Luke 10: 1-16
After this, Jesus appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few; therefore, ask the overseer to send workers to the harvest.
“Be on your way, and remember: I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves. Don’t carry a walking stick or a knapsack; wear no sandals and greet no one along the way. And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be upon this house!’ If the people live peaceably there, your peace will rest upon them; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the laborer is worth a wage. Don’t keep moving from house to house.
“And whatever city you enter, after they welcome you, eat what they set before you and heal those who are sick in that town. Say to them, ‘The reign of God has drawn near to you.’ If the people of any town you enter don’t welcome you , go into its streets and say, ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God has drawn near.’ I tell you, on that day the fate of Sodom will be less severe than that of such a town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! And woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in your midst had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes! It will go easier on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, will you exalt yourself to the skies? No, you’ll be hurled down to Hades!
“Anyone who listens to you, listens to me. Anyone who rejects you, rejects me; and those who reject me, reject the One who sent me.”
“After this”….don’t you just love it when the readings assigned for the day begin with words like these? One of my teachers at the Lutheran Bible Institute, eons ago used to say “you must ask yourself what is the ‘therefore’, there for.” I can’t resist the invitation inherent in these words….I must ask the question: “After what?”
This story follows these short vignettes in the Gospel of Luke::
It begins the section identified by Luke as “the time approaching when Jesus was to be taken from the world”, and he had set his face towards Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of them to prepare the way.
First, they came to a Samaritan town, but the inhabitants wouldn’t welcome Jesus because he had set his face towards Jerusalem. The disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the town, but Jesus wouldn’t allow them to do that.
Then they were approached by several different men, one who decisively said “I will follow you anywhere” to which Jesus responded that “the Chosen One had nowhere to rest.” Jesus asked another traveler to follow him, but he wanted to bury his father first and finally the last wanted to go and say goodbye to his family first, to which Jesus replied “Whoever puts a hand to the 0pow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.”
After this Jesus appointed 72 others. Interesting texts to think about at the end of an academic year, as students and others prepare to leave this place. Who does Jesus call? To what ministry does he call them? What is standing in our way of following? Where are we being called? How do we know?
This is a lot to ponder, it can be overwhelming, if not downright scary. How do we know where Jesus is calling us? How do we figure out where to stay for a while, how do we know it’s time to leave?
Jesus gives us some clues in this passage. First, we are to look for welcome, we are to look for those who are looking for the reign of God and who welcome those who proclaim it’s coming. God is not calling us to be where we are not wanted. We are to be in the place that God has prepared for us. We will know that place, when we sense that peace of God surrounding us. Have you ever felt that? That sense of ineffable peace, that sense of “rightness” when you enter a place? I felt that here, when I first set foot on the campus of Seattle University. Jesus reminds his disciples that he is sending out lambs into the midst of wolves, he reminds us that we are always to be alert, and then he tells them how to recognize a safe haven, by recognizing the presence of the shepherd, of recognizing the sheepfold, a safe place.
Jesus sends his disciples out without any supplies or armor, providing nothing for themselves, but rather to look for and to find those places which Jesus has prepared for them. Jesus promises that if you commit to the work, “put your hand to the plow” and don’t look back, Jesus will provide for you, you deserve your wages, you can stay in one place. So, one of the important things to remember when looking for our place, is that God is with us, and is preparing the way.
Secondly, Jesus then says go about your work. Don’t be picky or demanding, eat what is offered and do your work, heal the sick, proclaim the reign of God. Jesus doesn’t’ send us out to be waited upon, and to do nothing. Jesus sends each of us out for a specific reason, and that is where our focus is to be aimed.
Finally, Jesus tells his followers that it’s okay, when the place we are checking out isn’t ready for us, to leave and look for another. We don’t need to call down fire and brimstone on their heads, we simply need to leave, and let God continue to work there through other means than ourselves. It’s not about us, it’s about the reign of God, which is drawing near, whether or not they recognize it. I find that comforting, God’s work continues in some way, it’s not all about me, though that is a tempting thing to think. Even if you know that you are perfect for that congregation, or could fill the position perfectly, it isn’t about you, it’s about God’s work being done.
Knowing that, what follows doesn’t matter, you can go forward, not looking back, focused on following God’s leading, and leave that place to God’s care. Shake the dust off of your feet, as a way of leaving it behind, don’t take that frustration with you, just keep following the path set before you.
I needed to hear this text this morning. In a time of transition myself, I need to hear that God is preparing a way before me, and I need to be reminded that it is not all about me. God’s work is being done, God’s work will be done, and God will prepare a place for me. The same holds true for all of you. So, go, make disciples, knowing God is going before you, that you can recognize your place by the peace of God surrounding you, and that when the door is shut to one place, you can leave with peace and love, knowing that the reign of God is drawing near to that place, but that it is no longer your place.
It reminds me of the collect, known in Lutheran circles as the Holden prayer:
“Eternal God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.
Give us strength to go out with courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us”
May it be so for us. Amen.
~ Diaconal Minister Jan Cherry
Ecumenical Liturgical Coordinator
School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University