03 July 2022
Year C (Proper 9)
2 Kings 5:1-14
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church of Tanzania
Church of the Holy Family, Orlando
Emmanuel Church, Orlando
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
When I first came back to St. Francis and was asked by our rector to preach today, neither one of us had any idea what the lectionary would provide as our scriptures. Well, God did what God does - there are few passages that describe the mission of a deacon better than today’s gospel. That being said - I am afraid that you, my friends, are not off the hook!
Today, we read how Jesus sends out the 70 - Seventy of His followers. Now in the previous chapter, Luke tells us how he sent out his 12 disciples. When Jesus commissioned his disciples - He sent out those who were the most trained - those who had spent the most time with Him - those to whom Jesus had shared the most about himself and His mission - about who He was. They were to take the good news to those in the towns and villages who have not yet heard the ‘good news’. . . . Missionaries, you might say . . . . do we have any missionaries in the congregation today?
If you really listened to today’s gospel - if you all heard and understood Luke’s words today, every hand in the building would be raised when I asked that question.
When scripture gives us numbers, they are seldom random. The 70 sent out by Jesus today most certainly refers back to the seventy nations that descended from Noah - one evangelist, one missionary for each country. Seventy is also the number of elders appointed to help Moses with his work. The seventy sent out by Jesus represent the faithful - the seventy represent US; represent YOU! How often do you think of yourself as a missionary, or an evangelist? When was your last mission trip? It is my hope that after this morning, you will envision your next mission trip a little differently.
Not many of us have the means, the education or the calling to bring the good news to the jungles of the Amazon or Borneo or to the poor in the slums of India or Mexico. And yet we are still called to spread the Good News - to be missionaries, evangelists.
I know . . . . I can already see the looks in your eyes and imagine the thoughts going through many of your minds. . . . Come on, Rose, I’m in my 60’s, my 70’s, my 80’s - even my 90’s . . . it’s a bit late for me to think about being a missionary. Don’t turn me off and take a nap just yet! The mission fields I want to introduce you to are places you go every week. But before we talk about those places - let’s go back to the gospel reading for just a moment. When the 70 set out, where did they go? into the neighboring towns and villages - the very places Jesus intended to go himself - not to far away places. Perhaps, even some of the towns where they themselves were from!
So, what was the first thing they did? preach? No, they offered the peace of the Lord to the household - a true gift that is needed as much today as in the time of Jesus - maybe even more. Then … they healed the sick and cast out demons. They provided for the needs of the people with whom they found themselves. They did not stand on the street corners shouting ‘the end is near’, nor did they start by preaching Jesus as Messiah - but only used Jesus’ name to drive out the evil among them. They cared for the people by providing for their needs. They paved the way - planted seeds one might say - explaining how the kingdom of God had come near to them and readied the way for Jesus come into their lives - in person. While the passage does not say how long they were gone, it did tell us that they came back to report to Jesus what had happened. They came back to share their joy with him for all that God had done.
Just what does that mean for us today? and why are we to do this? So that God will love us more? If this is your motivation for anything you do, you misunderstand the gospel completely. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more - or any less, for that matter. We minister to God’s people not so God will love us, BUT, BECAUSE God loves us and we, in turn love God; because we are to love all those who He loves (in case you didn’t get that - EVERYONE). Few of us are called to missionary work in remote corners of the world, but we are all called to minister to the needy in OUR corner of the world. May I be so bold as to say that there is no shortage of hurting people and people who do not know Jesus Christ in our own corner of the world. This mission is not based on our abilities, our education or even on our age. We all come in contact with those hurting people every day. If we take our cues from the 70 sent out by Jesus, our first instruction is to bring the peace, the joy of God to every person, every household we come in contact with. We are to meet the needs of those to whom we are sent. The cashier at the grocery store who works three jobs to keep food on the table for her young children. The homeless on the street, just looking for something to eat, and someone who will look him in the eyes. The health care worker who is working her third double shift this week, a lonely friend who desperately needs someone to just listen, I could go on . . . . We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus - We are to bring the Good News to everyone we meet. Just think, you may be the only ‘Good News’ someone hears today. And I am not suggesting that you quote scripture to everyone you meet. But, I want you to think for a moment about all the people you have met in your lifetime - some were only chance, momentary meeting; others were meetings that led to friendships and more. Have ever met a person or a group a people that just struck you - made you wonder what they had? Why they seemed so peaceful, content, happy? Ever met someone and thought - I don’t know what they have, but I want some of it? That is the peace of God! It is that kind of peace that each of us can pass along to everyone we meet.
I knew a woman who spent her life making a difference in the lives of others. A tiny thing who barely weighed 100 pounds, and yet, in her 80’s, she was still doing prison ministry - men’s prison ministry. In the last days of her life - spent in a nursing home, she was blessing the lives of her nurses with her joy and gratitude. That woman was my mother - I often say that she is what I want to be when I grow up. She knew the peace of God - and passed it on to everyone she met - in the grocery store, at Walmart (oh, how she used to embarrass me at Walmart), at the doctor’s office, in her walks around her neighborhood, in the nursing home where she spent her final days.
It is often said that we can’t give away what we don’t have. So where do we find this peace of God - this joy? With the world in its current state, how can joy be found anywhere? This joy can only be found when we realize that it is not a product of our circumstances, but rather, true joy in our knowledge of the very Good News we are trying to spread. The 70 found it in Jesus - in his teaching, in spending time with Him. That, too, is where we find it - spending time in the word of God, the scripture; in spending time in the presence of God - in prayer and meditation. The more we learn and experience the love of God - the more He fills our spiritual cup with His Joy - and when our cups overflow - that is ministry. With our cups overflowing, we can’t help but spread the joy of the Lord.
Let’s all take time this week to find the kind of joy that can’t help but overflow to others. Let’s get back to the scripture, back to prayer - asking God to reveal Himself, His joy to us so that we can share it with a world in desperate need of His peace and His joy.