October 22, 2017

Sunday’s Gospel: On a Mission with Jesus

By Chaplain Mike

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Readings
• 2 Kings 5:1-14
• Psalm 30
• Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16
• Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Today’s Gospel: Luke 10:1-20 (NRSV)
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. 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. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

Luke 10:1-9, NRSV

It has become common over the past generation for businesses and enterprises of all kinds to write “mission statements.” These are designed to express why an organization exists. What are we called to do? What particular contribution are we called to make? That’s what the mission statement is about. These statements should be succinct, clear, and easily communicated. That way, those in the organization can stay on track, and communicate their group’s mission easily to others.

Followers of Jesus Christ have a mission statement, too.

This calling is expressed in many ways throughout the Bible:

  • You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
  • Go into all the world and make disciples.
  • Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
  • By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
  • What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

One of the simplest statements is found in Jesus’ words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Just as God sent Jesus into the world to share the good news of his truth and love with others, so those who are Jesus’ followers have been sent. If we belong to Jesus, we have received not only the grace of salvation, but also the grace of vocation. He has made us coworkers together in his mission.

Along these lines, we might consider the word “fellowship.” In the NT this word refers not only to social friendship, but also to being partners in a business together. Because of God’s grace to us in Christ, we have fellowship with Jesus and one another, which means, among other things, that we are all part of the family business.

The Scriptures also tell us that we are “ambassadors for Christ.” An ambassador is a citizen of one country who lives in another country to represent the interests of his homeland. Our King who sent us is interested in seeing the whole world reconciled to himself. That’s his foreign policy! Every disciple of Christ is called to advance that policy by representing God’s love in the world each day.

Today’s Gospel text is a story about our mission. It tells us that one day Jesus sent out seventy of his followers to spread the Good News. He sent them in pairs to go into the villages of Israel. He told them to travel light. He encouraged them to stay in people’s homes and to bring healing and peace to those who lived there. They were to eat what was set before them. If people didn’t want them around, move on. Don’t take it personally, Jesus said. You are representing me. Those who reject your message will bear their own responsibility before me on the day of judgment.

I’ve been on trips like that—short-term mission trips we call them. After college I spent a few weeks in Haiti, preaching at a church conference and outreach. Gail and I have made a half dozen trips to India with the evangelical organization Youth for Christ, where we participated in medical ministry, as well as holding Christian programs in churches, schools, and public spaces. I’ve been to Brazil a couple of times and done the same. We’ve done Vacation Bible Schools in inner city neighborhoods and in rural Kentucky.

These mission trips were designed as special opportunities to get out of our comfort zones, go someplace where we had to adapt to another culture, put us in situations where we would need to stretch our faith a little bit, meet some new people and learn to care about them and what they were going through in their lives, offer a bit of practical help and compassion, learn to work together as teammates, and trust God to guide, protect, and help us on our way.

I recommend that Christians take mission trips and actively participate in service projects out in our communities. The church cannot be the salt of the earth if we don’t get out of the saltshaker. We can’t be the light of the world if we stay behind closed doors and draw the curtains. We can’t love our neighbors if we only hang around with church folks. Jesus said it wasn’t the people who were well who needed a doctor, but the sick, so he went to them. He said it wasn’t the 99 sheep in the pen that needed special attention, but the one that had wandered away. Jesus was known as one who went about doing good. I have an idea that is what will characterize our lives if we follow Jesus.

Now I have an idea that this scares some of you. Many of us don’t feel capable or worthy of representing Jesus or talking about him to others. Whenever someone says that to me, I say, that’s OK, you have just fulfilled the first qualification! Nobody is capable or worthy of representing Jesus—and the sooner we get that into our heads, the better.

But this is the radical social and ecclesiastical vision of the New Testament. God doesn’t wait for qualified people to bring light to the world. He calls the simple ones who take up the towel and serve. It is not the wise and impressive, but children who exemplify and spread the kingdom. The powerful, the privileged, the wealthy, the well-connected, those with great stores of resources—these are not the ones Jesus uses fulfill his mission. Rather, it is you and me—plain old ordinary you and me. Us, together.

