The 6th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9C (7/4/2010)

A Sent People

Lessons: Isaiah 66:10-14 Psalm 66:1-9 (4) Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16 St. Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Semicontinuous Series: 2 Kings 5:1-14 Psalm 30 (2) Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16 St. Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Prayer of the Day: O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.  With your Spirit accompany us on our life's journey, that we may spread your peace in all the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:1 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.’

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 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 See, 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.”

St. Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

We are a sent people – a people sent for a specific purpose – a holy purpose – and that makes all the difference in the world.

We see that in this morning’s Gospel lesson. In the tenth chapter of St. Luke, Jesus sends seventy of his followers out ahead, to prepare the people for his arrival. And go out they do – with faith and courage. They make their way to the towns and villages and rural communities where Jesus hopes to visit. And miracles happen: even demons submit to their word. It is a remarkable experience, and they come home absolutely amazed about what has happened.

But once again, the unexpected happens. Rather than commend them and assure them, Jesus seems to chastise them. He says: “Do you think that is remarkable? I’ve seen a lot more than that.” It is a surprising response. It almost sounds like an older sibling making fun of a younger sibling who has just experienced something for the first time. “That’s not so impressive. I’ve done better than that.” But the key to understanding these words of Jesus is found in the last verse of this week’s Gospel. He teaches his listeners that far more important than the fact that demons might have responded to them, is the fact that their names are written in heaven.

You see, what happens here is that the disciples have lost their perspective. They have witnessed some amazing events. People have been healed. Hearts have been touched. Through their words and actions, the spirit has moved, and people’s lives have been changed, and that is first in their minds. It is all they can think about, talk about, dream about.

But Jesus teaches them that their priorities have become confused. They are focusing on the miracles and wonders, but forgetting the most important reality of all: that they have received, from God, the gift of salvation. That is more important than spiritual phenomena. That is more important than healing powers. That is more important than anything else. In their excitement, they loose track of this. They loose track of the message that is supposed to be at the heart of everything they do. They loose track of the message that the kingdom is near to them; that God has chosen them to be part of the eternal family; that their names are written in heaven.

Jesus sends these seventy followers out to prepare for his arrival – to prepare people so that they might be touched in some of the same way that these followers themselves have been touched. Jesus sends them out with a specific purpose: that they might become vehicles of God; leading the people they meet to the point that their names, too, might be written in heaven.

We, like them, are a sent people – and one aspect of what it means to be faithful to God today is to discern where it is that God is sending us, and what it is that God desires to accomplish through us.

This Sunday is celebrated  as Independence Day in the United States. This is not just a time to recall events that took place two hundred years ago. It is also a time to consider what larger purpose we, as citizens of one of the greatest nations ever, have in the world that surrounds us. What gifts would God give to the world through us? How can we work to promote justice and righteousness in all that we do? How can we put our resources to work, not just in ways that promote our own national interests, but in ways that work for the benefit of all God's children?

We are a sent people – a people sent for a specific purpose – a holy purpose – and that makes all the difference in the world.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why did Jesus send the 70 out ahead of him?
  2. How did they interpret their experiences?
  3. Why does the fact that their names are written in heaven change how they understand the way the Spirit worked through them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean for me as an individual to be sent into the world with a sacred purpose?
  2. What does it mean for my congregation to be sent into the world with a sacred purpose?
  3. On this Independence Day weekend, what does it mean for me, as a citizen of my country, to be sent into the world with a sacred purpose?