African American spiritual - discovered in Kentucky, made famous by folk singers Peter, Paul & Mary, often sung at Christmas time … one for the little, bitty baby, born, born, born in Bethlehem.
The song reiterates that the Bible gives many examples of groups going out, but it is always and only one lone messenger - Jesus Christ - the little, bitty baby!
Here today, in our Gospel reading it is not Jesus the little bitty baby, it is Jesus the man and it is not hard to imagine that those following him were mesmerized "Children" - Children, Go Where I Send Thee Jesus is clearly saying and they were such innocents - what followers - what gullible folks Jesus must have had at his disposal - being sent out as lambs among the wolves . . . they certainly were not very smart back then - of course Jesus called them "Children" BUT, Is that the point of Luke's passage?
This passage is unique to Luke - not found in the other Gospels
- it has a timeless message and we must go beyond our 21st century
OUTlook and review some things about Luke's community. When we do
that, we might be surprised at the Insights we get into how Jesus
is speaking to us - each one of us - today.
Luke's community was very diverse - Jews and non-Jews, God-fearers and pagans that worshipped many gods, men and women, educated and uneducated, people of many different ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. I think there is a reason Luke included many more details in this "sending of messengers" story than he did just one chapter before when he recounted the story of the sending of the twelve.
In between the sending of the twelve and the sending of the 70, we hear that Jesus fed 5000, Jesus taught how difficult discipleship is, Jesus transfigured, Jesus conducting healings, Jesus ignoring a non-follower exorcist, and as we heard just last week, Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem, yet humbly moving on when a town refused to welcome him.
If you get a sense of things getting exciting and broadening and deepening - I think that's what Luke wants us to get. Despite all of this activity, when you read chapters 9 and 10 out loud, you get a sense that it wasn't very long after the 12 were sent out by Jesus that Jesus sent out a bunch more of his disciples. So, there is also a sense of urgency present at this point in Luke's Gospel.
sometimes use the words interchangeably, but I think it is important
to remember that disciple means "learner" and apostle means "one
sent out" or messenger. While most of us have stronger gifts in
one area or another, this passage reminds us that Jesus quickly
and urgently empowered others and, as we were reminded last week,
accepted no excuses about being both a disciple AND an apostle.
Jesus is pretty clear that sharing the good news that the Kingdom
of God - the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus - must be our number
Oh, there are so many words for it and new ones being dreamed up every day - discipling, mission, evangelism, evangelizing, social ministry, apostleship. But no matter what we call it, how we dress it up, what program we put around it - the basics are right here before us as timeless today as it was in Luke's day, as it was in Jesus' day . . . .
It makes me think of the many times I've sat with many of you or your friends or, even perfect strangers . . . when grief or anxiety or anger or despair is overwhelming. I'll let you in a little secret - I am usually VERY nervous … I think to myself, I don't have the words … I don't know how to approach this - I don't want to say those numbingly trite things that often hurt more than comfort, I still don't have my Bible, the Lutheran Occasional Services book, or special hymn verses memorized, I'm still learning how to pray with folks I do know let alone those I don't . . . what if I say the wrong thing. . . do the wrong thing . . . quote the wrong Bible verse. With all of this running around my head I should be a mess (and, after last week's laryngitis, you know that I can be a mess!).
And then I remember that Jesus sent out seventy
plain folk to all sorts of towns and villages. I remember what has
helped me in every other new or different or challenging ministry
experience I have had in my limited time as a student and pastor.
I remember that God calls each and every one of us to get out of
our comfort zones and out/among those that are seeking and searching.
God calls us to be with all people who are risking an uncertain
journey into an uncertain future. God calls us all to wait for that
precise moment when someone is ready to ask questions or hear the
call or enter the dream. God calls us each to gain practice at being
a Gospel-bearer and, regardless of the situation, to offer a vision
of a peace-filled, hopeful future that is eternally durable.
These are things that are not particularly difficult or reserved for people who have been called to full-time ministry. Jesus makes that abundantly clear - he doesn't say go out there and then call me up and report back to me or come back, pull me aside and tell me what you think I should be doing. Many of you know that my standard response now to the question - how is so and so doing? is: Why don't you call him/her and find out?
Jesus tells us, most importantly, that the harvest is GOD's and it is ready NOW;
Jesus tells us that there is always a need for each and every one of us to be an apostle - the laborers are few;
Jesus tells us that every step in mission begins with and is centered in prayer - ask God to sent out the laborers;
Jesus tells us that the risks are great - like lambs into the midst of wolves - don't tell me some of you haven't gotten your heads bit off when you try to share the good news!
Jesus tells us that our belongings are burdensome - carry nothing;
Jesus tells us that we can't get sidetracked by folks on the road - greet no one;
Jesus tells us that we MUST not worry about how effective our message is - either it will stick or it will return back to us;
Jesus tells us that we are to be open to the hospitality of people who are different - eat what is provided without feeling guilty, unclean or a law-breaker;
Jesus tells us to stay long enough to build relationships - do not move about from house to house;
Jesus tells us to help those in need - cure the sick - give them good news; and
Jesus tells us to openly proclaim God's kingdom regardless of the outcome.
Jesus knows that not all folks will welcome or accept His messengers. But, more importantly, Jesus stresses that the message does not change - whether we are welcomed or not: "yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near." What a blessed relief! We don't need to do market surveys or try to understand what people want. Contrary to popular belief and the best-selling books, WE ARE NOT SELLING A PRODUCT!!!
We are not doing anything other than being a vessel or a mouthpiece for God's merciful, forgiving love in Christ Jesus.
Just a few days ago, we celebrated Independence Day - a day to come together to remember freedoms and community and democracy. Many of you did something special - whether it was waving a flag, attending a parade, shooting off/watching fireworks, getting together with family and friends, wearing our national colors or singing patriotic songs - you were moved to celebrate in real, tangible ways with complete strangers.
In contrast, how often are you moved to share with complete strangers or family or friends the peaceful, eternal Kingdom of God that started to break in with Jesus and will continue to until he comes again? How often do we get stopped because we think it is all about us, our words, our timing, our schedules, our work on God's behalf??
When the seventy returned, they realized that the demons submitted
to THEM when they invoked Jesus' name. However, Jesus carefully
took the time to remind them that it was NOT THEIR WORK or THEIR
WORDS, but God's work via Jesus' name. Jesus also reminded them
that their joy stems from the current in-breaking of the Kingdom
of God and their eternal participation in it - NOT the thrill of
being demon identifiersand demon combaters - that is God's work
- solely and completely and ONLY.
There are clearly two audiences that this lesson is meant to inspire to action - those of us called by God to share the good news and those of us called by God to open our hearts, our homes, our communities to the good news messengers. Either way, as a speaker or a welcomer, God is calling regular folks to help spread the good news - one relationship at a time.
The really good news: we don't have to be professionals or seminary trained or even eloquent speakers. We don't have to be especially brave. God promises to give us both the situations AND the words. We are living in a mission field not unlike Luke's time - many, many, many people have not TRULY heard the good news. Jesus is calling us to help prepare the way for his breaking in, his merciful, forgiving LOVE - here and NOW. And when we aren't sure what to say or do, we can always say "Peace to this house!" or "Let's share a meal together!" or sing "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" . . .
Go in peace, proclaim the Good News . . .
THANKS BE TO GOD!!