Sermon, Pentecost 4C Sunday July 7, 2019.
Luke 10:1-11,16-20After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
What a day to be together! This day when they all got back to tell of what they saw and heard and did. This is like being in the changerooms after that Grand Final win – swapping stories, asking questions in disbelief at what was able to be seen and done in Jesus’ authority. Mission brings joy!
Mission is planned too. Jesus has the plan. He has already sent out his twelve with very specific instructions (Luke 9: 1-6). Now seventy two ‘others’ (v1) with similar instruction. No bags, no money, even no sandals; and “Don’t greet anyone on the road” – in other words, “Don’t get distracted. Don’t muck about”, I think.
Greet the people at the destination with God’s peace; that’s what you bring, more than right words or a salesperson’s formula. If there is someone there who is open to receive that peace from God through you (a “person of peace”), you have found your mission base. Stay there. Don’t roam about. Work from this person of peace.
Proclaim Jesus in words and deeds on their turf. Live in their food, drinks, house, rooms, relationships, community, region, culture – and for a long time. Depend on them for this mission, not yourself. Trust that the Spi rit is doing his work in them.
And if, as is often the case even for Jesus, no person of peace comes to the fore? Don’t take it personally. Simply put the hand to the plough again and move to the next house, circle, town, club, work-place. Wait for the person of peace to appear. Then off you go again.
But as you go, show them that God has come near. The new creation of Jesus has been close to them and it would be whole lot better for them if they could receive this very good thing (shake dust off your feet…).
Friends, this way of mission is so against our grain. For so long now, our first impulse has been to provide the hospitality for mission on our terms and in our places, not reliant at all on THEIR hospitality or always that interested in their home, their words, their turf.
We put on the program in our way depending on our resources and skills. They turn up. We hope someone gets the gospel seeds we speak and do.
As for this crucial ‘person of peace’? We are not even looking! “We have a program to run, don’t you know!” We have so many volunteers to organise and so much effort to put into the presentation and everything else!
But deeper: I don’t think we want to rely on the hospitality of the non-church person we are reaching. We believe we have got the goods and they haven’t. They just need to be quiet and receive it – and with thanks!
Deeper still – I am not sure we actually trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in each person’s life before we join in. I think we believe mission is dependent not on the Holy Spirit but on our knowledge, resources, skills, experience and etc.
I reckon we Christians have fallen for two big pitfalls in our mission efforts.
We fall for the old trick of believing that fruitfulness (people responding the gospel) PROVES our calling and our faithfulness to it.
If people do respond actually repent and receive the wonderful forgiveness and renewal of Jesus, it means that I/we did it right and must be called by God to do this.
Conversely, if they are not turning up and no one is being converted, then we obviously are not called to this and/or I/we are not being faithful to God in this.
Tell that to Jeremiah or any of the other proclaimers. Their words were so often rejected. Jesus himself was rejected by most. Let’s face it, there was only 120 people in that upper room – 120 out of a nation!
What’s the point? Numbers, people responding or not responding do not PROVE we are called to mission, Jesus does. We don’t need success to prove we are called to share Jesus. We have Jesus’ call sending us to share him. Every baptised believer is called. Success or lack of does not change his call. He sends. We go with him and that’s it.
The other pitfall is believing that responsiveness of people dictates how we go about things. In other words, we go only to whom and to where WE think people will visibly respond or do things in ways that will have a high chance of a VISIBLE response to our message.
But who is in charge here? Jesus told them to go everywhere they could together. They will be rejected in places – maybe even most places, but they should keep going to people – all people and places.
The point? People’s responses are not to determine our faithful care of them and speaking of Jesus to them – Jesus’ love, Jesus cross’, Jesus’ authority and direction does.
We don’t engage in sharing the story only if people turn up or like it or someone responds in the way we want. We just live and share the story.
But how? Well, the Holy Spirit works the whole thing.
Did you notice that we are not even sent to ‘find’ the person of peace to kick things off? God actually provides this person for us. We just don’t know where and when. If we did, we would program it, theorise it and try and control it, like we do with everything! He keeps us guessing to keep us trusting.
This ‘person of peace’ fascinates me. Do you know any? Have you ever met any?
I have come across this person often. When singing and playing music in High Schools back in the day, sometimes there was an openness to the message and to me that I did not expect. There was a couple of kids really listening. Other times the group was tough, unyielding, very unreceptive.
In conversations at work or school or wherever, some people warm to the message and start to ask questions and some never do.
But Jesus says, these people of peace will be there as you go. But you have to GO to know them.
Friends, when did we get sucked in to believing that the MAIN way we do mission is to get them to COME to us?
We are being challenged to adopt this SENT way as THE MAIN way of harvesting. As Jesus has come and lived with us in the flesh (John 1), so we are to live with others, in the flesh where they are, on their terms.
Sure, there is a place to gather and help people gather around the gospel of Jesus. We do plenty of that – maybe too much of that.
Are we are so tied up running the event that we have no space to notice the person of peace at work, at the club, in the team? Are we missing the crucial gift of the person of peace around which to base our telling of the good news of Jesus?
Sometimes I wonder whether we should have about 5 things only going on at St Petri so that the lights are hardly ever on and the power bill is small because we are all engaged together in conversations and relationship making in homes, pubs, Aged Care places, schools, restaurants, parks, and the like.
Sometimes I wonder whether we should have a rule around here – one person: one ministry only. You do one thing and one thing only. Then we would have the eyes and ears to notice that person of peace and the ability to live with them for a while.
What might this lead to? Jesus shows us…..
‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do”, sings Jesus in a psalm like expression of joy.
Jesus really wants this kind of harvesting to happen; this kind of sending and hearing and receiving and transformation of people. It is what gives him joy.
It drives him to go to that cross and that pain and pay that price to usher in his church working in his mission in his world.
His joy enables us to keep on being his good news no matter what.
There is joy around here. There are people working with people of peace in all kinds of places. The Holy Spirit is giving us all we need to participate in his mission work here.
Yes. That is our joy. He is our joy. There is joy in mission. Mission brings joy.
‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you revealed these things to us. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do”.