A sermon, based on Luke 10.1-11, 16-20, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 4th Sunday of Pentecost, July 7, 2019
We live in a hyper-reactive world. Tensions and tempers, personal and ideological, political and theological run high and hot. The “still, small voice of God” that Elijah, on the mountaintop, heard(1) cannot be heard above the din that, these days, passes for dialogue. Many, it seems to me, listen less and talk more; spouting opinions, oft stated as facts, while dismissing the views of others who disagree, if not also the others themselves.
Jesus shows us another way.
Heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus sends seventy disciples, an expanded group beyond the original twelve, on a mission journey. Once in Jerusalem, he knows he will be killed. With the shadow of the cross of his crucifixion looming on the horizon, there is an immediate and imperative need for his disciples to gain experience, to practice carrying on his work.
Jesus sends them in pairs, so that each always has another for support and for conversation; for, “greet no one on the road,” there is no time for idle chatter…
They are to take no provisions, relying on the hospitality of strangers…
If they are welcomed, they are to remain where they are and not waste time looking for better room and board. If they aren’t welcomed, they are to wipe the dust from their feet; less as a condemnation of those who don’t receive them and more as a sign of the need to move on…
In these close to final days of Jesus’ ministry and his life, every word of instruction is spoken with breathless energy and urgency.
Although it’s Jesus talking and we, as Christians, are his disciples, let’s be honest, this is not a trip that we would take! Or even think of taking! Would any of us, each of us with our individual wants and needs, preferred appetites, habits, and creaturely comforts embark on a journey without money for necessities and emergencies, a change of clothes, or food; leaving ourselves to depend on the kindness of strangers and without choosing our traveling companions? No!
Nevertheless, as we continue our Season after Pentecost exploration of discipleship, what it means to follow Jesus, one thing is clear: In two millennia, the Christian message hasn’t changed. What Jesus told his disciples then, he tells us now: Proclaim to the world, to all we meet through our presence and in our words and deeds; what we say and do whenever we show up…
Jesus does not call us to follow him, and then send us into the world to share our opinions, what we think is true, or our judgments about those with whom we agree and disagree. Yes, we, as human, have a right to our opinions and judgments. But, as Christians, our primary proclamation is peace. Not our peace, but God’s peace that passes all understanding,(2) for it is beyond human imagination to conceive and human power to create. In the Hebrew, shalom; God’s oneness, harmony with us. And when we receive God’s peace, then we are at-one with everyone, whether or not we agree; because our peace isn’t based on our agreements, but rather and only because of what God has done in Jesus!
Secondly, related to peace, and astoundingly, Jesus entrusts to us to proclaim the inaugural declaration of his ministry: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”(3)
The kingdom of God. God’s being and doing, who God is and what God does. For me (for I bid that each of you discern what it is for you), it is love and justice, unconditional benevolence and fairness for all people in all ways at all times.
Jesus sends us into this hyper-reactive, über-partisan world, where folk quickly take sides and divide. And you and I, in our presence, in our words, in our deeds, proclaiming “peace” and “the kingdom of God has come near,” on any day, at any time, may be the only Bible someone else reads, the only sermon someone else hears, the only Jesus someone else sees.
(1) 1 Kings 19.12
(2) Philippians 4.7
(3) See Mark 1.15
Illustration: Christ Sending Out the Seventy, James Tissot (1836-1902)