“Keep it Simple”
July 7, 2019 – 5th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C
There’s a legend that tells of Jesus’ return to heaven, still bearing the scars of his cruel death on the cross. Gabriel approached him, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for humans.”
‘And,” continued Gabriel, “do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?”
“Oh, no,” Jesus replied, “not yet. Right now, only a handful in Palestine know.”
Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have you done,” he asked, “to let everyone know about your love for them?”
“I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. These will tell still others, and my story will spread around the globe. Finally, everyone will know about my life and love.”
Gabriel frowned skeptically. He knew humans all too well. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James get tired? What if the people who come after them forget? What if people in the 21st century just don’t tell others about you? What are your back-up plans?”
“I don’t have any other plans,” Jesus replied. “I’m counting on them.”
Imagine Jesus standing in the middle of the sanctuary saying: “I select You, and you, and you, until Jesus has ultimately pointed to each one of us. Would we say to the people we encounter, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” You see, that is the challenge that is presented to us. We are to heal the sick while proclaiming God’s
Good News. It is a simple message that must not be weighted down with extraneous details.
No purse, luggage, sandals, or back-pack for us. We are to simply head along the streets and roads and proclaim, “Peace to this house!” And then we are to point out that “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” If we are not welcomed, we brush the dust from our feet and move onward.
As you hear the phrase “shake the dust off your feet” you might have found yourself thinking of the movie “Babette’s Feast.” Babette is a French cook who finds herself working in the dour home of a Norwegian family. When she wins some money, she decides to cook them the finest meal they, and their guests, will have ever had. They are suspicious of the food and her motives, but she is not about to shake the dust off her sandals. She hangs in there with the family.
Perhaps you are wondering why such a mission? The writer of the Gospel of Luke is writing in a period of expansion for Christians around about the year 85 CE. This description of the mission of the 72 disciples is not mentioned in the other gospels. Jesus sends the original 12 disciples on a mission to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal, but Jesus expects something else from the 72. They are to prepare a way for him to visit the towns to which they are sent. Although all the gospels record stories of missionary journeys, only in Luke do we get both a sending out the 12 and the 72. Their mission is simple They are to heal the sick and proclaim the reign of God. Luke concludes with a joyful homecoming scene where there is great rejoicing about the success of the mission, and a reminder from Jesus that wonderful things have happened because they belong to God.
As John the Baptist heralded the Messiah in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the 72 herald the journey of the Messiah at the beginning of his journey to Jerusalem. Their ministry is focused and purposeful. They must not stay in towns where they are not welcome, nor take rejection personally, and not take credit for miracles. That is pretty hard to do. They were to set their own ego aside and go confident in God’s grace.
We are called to preach, teach, and heal in God’s name. Wherever there is poverty, discrimination, war, evil, violence, and exploitation of humans and the planet earth, then there is an urgency to move into these areas and work to change the unjust structures.
Our church’s Mission and Service fund has heard that call and responds. Through our donations to the M&S fund projects that feed the hungry, seek justice, support the oppressed, and care for the planet are supported. Our letters on behalf of Amnesty International is proven to help free prisoners of conscience. Our intentional care for the planet by reducing, reusing, and recycling is an important commitment.
Wholeness, healing, acceptance, and forgiveness comes through God’s grace. God, in turn, challenges and supports us to become a new creation, and to wholehearted commitment to lovingly, happily, and joyfully creating a better world.
“How do we do that?”, You might ask. I believe it first of all becomes real when we stop hiding our faith under a basket. We are called to speak our faith, live our faith, and even sleep our faith. In other words, in all we do we are to exemplify God’s grace. Second, we are called to take risks. We are to venture the path of bold courage. This means that the care for our planet and the people on it must be a priority. Writing to manufacturers demanding that wrapping be reduced and be bio-degradable. Using products that are non-toxic. Walk more and drive less. Support initiatives that place people and the planet as priorities. And finally, we are called to invite others into our circle of faith community. Evangelism is not a 4 letter word in the United Church. And yet, many of us are reluctant to invite friends and neighbours into our community of faith. If we are to grow, it is imperative that we extend invitations to those around us. If we believe in the message that the kingdom of God is near, then we must let it be known.
“Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary,” a worship resource states: “that the disciples are sent out in pairs shows us that even at its simplest level, Christian missions is never a solo voyage. Christian existence and Christian life are corporate in nature, for Christ calls us into life and action as God’s people, not merely as God’s persons. In turn, as Jesus sends out these teams, he speaks deeply ironic words, telling them that the harvest is ready and great, but the workers are few. We should not forget that Israel was a religious nation. Religious concerns and practices coloured the fabric of everyday life, but Jesus says despite the religious cost of life and the number of religious leaders there were few workers available for God’s work. The saying reminds us that religious activity that is merely directed toward God and not directed by God may be useless.
Our congregation knows the importance of two or more joining together for worship, service, study, and fellowship. That is why we take seriously the call to be a vital, alive community of faith. We seek to know Jesus intimately in all that we are about.
It will always remain true that a person’s greatest glory is not what they have done but what God has done for them. For instance, it might well be claimed that the discovery of the use of chloroform saved the world more pain than any other single medical discovery. Once someone asked Sir James Simpson, who pioneered its use, “What do you regard as your greatest discovery?” expecting the answer, “chloroform.” But Simpson answered, “My greatest discovery was that Jesus Christ is my Saviour.”
May we take delight that Jesus has called us to proclaim the Good News. May we do so with joy and conviction. Amen.