(Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)
May the words of my mouth be acceptable to you, O Lord, and encourage us to be ‘sent out’. Amen.
We always talk about the twelve disciples, but today our Gospel reading points out that there were a lot more disciples than just the original twelve. If you look at the meaning of the word ‘disciple’, the dictionary defines it as:
- One who is sent
So, we have additional disciples ‘sent out’ by Jesus to bring the good news to the people. In this reading we heard that Jesus sent out seventy disciples. However, depending on the various Greek source, there are two differing opinions as to the number of new disciples. The New International Version of the Bible indicates that there were 72 sent out; the New Revised Standard Version which we use says seventy. Noted theologians consider the seventy sent out by Jesus to be the New Testament equivalent of the seventy leaders appointed by Moses in the Old Testament.
By sending the disciples out, Jesus transferred His Spirit to them, so they would be equipped for leadership in the new faith. The seventy were to be the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of Jesus. That is still true today. For Jesus to complete his mission in today’s world, He needs hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds; he needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus still gets work done today through his disciples. These were not religious professionals or rabbis, but common ordinary people.
- Jesus sent all his disciples out two-by-two, just as He sent out the twelve: the twelve were sent out two-by-two. The seventy were sent out two-by-two. (Mark 6:7)
Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two-by-two. Why two-by-two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective missionaries in the world today is because they are trained in missionary faith and then they are sent out together. Going together made for effective evangelism two thousand years ago and still works today.
Jesus gave these new disciples the following warnings:
- • The work is urgent. There is not time to waste, for the harvest is ready.
• It won’t be easy. In fact, sometimes you’ll feel like you are like a lamb stalked by a wolf. Sometimes when you think the ‘harvest is ready’ it won’t be — there will be some who will be less than welcoming.
• You don’t need to take much with you. No cash or credit cards. Not a change of clothes. Not an extra pair of shoes. Not your cell phone, your new used car, or your Facebook page.
• You’re not in charge of how people respond. You are just the messenger, the one speaking on behalf of Jesus. You do not have any say about where and when you go. You will stay until it is time to go.
• You need to anticipate rejection by the world which is essentially hostile to the love of Christ.
- If a village does not return peace, you must brush the dust off your sandals – leave and go somewhere else. (Luke 10:11)
• You will need to be able to simply accept the gifts of those who welcome you. You will eat what you are served; usual dietary rules are to be abandoned, if you are a vegetarian, you must might have to eat meat.
On the other hand, He gave them the following assurances:
- • You will have a companion with you; you will never be alone. You will have each other to help keep your eyes on the goal; help each other when things get tough.
• You have a simple message — you are to declare peace wherever you go. You will be sent out with a declaration of the Kingdom and God’s salvation and authority. It is a message of blessing.
What a simple message!
I think we often tend to make things far too complicated. When a new worshipper finds her way into this church through our website, advertisement, curiosity, or be invitation, public relations will only get us so far. If new worshipper isn’t welcomed at the door; if a long time member doesn’t extend kindness to them; if the worshipper doesn’t hear the Gospel preached simply… I don’t believe they will return.
All of these unique gifts – welcoming, inclusion, true preaching of the good news of Jesus and friendship, are like what the seventy offered so long ago. People are reached in the same way: with kindness and with a message of peace. It is not fancy, but it is still very effective.
Jesus wasn’t going to send his disciples into places where he himself was not intending to go. In Luke 10:1, we hear He:
- sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go (Luke 10:1)
Just like today, Jesus sends us into places and situations where He wants us to go and where he himself plans to be present. And he knows where the need is the greatest. . . where
- the harvest is plentiful (Luke 10:2)
In Jesus’ day as in our times, people understood when the fields were ripe for harvesting. Plowing, planting, watering, caring for, weeding are all different activities before harvesting. Harvesting means that the plants are ready to be gathered in, or picked off the tree, or reaped from the field. Jesus was saying that people were ready to be harvested, gathered in.
Jesus knew there were people ready to belong to the kingdom but what was needed were more disciples. Jesus believed that people were ripe and ready for the gospel, ripe and ready for the kingdom, ripe and ready to hear the love of God. The time was right; the people were ripe. We dare not wait a moment longer. Sometimes it is a lot easier to tell when a real harvest is ready to be brought in than it is to tell when one is ready to hear the message. Perhaps this is why Jesus says we should be generous in our sharing. “Just go and do it,” Jesus seems to be saying. And leave the results up to God.
The same is true today in the twenty-first century: there are people all around us who are ripe and ready to hear about the love of God. But the laborers are few. Although there are some faithful people who are members of the church, sing in the choir, sit on the vestry, work on social projects at church, and do everything at church, we ALL must do everything we can to lead people to the church and the love of God and Jesus.
As many of you might know, Saint John’s is fortunate, at least I think so, to have two deacons as part of the staff. Vocational Deacons are called to a ministry that brings the church to the world and the world to the church. To quote Bishop Breidenthal, he wants his deacons “to be subversive, to not allow the church to become complacent, to get people out of the pews and bringing people to Jesus”. So you will find that Deacon Jackie and I will be ‘encouraging’ you to go out into the world. And we can be pretty persistent about it.
The church in America has plenty of people who are willing to do church work in order to keep the church running smoothly, but there are very few disciples willing to do the evangelism work to help people know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Rather than sitting in a pew or remaining in our little church group, Jesus calls us to be on our way, to be the hands, hearts and heads of Jesus, into a world around us.
From the Scripture, we heard that Jesus was sending and is still sending people out into situations where others may attack. Lambs NEVER feel safe and secure when wolves are around to attack them and eat them up; Christians NEVER feel safe and secure among folks who may be hostile to the gospel, who may be resistant to having Christ rule their lives with love and compassion.
Some basic principles of evangelism are derived from this gospel lesson:
- • The disciples were to reach out to people who knew their need of God and their need for the ways of God.
• The disciples had an attitude of compassion and not criticism nor condemnation.
• The disciples were not religious professionals but common ordinary people.
• The disciples prayed to the Lord of the harvest to give workers who would do the work of harvesting, not people whose primary passion was working to maintain the church.
• The disciples were sent out two-by-two.
Our prayer is for other workers who will ‘encourage’ us to recognize that all peoples’ lives need to be ruled by the love and compassion of our Lord. And amazing things can and does happen!
This evangelism model is about multiplication. Let’s look at the math of the Kingdom of God.
IF we start with Jesus and his first disciple, that makes
- 1 +1 = 2
Then Jesus and his first disciple trains one other person:
- 2 + 2 = 4
And these four each train someone else
- 4 + 4 = 8
By the time this pattern has been repeated sixteen times, we have
- 131,072 + 131,072 = 262,114 disciples!
So, I challenge each one of you to reach out to just ONE person, carrying the message of the Love of God and salvation through Jesus. It isn’t that hard:
Greet someone here who you do not know
Talk to someone at coffee hour and ask them to come again
Ask your neighbor to come to a church function.
If you do, marvelous things can happen!
Remember the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila:
- Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
For those of you who have taken communion from me, you would have heard
- “Receive what you are, the body of Christ”
Let each one of us be a part of Christ’ body.
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH on 7 July 2013