Scripture: Luke 10:1-11
With gratitude for for companions on this journey of faith let us pause for a moment to offer a Prayer of Thanksgiving:
God of the journey,
You have called us to be a people with a purpose;
…travelling to where we are led,
sustained by your Spirit,
committed to the Gospel for the hope of the world.
Lead us on our journey
from who we are to who you want us to be;
so that persistence is kindled within us,
kindness shines through us,
gentleness is embodied by us,
truth is second nature to us,
and a commitment to share in Christ’s ministry
of love and peace
is revealed in our words and actions
in this place and in God’s world.
(Adapted from a prayer by Ruth Harvey, Eggs and Ashes, pgs. 109-110)
Today’s Scripture story, from the Gospel of Luke, begins by telling us that Jesus commissioned seventy of his followers
and sent them in pairs to all the places he also intended to travel. I imagine Jesus saying to them, I am sending you into unknown and possibly dangerous territory. I want you to leave the security of home behind, take only what you are wearing, accept the hospitality of strangers, eat whatever they offer you, bring Peace wherever you go and offer healing in whatever way you can. Remind people constantly that God’s commonwealth is near at hand. Show by your actions that God is near and encourage others to believe they can help to bring God’s commonwealth to fruition through loving, peaceful, persistent actions for the common good. This is not going to be an easy task. At times you may feel like lambs in the midst of wolves but be of good courage, you are not alone, God is with you and my love and peace will be with you. Go quickly for the harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few. Time is of the essence. Be of good courage. God’s peace be with you.
The Gospel account doesn’t say whether or not the seventy followers went eagerly and without complaint but we do know they went because later in Luke’s gospel we are told that the “seventy returned with joy” and reported to Jesus the results of their mission. (Luke 19:17)
Can you imagine if our Church Council were to say to all of us, “We have a task for you. We want you to go to the communities surrounding Kimberley. We want you to go in pairs. We want you to go without your VISA or MasterCard; without your debit cards; without any cash; without food; without a change of clothes. You are expected to depend on the hospitality of strangers for food and lodging. You are also expected to bring the Peace of Christ to everyone you meet and to offer pastoral care and healing wherever you go. Also, it’s important for you to know that you may not always receive a warm welcome. If this is the case then move on to a more welcoming place. And, one last thing, DON’T EXPECT THIS TO BE EASY, you will be like ‘lambs sent into the midst of a pack of wolves’.”
How many of us would be willing to accept that challenge? Don’t worry, that’s not on our Council’s agenda. After all, it’s not realistic, or reasonable, to try to take the gospel story as literal instruction for our community of faith today. But, it does beg the question, what can we learn from this story and what supplies do we need for our journey and our ministry?”
I believe that Jesus was making the point that we need to trust God and to focus on the spiritual gifts that each person carries with them. These spiritual gifts are the keys for helping others to participate in their own work of bringing to life the Commonwealth of God. The message seems clear – take nothing but yourselves, your faith, your trust in God, your commitment to following the Way of Jesus will be more than enough.
As a person who likes to be prepared these insights have been essential to me as a person in ministry. For example, one can never be fully prepared for being called to the bedside of someone who is critically or terminally ill. There is no time to say, “wait just a minute I have to look up a really good prayer or a scripture passage that will fit this occasion perfectly.” You go, you just go, knowing that God will also be present and that if you can just open yourself up in prayer there will be guidance and a holy presence that is sacred.
I am sure we’ve all had occasions when we’ve felt unprepared for some of the experiences in our lives. I believe that the supplies we need to carry with us are within us already. In our journey of life we need faith, we need hope, we need love, and we need persistence in the face of adversity. We do, in fact, have within us, all that we need to share in Jesus’ ministry. And, Jesus didn’t ask anyone to do this work on their own. The realization of God’s commonwealth is the work of people in relationship together. In order to thrive as followers of the Way of Jesus, we must continue to nurture our capacity for trust in God and in hope that is rooted and sustained by the power of faith and love.
We are pilgrims on a journey of faith. We are not alone on this journey – God is with us prompting and guiding us, we have each other, we have Christ who is with us in tangible ways as we share in his ministry and follow in his footsteps.
With this in mind, I’ll close with words of faith from writer and theologian, Joyce Rupp:
Jesus, you said:
‘Take nothing for the journey.’
What did you mean?
Trust or more than trust?
Did you perhaps imply that we can’t wait
until we have all the possible things we need?
That we can’t postpone ‘doing’
until we are positive of our talents?
That we can’t hold off our commitment
until we are absolutely sure
we won’t make a mistake.
I think of all the excuses and reasons
we can give for not serving and giving:
no time, no talent, no knowledge,
no energy, no assured results.
You say, ‘Take nothing.
Don’t worry about your inadequacies.
I will provide for you.
Go! Just go! Go with my power.
Risk the road, risk the work.
Go! I will be with you.
What else do you need?’
(Out of the Ordinary, by Joyce Rupp pgs. 149-150)
Words of wisdom for our lives.
Thanks be to God!