Trinity 4/Proper 9 - Luke 10:1-20
I would like you to imagine the best news that you could receive. For example, it might be that England had won the World Cup, ha ha, or you have won a million pounds in a competition or got a promotion at work or perhaps someone you know who is ill has got better.
Just have a think about this for a few moments, then enthusiastically share it with someone near to you as if it were true. Perhaps ask anyone if they thought their partners news was so good/entertaining/funny it should be shared with the whole congregation.
Sometimes when something good happens we cannot contain ourselves and want to share it with someone.
In today's gospel reading Jesus sent his followers out to tell people the good news that He brings. Jesus still calls people, including us to go to others and tell them what God has done for us, and for them.
1 After 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. 2 He 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. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 "When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.' 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you.' 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 `Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. 16 "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
A few years ago, Taylors of Harrogate, Yorshire, England, were in the news. They are known in the UK for their 'Yorkshire Tea'. They had just sent their first, £30,000/$45,000 order of tea to Shanghai in China. One of the teas that they are supplying to China is China Rose Petal Tea which is grown in China, imported and packed in Harrogate and then exported back to China!
I don't know who had the confidence to even consider selling tea back to China!
A spokesman said, "We've cracked one of the most difficult markets, selling tea to China."
In today's gospel Jesus deliberately sent out his disciples to share the good news that He was bringing. They had no tangible security so they had to trust in him, and he didn't let them down.
1 After 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.
They were not on their own in that they went out in pairs. Also they had Jesus' power to share the good news, heal the sick and drive out demons. This was like an apprentice doing his first real job on his own after he had been taught and shown how to do something. The disciples were preparing for the coming of Jesus to each town.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9 refers to the power of God shining through our weakness. 9 But he ( God ) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When we do something for God we do not need to be confident that we can do it in our own strength. Indeed, our confidence can be a barrier to God working, or to him getting the glory for what we do. We are called to minister in his name and totally trust in him and his power.
This trusting in God, and nothing else, is shown by the instructions that Jesus gives his disciples. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals;
The bag that they were prevented from taking was probably a begging bag used by travelling teachers at the time. The disciples had to depend totally upon God's sovereignty. The ability of him to provide for their needs and find them lodgings every night.
Jesus next instructions are to prevent the disciples from offending people...
5 "When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.' 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
Travelling missionaries depended on local hospitality and there were few inns. There were certain customs that would be observed when offering and receiving hospitality. The Didache, an early Christian document records some of these, "But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do you according to the ordinance of the Gospel. Let every apostle, when he comes to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not stay more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when he departs let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he finds shelter; but if he asks for money, he is a false prophet."
In Jesus day there was competition to see who could host the latest, most interesting speaker, called a 'sophist'. Some richer hosts could have tried to tempt the better 'sophists' away from their current host by offering improved accommodation and meals. Jesus is saying to his disciples, 'Accept what is offered to you first of all. Don't look for better accommodation, even if it is offered. In doing so you may offend people.'
Underneath this is the Christian teaching that we should not pursue riches and comfort at all costs, but accept what God has graciously given us.
Jesus continues the theme of the rejection of the gospel. 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 `Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
In Jesus day a devout Jew would try to avoid traveling on foreign soil. If this could not be avoided, they would rid themselves of the foreign dust they had accumulated in their clothes and shoes as soon as they returned to Israel. This was seen as a judgment upon nations that had rejected the true God of Israel.
Jesus tells his disciples to do a similar thing. We have the expectation that some of the Jewish people would reject Jesus. It refers to the judgment that will come to those who do not accept him. It shows that, from now on, the people of God will not be determined by their race or religion, but through a personal acceptance of Jesus.
Verses 12 to 16 show this. 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgement than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. 16 "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
Verses 11-15 are left out of the set gospel reading for today? Why, we may ask? The answer is that these verses refer to the judgement of God of those who reject Jesus and, therefore, God the Father. Some people, including those who chose these readings find this unpalatable. We cannot ignore the words of Jesus or the nature of God. He is holy, morally perfect. He cannot have a right relationship with those who reject his ways. The only way that we can overcome this is through our union with Jesus Christ. The only way that we can know spiritual and bodily resurrection is by being joined to Him who has died, is risen and will live forever.
