Luke 10:1-11, July 7th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these holy and ancient words from the gospel according to Luke, chapter ten, verses one thru eleven.”
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
“Having heard this lesson from our reading this morning, let us know open our hearts to their meaning in our lives today.”
My mission, for the next four weeks, is to renew and refresh myself, with God’s help this shall be so! Your mission for these few upcoming weeks is to support the volunteers who shall endeavor to fill this pulpit as they and you engage a faithful reflection on scripture and the movement of the Spirit of God in your respective lives. My prayers will be with all of you as these days of July shall quickly slip by; however, there shall be plenty of time for prayer. My prayer life shall not stop simply because I am off with my loving wife on vacation. Lois and I set aside time for prayer every morning and every evening, as we realize that without God, our lives are void and desolate. Without the Living Spirit of God guiding us along our way, the road ahead would still be filled with twists and turns and the events we encounter and the people we meet will be, and they shall continue to be – beyond our control. Consequentially, without God, we shall not know which way to turn or whom to reach out to or whom to avoid! No, I shall not stop praying and asking for guidance in God’s will, nor shall I stop asking for help to overcome the obstacles, which I often place in front of myself. My mission is indeed, to renew and refresh my personal relationship with God; while spending quality time with my family and friends.
Our scripture this morning is all about the mission of the early disciples of Christ. Our lessen has Jesus sending his disciples out two by two on an assignment, a task, a mission. Metaphorically they, the disciples of Christ, are being told to go out in pairs, together as two – not one at a time, not alone, and have a heart-to-heart chat with people – about the ministry of Jesus. In our scripture we hear how they are to travel out into the towns and villages, spreading the good news of Jesus with those they meet. They are only to take that which they need. If they are rejected, or their teachings are rejected, they are to leave, brushing the dust of that place from their very sandals. Their mission, therefore, is to spread the peace and love of God through Christ, to those whom are willing to receive it. But, those who are not open to receiving or can not accept what is offered, they were, (as we too are expected) to leave and go to the next community and the next if need be – till they find someone willing to receive what they have to offer. Many times, over the years I have had to ‘let go and let God be God’ to those whom I have not been able to successfully communicate with and thereby, help them, along their spiritual journeys. I say to you, it is not always easy to let go of someone you have been trying to help, yet it is they, whom have rejecting the hope, the love and the mercy which God is offering them. Ultimately, Jesus told the disciples whom he sent out – Jesus is telling us that we must let go of those whom are unwilling or not ready to receive that which God has instructed us to give and share.
Whom we walk with to do mission is so very, very, important. We need to be sure we walk with others whom, like ourselves, are ready and willing to go out from the safety and security of our beautiful meeting place and do the will of God. We need to walk with those whom are putting their trust in God. We need to walk with others whom are ready and willing to sacrifice for the good of others. The walk of faith, the road of a disciple is filled with ups and downs, as well as slippery spots and potholes along the journey. Thus, we must put our trust in God and no other; if we expect to be successful in the eyes of God. We need also to be in relationship with those we walk with – on the pathway God leads us upon. Some form of bond, a link, common ground needs to be established. This is so important. For if you are putting all your trust in God’s guidance and the other is putting his or her trust in ‘the way we use to do it’ or how ‘her mother or his father did it’, you are going to be struggling, trying to communicate with one another. Therefore, you shall need to spend time in prayer together, studying the same teachings, seeking common understandings so that you, we, will be effective in our work together.
A theologian named Janet Hunt invites us to consider who we walk with. “What comes to your mind (she asks) when you think about who Jesus has sent to walk alongside you?” As we grapple with this consider also ‘what might we, you and your buddy, your colleague, accomplish together along the journey? Let us be clear here, we are not talking about going out on a date! (Chuckle!) No, we are talking about going out as we believe we are being called, to carry the ministry of this our church, the Riviera United Church of Christ, out to those we serve. Rather than worrying about how someone may present themselves, we are looking to be paired up with those whom believe, for starters, who believe in the mission! This is imperative and quite necessary! The thing about working with others is we must stop believing we can do this alone. I can’t, you can’t, but we can!
Pastor and teacher David Lose puts forth several engaging questions for us to consider. “So, what might it mean, if ‘we’ were to remember Jesus’ counsel and command and work and dream together of a more vibrant witness to the Christian faith?” /David Lose/ Is this not what our focus is – to become a more mission-oriented community all about? Let us take the concept of one of our future story scenarios spoken of at our congregational meeting recently. Considering we help feed hundreds of people at a soup kitchen in Melbourne, once a month, consider what we might do more locally here in Palm Bay. Especially, if we put our heads and our hearts together to come up with a way to implement it. For starters we could start letting the community know we have food in our pantry that we can share. To do this right we would need to stock the shelves better. Become more prepared for the needs of local families. Set aside time each week to collect the food, and then set aside a time when the food could be distributed. It will take planning, organization and volunteers working together toward a common goal.
Pastor David Lose continues his line of provoking questions. “What might it mean to think about those things our congregations can do for our communities? Of things we assuredly cannot accomplish alone but might venture together?” /David Lose/ Perhaps he has been reading out of the same play book as our “New Beginnings” writers. A food pantry that is truly stocked and utilized by local families is a great way to get started! We may want to connect-up with other local congregations to move this one project forward to levels we can not yet imagine. There are so many other things, which we have been discussing together that we might want to also consider. Let us ask our own question: Why is it so important to partner up with someone as we go forward? The answer ought to be obvious at this point! If two individuals, rather than one can do better mission work, then why wouldn’t two congregations be more effective working together also?
Pastor Janet Hunt, in her focus as a church innovator for churches seeking mission renewal shares this question. “Who have been important partners for you in your life? In your life of faith? What has made them so important?” Let us consider the answer – as a church. We have been involved in the work of “The Daily Bread” for a long time. In so doing we have partnered up with a great many churches whom are, ultimately, in partnership with this enterprise, via the donations, which we pass to them. Especially the donations of our time and talents when we, as a fellowship, are helping-out and serving a meal once a month. Because of the efforts to bring churches together to feed the hungry in our neighboring community, where we once resided as a church, has dramatically increased the number of individuals whom are fed! Let us expand our ministry closer to us… here in Palm Bay!
As we look at the text of our scripture again, let us be reminded of what Jesus was doing. He was pairing up his followers to go out into the community – sharing the mission, the love and the mercy of Jesus’ ministry with the people. He did not tell them to measure their success by the number of those who received them. Rather, he was teaching them to continue to try, try and try, till someone was willing to receive what they offered! I ask you: what is most import: being successful at what we do; or is it ‘most important’ whom we are in relationship with – as we do the work which Christ has laid out for us to do? When we walk with God, in Spirit, and in relationship with Christ, is not the peace we feel the most important aspect of our journey? As we go out into the community, together, trying new ways to serve the needs of others, we shall become a stronger faith community, with a closer connection to the Living Spirit of God, with-in and with-out this our church, our base of operations to serve the people of God.