,” in other countries. “We” already “have” the gospel, and we could rely on our culture and even our government, in some instances, to ensure it stayed that way.

So how could a text like today’s address us?

Well, if we continue to think the old way, as most churches do, one answer might be that this text doesn’t apply to us now. We can just live our lives and think this is witness enough. We don’t have to go anywhere or spread any particular message. And we can watch as our numbers and our witness dwindle away, wondering what went wrong.”

Another answer, however, might be that we wake up, realize this is a different world we live in, one that the church as we have known it was not designed for, and realize we are again in need of Jesus sending us to proclaim the reality of God’s kingdom in our daily lives, wherever we go.

Unfortunately, our churches have not prepared us – not me nor you – for this task. They have instead prepared us to try to get more people to worship with us or join our congregation. They have prepared us to measure “success” or “failure” by how many people are “with us” in worship, how much money they give, and whether these two metrics (attendance and dollars) are going up or down. The institutional solutions all presume we are primarily those who COME to worship and other activities.  Jesus’ solution is to SEND us in ministry in his name.

So this text today gives us an opportunity to reboot, to go and do likewise.  Jesus is still sending us — all of us who seek to follow him.  He is sending us to all the places where we go, to live lightly, to bring healing, and announce that God’s kingdom has drawn near.

Some of you, I know, already do this. People go to food depositories and food pantries and soup kitchens and nursing homes and schools and hospitals and homes. What I’m asking you to do is to also take it to your jobs, to your school, and to your social gatherings:  everywhere you go!

To stimulate your thinking about how this, I invite you to go to Wayne Schwab’s website, www.membermission.org, a website devoted to all Christians living their mission 24/7/365.

This concept of every member mission – according to Wayne Schwab – is based on certain basic truths about God
 and our relationship with the Lord.  Here are some of them:

 

God is on mission. God is on mission everywhere all the time. God is always working with us and through us to make the world all that it can be. Wherever there is love and justice, God is at work. The Lord’s mission is to bring love and justice wherever they are blocked and to maintain or increase them where they are already present.

 

God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission. Rather, God’s mission has a church. The church is the visible instrument of God’s mission and, so, collaborates with any person or group working for greater love and justice.

 

God is as concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday as about what we do on Sunday. We know about “congregational missions” at church or under the church’s “banner.”  Beyond church, the other kind of mission work begins. “Member missions” are what church members do daily on their own at home, at work, in their communities, in the wider world, during their leisure, and for their spiritual health, as well as what they do in their church’s life and its outreach. Since, the members go everywhere in the world each day, what they do can have far greater impact on the world than what they do together as church.

 

Move toward making your congregation’s basic purpose be to support all of the members in their daily living as Christians.  In time, let this become its primary purpose.  More and more of you will come to see that it’s in this purpose that God’s greatest presence and power can be found. God’s work in the world will thrive.

 

We are God’s coworkers; Jesus Christ is the victor over evil and shares that power over evil with us.  As we choose to do God’s work, we look to Jesus for help to get it done. Jesus overcame evil in his lifetime through his teaching and healing.  Even crucifixion did not kill Jesus or destroy his message.  His resurrection is the ultimate victory over evil.  Evil will never have the final say.  We are not alone when we struggle with evil.  We join Jesus in his mission — “As the Father has sent me, so I send you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).  He shares his power with us, the power of the Holy Spirit, to cope with evil, sin, and death in our own daily missions.

 

Our daily missions are to live the gospel in each of our daily mission fields.  We are here to love each other and to seek justice for all.  We share in God’s mission by what we do and by what we say. We draw on our church life and each other for the support, the guidance, and the power we need to do God’s work.

In conclusion, what Jesus is sending us on, is, a “wild goose chase.”  Do you know where this phrase comes from?  I didn’t, until I prepared for this sermon.

In the 5th through 7th centuries, Celtic missionaries from the Isle of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, transformed England and northern Europe.

The Celts had a name for the Holy Spirit – an Geadh-Glas which means “the wild goose.”  By this they meant that the Spirit of God can’t be put in a neat box, confined to a vision and values statement or tamed within a strategic plan. The wild goose is unpredictable (like the wind).

Taking seriously this sense of God, Celtic missionaries went on WILD GOOSE CHASES into the spaces, towns, hamlets, and villages of 7th century England in the conviction that the wild goose was out there ahead of them. They were open to being surprised by the wild goose, prayerfully asking what God was doing and joining in it by naming the name of Jesus, dwelling among people and sharing the story of God’s love and grace.  They gathered in church to be shaped by the life of Jesus, then went out, on wild goose chases, to transform northern Europe.

They were sent out, just as the seventy were sent out, just as we are still sent out, as disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

And that’s why, if there is a parade in my town, I want me and my church to be in it.   Amen.

      Taylor Burton-Edward’s comments may be read on the General Board of Discipleship website, www.gbod.org/worship.

      Wayne Schwab’s website, www.membermission.org may be viewed there.

      Read “Join the Wild Goose Chase” by Alan Roxburgh.

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