Just thought I’d post a sermon I did while on the 4 week summer placement. Context: Rural benefice of 3 parishes.
Bretforton and Badsey 7th July 2013 Placement, , Luke: 10.1-11,16-20
He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way.
The question that struck me when I read the passage from Luke was… should mission be resourced and rooted in the community? If so, what does this mean for us, here and now?’
This is a strange sermon for me to do as you don’t know me and I don’t know you very well either! Yet here I am, and I wonder if that’s how the 70 felt?
You have offered me your very warm and welcoming hospitality over the past week or so for which I am very thankful. And, hospitality is an important part in all missional work. And so you may not have realised this but you have been missional to me through your care and friendship, just like how Christ instructed the disciples to go out with the gentleness of lambs and to share His peace with all they meet. In fact both hospitality and peace feature as the most important attitudes of His commands to us and the disciples.
You see, although the 70 disciples had been with Jesus listening to His teachings and watching him at work, now they were being trusted to go out on their own. They were being entrusted with Jesus’ message about God to, of all people, the people of Samaria, the Samaritans! A people who were often hostile to Jews in Galilee and Judea! Not the most encouraging of prospects.
Last week we heard of the three would be disciples who, despite wanting to follow Jesus, still found excuses for continuing to live their old lives. However Jesus did not give up and instead found others who would truly listen and hear His good news of God’s coming Kingdom because as Jesus said
The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3
Jesus sends the 70 ahead to prepare the way for Him but the disciples are not going in entirely cold, as God had already been at work in the hearts of the people. God has already planted seeds which grow despite not knowing their true Father and now they are ripe for harvest, to be told the life giving truth of God’s healing power. That’s why the disciples are needed; we are needed, to work in partnership with God in order for His Kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus instructs the disciples that “whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” The Samaritans were accustomed to violence against them and so to be met with messages of peace would have thrown them into confusion. You can imagine them asking; who are these people? Why do they care about us? Jesus says he is sending them like lambs into the midst of wolves which shows the disciples the importance of approaching the Samaritan people in innocence and with a sense of sincerity, vulnerability and non-resistance. This is Jesus’s way of managing conflict and facing angry hurt people in dangerous situations. His vision of God’s kingdom is opposite to the other human led movements of the time where violence was used to coerce the people into submission. Jesus turns worldly ideas upside down because instead of violence, he restores people in a spirit of gentleness as Galatians tells us. My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.
A good gardener knows that if the soil is right and the conditions are favourable, a seed will take root and flourish into a bountiful plant. Jesus has the same idea that if conditions are favourable then the disciples are to stay in the house that has welcomed them. There they are to stay put. This is to prevent the disciples from shopping around for the best place and trying out this house and that house to see which one has the best food or sleeping arrangements. Staying in the same house, graciously accepting all that was put before them, freed the disciples to fully concentrate and commit their energies to the task set before them. Such steadfastness would establish an atmosphere of stability and trustworthiness in the community around them. The disciples had arrived with their message and were not going to easily give up and look for somewhere better.
However Jesus is sensitive to the culture of the place and so instructs the disciples to eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Jesus means for the disciples to see what is there and work with it, not to impose their ideas of what is right from their cultural point of view. There is a lesson here about meeting people where they are, not assuming we know better or that they have nothing good to offer but to see with open eye where God is already at work.
We all like to receive a favourable response and be easily accepted by people but what if the people do not accept the disciples? Jesus has the answer as he instructs the disciples to proclaim that 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.” Rejection is hard to deal with. Yet unfavourable responses do not mean the disciples give up on their message but merely move on and keep persevering. Jesus knows that not everyone is ready to hear the good news about God’s Kingdom. Sharing this with the disciples enables them to realise the focus of their work is God and not their ego’s. Being sent out is not about them and how good they are. It is about pointing to a reality greater than they could ever imagine.
This final point, where Jesus makes clear the purpose of being sent is for the spreading of the kingdom, is spectacularly shown by the exuberant joy of the disciples on their return who excitedly say Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us! They have experienced first-hand dominance of the power of God over the powers of evil. Yet their joy is not to be focused on their great success but rather on their recognition in the Book of Heaven, In other words, they are to be aware that they are partners in building God’s kingdom in the world. That is to be their true source of joy.
And it is this source of Joy which is for everyone who sees what God is doing and joins in. The M word, mission, is not something for just a special few to be involved with. It’s not about sending people to far away countries. It’s about hospitality: sharing time, food and being good company with those in need. Simple things we do without a second thought every day. Go on your way, Jesus said. Go, not tomorrow or next week but today, this minute, this second. Be the peace of God in the world; show we have a God of generous grace and astonishing, powerful, healing love because God knows; the world needs Him now more than ever.