“Focus On the Intent”
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
July 3, 2016
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 10 Now after this the Lord appointed [a]seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no money belt, no [b]bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a [c]man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in [d]that house, eating and drinking [e]what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet [f]be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
The [a]seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
When I look at the world that surrounds us today, I marvel at what goes on! I marvel at what goes on in the secular and the religious world. I marvel at what is maintained and contained in a fast paced, highly technical, and very social world. I marvel at how fast we have lost control of what once was. Now, I know that sounds like an “old preacher” connotation, wishing for the ‘good ole’ days’ and longing for things to be like they were. Quite the contrary in my opinion. For I am not longing for what once was, but I do long for the “understood way” of living the Christian life. As a trained sociologist, I believe that we are creatures of our surroundings to some degree and in light of that I think our surroundings have changed so very, very much in just a short amount of time.
As I prayed and pondered over this message this morning I came to the conclusion that I grew up in a world that was “Christian Safe!” I grew up in a world (maybe it was secluded) where my white, Anglo-Saxon, persona and body was Christian safe. I had many friends of many cultures, of many races and nationalities, but for me, there was no threat. I was Christian safe. I think I was a lot like the 70/72 we hear about in Luke’s Gospel this morning. They were going along, all nestled in their little cluster, cozy, comfortable, and safe with Jesus. But then things got a little “rocky.” One of the followers in Chapter 9 said, “I will follow you wherever you go!” and Jesus calms him down by suggesting that there may some places you don’t want to go or won’t go when you see where I am heading. Someone wanted to spend an inordinate amount of time burying his father, and Jesus suggests to him that death is a station in life we must deal with, but other things are more important. Then in Chapter 10, with exuberance, Jesus appointed 70 (some say 72) to go ahead of him to every town and to basically, prepare the way for him to go!! It was a scouting mission turned into a “mission, mission”!!
Jesus doesn’t sugar coat it either! I’m going to do this as lambs going into the midst of wolves. The harvest will be plenty, but the territory is going to be tough! Jesus was all about the “task” at hand, to spread the gospel and not be involved with idle chatter on the road and get bogged down with those that linger in your midst. Get the message out!
Granted, that seems a bit contrary to our understanding of the grace that will work in anybody’s and everybody’s life, but we have to understand that the time frame for the coming of the Kingdom of God was a bit different than where we are today. Be about the message!
Jesus was all about the acceptance of the hospitality of those who understood what was about to happen. If you greeted someone with peace in your heart and they returned it likewise, then they were instructed to harvest that moment! They were to proclaim the message in a way that was powerful and meaningful for those involved. If they didn’t “hear it,” then they were to proclaim the fact that judgement will befall them, in the words of Luke, “it will be worse than what befell Sodom.”
(After leaving out a little name calling and some “steppin on some feet”) we end up with Jesus’ interpretation of the mission.
Jesus’ concern was for the right message to be proclaimed, not that the evil power had subsided and given into them. Jesus’ purpose was to exemplify the giving of the message (the proclamation)–the legacy of the forth telling of the Gospel.
Upon the return of the 70, Jesus seemed to be interested in the method of the message at a time when the message needed to be heard! If it was proclaimed then the “work” would get done.
This text is a strikingly different proclamation text. It is a text where Peace and Proclamation was to be understood, ushering in The Kingdom of God! Peace=The Kingdom of God. If the proclaimers, i.e. the 70 and us, are faithful to the task, the plentiful harvest will take place and the mission will be solvent.
If we examine this text in the context of Luke’s gospel, I believe that we see that the point lacking, or the point that Jesus is emphasizing, is to make sure we have “laborers” who are prepared to go! I believe this is an interesting way to look at a missional engagement and evangelism text. Here the message is presumed and understood. Now we must make sure that we have the people properly prepared to carry out the mission.
“The church must be aware that the message, not the messenger, is the focus of our existence.”
We have advanced in both good and bad ways that affect the way we communicate the message, yet we must clearly understand and imply that the message is central! Not the mode in which we communicate the message!! This was so clear in Luke’s text this morning. He knew we would have difficulty. He knew we would have road-blocks. He knew we would have obstacles. With the proclamation of The Kingdom and the fact that the second coming has not yet come, we, as 21st Century Christians face one of our greatest temporal obstacles, DOUBT!
As Richard Schaffer puts it, “The passing of each year leads us, chronologically, away from the promise of the coming Kingdom, and claims our sense of expectation.”
Thus we find ourselves in this text this morning needing to engage in the same footsteps of the 70! To be in the streets where obstacles are going to confront us, where rebellion will take place, where places we journey are not like the places we come from.
We have been called to be messengers! We have a difficult task to communicate the Word of hope and promise in an ever changing world that is more times than not, “not Christian friendly and safe”, much like the 70.
My challenge to you this morning is to prepare yourself the best you can through prayer, reading of scripture, fellowship, the sacraments, and Christian action in order that we may be strong proclaimers of the Gospel and we can journey as the 70 did into unknown territory.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN!!