It’s the pastor of the small church who visits the sick, the sorrowing, and the shut-ins. It’s the housewife who takes soup to her elderly neighbor. It’s the carpenter, plumber, and painter, who take their work seriously and pursue excellence in their crafts. It’s the single woman who reads stories to kids at the library. It’s the grandmother who prays for her family every day. It’s the husband and wife who are struggling in their marriage, but who decide to stick it out. It’s the nurse who does the little things to make her patient feel cared for. It’s the employer who pays fair wages and cares about those who work for him. It’s the worker who refuses to cut corners. It’s the funeral home director who leaves a flower on the bed after removing a loved one’s body from the home. It’s the guy who makes an anonymous gift to a friend who’s out of work.

It’s extending a cup of cold water, speaking a kind word, knowing when to keep quiet, dropping by to say hi to a lonely friend, writing an encouragement note, sitting with grieving parents, saying, “I’m sorry,” asking forgiveness, and looking the other way when you are wronged. It’s the Samaritan stopping, the widow dropping her last penny in the box.

This is not rocket science. There is no spiritual technology to be mastered. No degrees are required. This is all about love, kindness, generosity, sensitivity, honesty, diligence, and unselfishness, all practiced right out there in the real stuff of daily life. It’s about good works done from a heart of love for the glory of God for my fellow human beings. It’s about watching Jesus at work, and allowing him, by his Word and Spirit, to work through us. It’s about not just about taking special trips or participating in special projects. It’s about living, everyday, in mission with Jesus.

Comments

  1. Bettina Klix says:

    Thank you, Chaplain Mike.
    What a wonderful picture: “The Church cannot be the salt of the earth if we don’t get out of the saltshaker.”

  2. true dat!

  3. Thanks for the internet homily Chaplain Mike. This reminded me very much of the sermon preached by the deacon at the Anglican cathedral I worshiped at this morning here in Brisbane, Australia. Indeed, we are called to:

    “V. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
    R. In the Name of Christ. Amen.”

  4. Love the saltshaker metaphor! 🙂

  5. Actually Mike, mission statements have been around for almost 2,000 years in the form of creeds.

    Brad

  6. Dan Crawford says:

    Yeah, it’s OK to be pastoral and Christian and all that stuff, but in today’s evangelical world, you have to be able to “cast a vision”. Apparently the Good News of Jesus Christ is not sufficient for pastors weaned on the last (business) management fads.

  7. A little off topic, but I am trying to find new words to talk about “mission” work. As it is used in churches, it’s jargon.

    I remember I went to church for a good while before I realized that when the preacher talked about mission work, they meant the things mentioned in the original post…. serving your neighbor. I assumed it had to do with going to another country to evangelize or standing on the street corner warning people about hell, so I tuned it out at first.

    When I talk to unchurched people about our church, I don’t tell them we do lots of mission work, I say we serve our neighbor or something like that. Not because I don’t want to turn them off; I simply want to use their language and not the churches’.

  8. dumb ox says:

    “This is not rocket science. There is no spiritual technology to be mastered. No degrees are required. This is all about love, kindness, generosity, sensitivity, honesty, diligence, and unselfishness, all practiced right out there in the real stuff of daily life. It’s about good works done from a heart of love for the glory of God for my fellow human beings.”

    Funny how dumbed-down religion sells, but no one buys succinct, uncomplicated statements like this. Keep it simple, but at the same time overly-complex, so I can spend all my time studying missions but never actually being one.

  9. That particular story of Jesus sending out the seventy hits me where I live. I can’t exactly explain why. It might be, per the theme of your post, that at that point the disciples were, relatively speaking, unaware. Of who Jesus was, of what his ultimate mission was, of how exactly God could heal through them, of what the Kingdom was. It’s as if a master mechanic came up to me on my first day of apprenticeship, knowing almost nothing, and said “that car over there has a transmission problem- go to it.” Except that it’s a demonstration of the power and involvement of God in the world, not just a “how-to” lesson that demands expertise. Which, I guess, is why Jesus felt totally ok about sending out folks who occasionally acted like boneheads and didn’t really get a lot of what he was saying.

    Nate