The disciples were on a spiritual high when they reported back to Jesus. 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." They experienced the victory that Jesus offers over the rule of Satan by exercising control over evil spirits in the power of Jesus.
Jesus brings them down to earth. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." This is a warning for those who seek spiritual highs and experiences in their Christian life. These experiences are great when they come along but Jesus is saying that it is better to have the deep knowledge that we belong to God and are destined to spend eternity with Him.
The disciples went out as the authorised representatives of Jesus to minister with the power that he gave them. They proclaimed the good news of Jesus in word and deed, inviting people to receive the good news. This was a foretaste of the mission that would be entrusted solely to the disciples from the day of Pentecost.
18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
I remember a television programme about a church in the United States which took Jesus words in verse 19 and Mark 16:18 literally.
Mark 16:18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
In this church people brought snakes in, virtually goading them to bite them.
Jesus rejected the temptation of the devil who misused Scripture to encourage Him to misuse His powers.
( Matthew 4:5-7 ) Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " `He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' " Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
We are not to test God in a way that defies common sense. The miracles and exorcisms that accompanied the disciples preaching were there to demonstrate the power of Jesus over sin and the devil. These signs authenticated their words.
In today's church there are some who pursue 'signs and wonders'. I am convinced that Jesus does heal people today and that He has power over evil spirits. I am convinced that those powers are available for today.
I have known people who have been miraculously healed but it has not always resulted in them coming to faith in Jesus, at least in the short term.
I think we need to be aware of falling into two extremes positions. One is to discount relying on the supernatural power of Jesus today. The other is to get so wrapped up in it that we concentrate on the gift rather than the giver. That the 'signs and wonders', the experience if you like, becomes a 'god' in itself.
The best 'sign and wonder' that we can seek is to let God so transform us by the work of His Spirit that people will look at us and this will bring glory to God. 1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. How we live, as well the words that we say, is to be a very important part of our witness to Jesus.
The late Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopalian bishop, said: "In the Great Commission the Lord has called us to be, like Peter, fishers of men. We've turned the commission around so that we have become merely keepers of the aquarium. Occasionally I take some fish out of your fishbowl and put them into mine, and you do the same with my bowl. But we're all tending the same fish."
Jesus said, verse 2, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
We are to pray that the Lord will raise up people to spread the good news. We should to be prepared to be the answer to that prayer.
I feel that I am so busy keeping things running here that there is little time for going out to people in the name of Jesus. Note, Jesus told his disciples to 'go', verse 3. He didn't ask them to stay where they were and say to people, 'come'!
One Sunday evening, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a pub! The place was crowded with men and women, some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were everywhere. "Willie," Booth said to his son, "These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ." Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, "The impression never left me."
I was encouraged when five people recently came with me to a three hour conference about spreading the good news. It would be good if we could be more proactive in this area. The resources at the Conference included a Course called 'Lost for words' that helps people to share their faith naturally. It is for adults, youth and children. If there was enough demand we could run a course here. We may think that telling other people about Jesus is even more difficult than selling tea back to China, but it can be done with the help of God and with determination and discipline.
In October the P.C.C. will be reviewing where we are as a church and seeking God's guidance as to what he wants us to be and do. Please pray for us and this event.
In late October we have Doyle Dykes playing here and on Remembrance Sunday evening we are having a Memorial Service in St. Martin's for bereaved people. I am praying that through these events and other contacts we will have enough people to warrant running an Alpha Course from January 2005.
While D.L. Moody was attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, he asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 o'clock one evening at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing. Once a crowd had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby convention hall. Soon the auditorium was filled with spiritually hungry people, and the great evangelist preached the gospel to them. Then the convention delegates began to arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, 'How to reach the masses.'"
Moody graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out and doing it.