Devotional Message: The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; Year C (7/7/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

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

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

2nd Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30

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 Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Hit by a Bus”

I’ve long subscribed to the “hit by a bus” theory of ministry. For those of us who feel called to help lead God’s church, it is important to develop ministries that are sustainable. In most cases, this means gathering enough people to the task that even if we are “hit by a bus” tomorrow (and don’t survive the impact…), the ministry will continue.

In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus seems to ascribe to the same theory. By the tenth chapter of St. Luke, Jesus has travelled to many places, and touched many people. His preaching, teaching, healing, forgiving… all of this has had an impact on those who have experienced them. But he knows the circle must become wider. The community of people who have been reunited with God through him must become larger than the number of people that one person can touch. And so he sends his followers out, in pairs, to prepare the people whom he will eventually meet.

As Jesus sends them, he instructs them to hold the following principles at the heart of everything they do:

  • They are to have a strong sense of mission. There is a harvest to bring in — there are people who need to experience the faith that shapes us — and these followers of Jesus are being sent by God to help make this happen.

  • They will need a willingness to be vulnerable. Like “lambs into the midst of wolves” they will face opposition — even life-threatening danger — but the hope for what God can make possible outweighs any inherent danger.

  • They are to trust in God’s promise to provide. No suitcases, backpacks, storage lockers or steamer trunks for these travelers: trust that whenever the Spirit calls, God will provide. Put anxiety about the future away, and trust that no matter where the road leads, God goes ahead.

  • They will need to commit themselves to the communities they encounter. Find someone (or some ones) interested in what Jesus is all about, and stay with them. Teach, encourage, inspire, support and share the gifts of God with them.

  • Finally — perhaps most importantly — announce that the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus once told a scribe that if he came to love God wholeheartedly, and love his neighbor as himself, he would not be far from the kingdom of God. Now many will go, in pairs, bearing this same message to the world. As people are touched by it, and as people begin to live into it, they will indeed be “not far from the kingdom.”

To those of us with families and jobs and mortgages and “real lives” this may sound frightening. Be assured: it was no less frightening for those first century followers of Jesus. They had seen the wonders Jesus is able to produce, but who were they to imagine they might carry on what he began? They had plenty of reason to respectfully decline the invitation.

Yet seventy didn’t. Seventy went out, in pairs, and prepared countless others to experience how God becomes present in Jesus. We don’t know whether they began with reluctance or excitement. But they returned with joy. The kingdom had come near. Their names were written in heaven. May God grant that we might experience the same!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What must it have been like to be sent in this way by Jesus?

  2. How do his words given them confidence to reach out in ministry on his behalf?

  3. What seems to be the result of their willingness to offer themselves in service to Jesus’ mission?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What is Jesus calling me to do, that might draw others into his love and grace?

  2. What makes me reluctant to share the good news about Jesus with others?

  3. When have I experienced the joy of inspiring or renewing the faith of someone else?