Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sent Luke 10:1-11, 16-17

The message below is offered as a the climax of a service where hymns and choruses, dramatic Scripture reading, and grand choral piece supported with a small chamber orchestra that all focus on hearing God's voice and responding to God's call.

Many of our youth will recognize the title for the message this morning. It is “borrowed” from this summer’s Falls Creek theme. While the foundation for this message was laid long before our week at Falls Creek, I cannot help but be shaped by what happened there. (Looking at youth) You and your story are a vital part of what we are doing here this morning.

Likewise, there are others in our midst that have had summer experiences that should impact how we hear our focal passage for the morning. Paul and Barbara Calmes and Joe Hodge, would you please join me on the platform?

Interview of Paul and Barbara Calmes on recent trip to China
Barbara, what triggered your and Paul’s trip to China?
Paul, you two are very busy doing missions all over the globe. Why would you add a trip to China to your already busy schedule? Paul, can you tell us what the result of the trip is and how our church can be involved?
The core of the story is that a call from a former colleague has created the opportunity for the birth of a new international church in a city of 4 million in China with no English speaking church available for the large expatriate population and many English speaking Chinese.

Interview of Joe Hodges on the birth this week of Western Winds Cowboy Fellowship
Joe, this week Beth and I joined you and Dee Onn for a gathering in an open barn complete with hay in the corner, horse stall, and country gospel music. How about tell the church what was going on. Is this something you had been dreaming of for a while?
The core of the story is that a new cowboy church has been born despite the initial reluctance of the one who will serve as church planter. The way God has worked in this process is remarkable.

At Falls Creek a number of our youth heard God call, come and follow me, and they followed. Paul and Barbara heard God call then half way across the globe to help open new opportunities for ministry. They heard the call and responded. Joe and Dee Onn heard a call to begin a new church in the heart of their community. They heard the call and responded. This kind of call and response emerges from the heart of the gospel story. This morning’s focal passage invites us witnesses into the sending of the 72. 1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

The NIV uses the number 72, other translation use other manuscripts and use the number 70 instead. But whether the number is 70 or 72 the point was clear. This was more than the 12, those Disciples we learned by name. No, this is the larger body of followers, an early version of what would become the church. While the 12 were among them, these were the everyday followers, people like you and me. This commissioning, this sending out, is an early picture of what the call means for us this morning. We have been tempted to think that the only ministers and missionaries are commissioned by God. This is not the case. This morning we join the story of the 72, the sending of the church into the world.

Before they are sent out Jesus offers a commissioning prayer. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. This has always been one of my favorite prayers because Jesus invites the crowd around him to open their eyes and see the needs, the brokenness, the lonely, and spiritually isolated who need redemption found only at the feet of God. In another Gospel we hear the words “the fields are white for harvest.” There are many, so many, living apart from God…and so few reaching out to them. The prayer is for God to send more workers into the harvest fields. Part of what I love about this prayer is the next word – this one little word – is the answer to prayer. That word is Go! Jesus invites the 72 to claim their place as a part of God’s response. When you pray for your family, for our community, for God’s work in the world, have you asked if God wants you to be a part of the answer?

Jesus understood that sending people out was no easy task. Jesus tells them, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Jesus claims a power image of that would have struck both the heart and the minds of his hearers. The wolf was the ferocious predator of the lamb. While they were being sent in the power of God they would face opposition, even danger. God promises to go with us and to empower our witness, but the promise does not mean that way will always be an easy one. Luke does not record Jesus providing specific directions on how the 72 were to handle any opposition they might encounter, only the reality that they were called to go and the way could be complex. When many see the prospect of opposition they abandon the task. The call of God pushes us to be faithful, to go, even in the face of opposition.

Jesus’ next instruction is telling. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals;. He wanted the 72 to understand that they did not need to take anything that would weigh them down, or give them sense that they could rely on their own means. He tells them to leave behind their money, their food, and even their sandals. Go out with nothing – serve only in the security of God’s power, trust God’s provision. When the villages saw them coming empty handed and barefoot the 72 would have been seen in sharp contrast to the Roman soldiers and the elaborately clad priests. Their simplicity would allow them to be seen as common people and allow them to move from village to village in haste. We hear this echoed as Jesus continues; do not greet anyone on the road. He wanted them to go out with a sense of singular purpose. They were to prepare the way for people to receive Jesus.

The rest of the passage we heard Ryan read for us earlier in the service lets us hear the instructions Jesus gave on how to find people of hospitality. These directions presume that the sharing of the gospel is born in relationship. They were to eat with those that received them; to offer healing and caste out demons so that they might know the power of the presence of God. We also hear hard word for those who choose who would reject them and the news of the Kingdom of God. These words become even harder in verses 12 through 15 when Jesus claims the words fitting of an Old Testament prophet and pronounces words of judgment on places that would chose the path of rejection. There is hope for these places. In the chapter just before this grand commissioning text Luke tells the story of the Samaritan opposition to Jesus. We know the in the days to come these same Samaritans will come to Jesus and we will hear Jesus use the story of the Good Samaritan as a model of compassion. I have witnessed too many moments when those who seem to have rejected God’s way claim Christ. We cannot let opposition or even the potential of rejection dissuade us from hearing and responding to God’s call.

The passage for the morning ends with the grand report of the 72. They had fanned out across Galilee and they witnessed the power of God. Did you notice their response was not an inventory list of villages or people who responded? In the verses that follow we hear Jesus offer a prayer of thanksgiving for how the 72 responded. Jesus also offers the 72 a powerful word of blessing. Ultimately this story is not the story of how the people in the villages responded; it was about how the 72 responded to the commission of Jesus. These 72 gathered around Jesus on a dusty road in Galilee and listened as Jesus issued a call to go out as his witnesses. He told them they would go out in the power of God but they would have to go out empty handed and would face opposition and rejection. I have to believe that some gathered in that circle must have had butterflies in their stomachs, worried about what would happen if they responded to God’s call. But, they heard, they responded, and they were sent out.

Their call is ours. It seems we are tempted to turn a deaf ear to God’s call because we worry we are not qualified, or do not have the right resources, the right education, or even the right words. God’s call is to hear and respond in a single purposed faith and go empty handed – trusting the rest into God’s hands. While some of the stories will be dramatic ones like we heard from the Calmes and from Joe Hodges. Sometimes they are simpler stories like those who decide to hear and respond to God’s voice at Falls Creek. Our task is to hear the call God has for us, whatever the task – whatever the scale, and to respond. The call to say “yes” to God’s call is not age, education, or experience dependent. It is about you and me- wherever we are in our life and walk - hearing God’s voice and offering the words of Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.”

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