July 3, 2022 – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Rev. TJ Mack – Union Congregational Church of Hancock
Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two 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; 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 a person of peace is there, 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.’
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 Indeed, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The passage that Peggy read for us this morning is full of action. Jesus is instructing, teaching, guiding, sending. The seventy-two were traveling, greeting, praying, healing. They were told to take nothing, to not delay, to proclaim God’s peace (Shalom) in every town. Go to both Jews and Gentiles, to accept food and lodging as provided as acceptable payment for curing the sick and proclaiming God’s peace.
The seventy-two were amazed at the authority granted to them in Jesus’ name. They returned rejoicing in their unity with God and with the relationships built with others.
I recall that my friend Mair Honan took this scripture quite literally while she was in seminary. Perhaps it was the basis of her Master’s Thesis… or perhaps simply an idea that wouldn’t leave her alone. She trekked for days, leaving her home, her husband, her children, with nothing but the clothes on her back, depending upon the kindness of strangers for her food, shelter, and safety. It was a goosebump-y sermon, listening to Mair tell of her “day one” doubts as she entered a town in late afternoon, tired and hungry after walking all day, wondering what the heck she had been thinking. Evening found her sharing a delicious meal with a local family, a roof over her head, and prayers and song to sustain her. Each successive day was a variation of the first.
At the heart of the scripture again this week is urgency, understood in the simplicity of their provisions, as in, take nothing with you and let God provide all your needs.
Most of us stumble right there. To let God provide our needs, any or all of them, may be the single most difficult thing we attempt to do in our lives. There is great tension between trusting God and being self-sufficient.
Many of us tend to measure success in financial terms, in achievements such as physical prowess, educational degrees or employment prestige. All those things are wonderful so long as we keep in mind that God measures success in how we share our gifts and resources, not in how much we accumulate.
Jesus’ sense of urgency was real, knowing he would soon meet his death on the cross. It is easy to think we have plenty of time, until we don’t. A cancer diagnosis, age related declines in one’s health, witnessing the senseless murders of innocent children or adults. These situations are devastating reminders of the urgency to act now, to not procrastinate, not knowing which will be our last day, or someone else’s last day.
Luke writes that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. He was referring to all the human potential, all the people in every city and every town that were ripe for the picking, that could be healed of their illnesses and frailties, that could be turned toward the ways of God. Who can hear those words today and not think of our current economy? The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Who will pick the blueberries and the apples? Who will dig the potatoes? Who will work in the convenience stores? Who will build the houses? Who will teach our children? Everywhere we look there are help wanted signs. Who will do the work? Where are all the people?
Jesus sent the seventy-two representing all the nations, all the people, as written in the Book of Genesis. Jesus sent them to welcome all people into the kin-dom of God. Jesus sends the seventy-two to grow the kin-dom though peace, love, healing; to provide the necessary laborers to ensure the harvest. God’s plentiful harvest is wasted without the individuals ready and willing to actually complete the work.
Jesus was known to shatter boundaries, sending disciples across boundaries to meet people familiar and unfamiliar. What of our contentious southern border? How many people are we keeping from living their best lives? Worse, how many people are we sentencing to miserable lives, and sometimes miserable deaths? And why? Because we place artificial borders and boundaries where God has put none.
What could we experience if we dared to live openly, dared to put our trust in God? How different would we be, would the world be, if we aligned ourselves with good, with God, rather than with our own desires and self-centered ways?
We could get interested in our town, state, national governance and help tip the balance toward the good. Theologian Frederick Buechner talks of the place where our deep gladness, our joy, meets the world’s needs. We all need to find that place. What is God nudging you to do? What ideas won’t leave you alone? It may be volunteer activities, it may be how you make your living in the world. Whatever it is, don’t delay. Give your resources – your time – your money – your enthusiasm. Meet others with the same interests. Meet people seeking assistance. Share your stories. Hear their stories. Open your heart. Be moved with compassion to change lives, one life at a time.
Yes, we could go all out like Mair did. But it is not all or nothing in this life. We could also dip a toe into the water and begin by volunteering at any number of local and state-wide non-profit organizations. The Immigrant Resource Center. Catholic Charities of Maine. The Loaves and Fishes food pantry. Families First Community Center. Comfort Cases. Healthy Acadia. Healthy Hornets Backpacks. Window Dressers. They all make a difference!
Jesus sent the seventy-two out to heal others. That sounds scary and difficult. We know we can’t heal all sickness. Not all physical sickness. But we can bring God’s love and compassion to one and all so that even when our physical bodies fail – which they will – our emotional and spiritual selves can thrive and flourish.
The disciples were amazed at the power they had in Jesus’ name.
We have been empowered by the same Voice, the same Spirit, the same urgency that sent the disciples in this scripture to go out into the world. Go. Proclaim. Heal. Believe. Believe in God. Believe in the power that you yourself hold when in partnership with God.
Take a leap of faith. Live in the tension between self-sufficiency and the trust that God will provide your needs. Join in seeing that the needs of all are met in our communities and beyond. We are someone’s answer to God’s promise of having their needs provided.
This sermon is ending, hopefully this conversation is just beginning.
Tell me what you are already doing.
Tell me what you hope to do in the future.
Tell me what you see that needs doing that you want others to be aware of.
Together, with God and with one another, we make the world a better place.
Rev. TJ Mack – July 3, 2022