08 Jul “Whoever Listens to You, Listens to Me”
We are ambassadors for Christ.
In our Gospel, Jesus sent 70 ambassadors ahead of him, in pairs, to every town and place where he himself intended to go. Among the many instructions Jesus told them, “Whoever listens you, listens to me.” July moves us into the height of travel season. As we drive or fly to other states or even other countries, I wonder, what others see in us when they meet us as Americans, or even as Wisconsinites? We are representatives to those we meet on our journey. What are their first impressions of us? Or us, of them?
My own family took a trip to along Lake Superior’s North Shore six years ago. We stayed a couple days at a resort in Lutsen, MN. As we were heading out to hike the first day, the Food Director asked our teenage daughter about the camera hanging around her neck. When she told him the camera was still new and she was hoping to try take a variety of waterfall pictures, he said photography had become his hobby. The next day we were stopped at the front desk before we headed out. The Food Director had left his own tripod for our daughter to borrow for the day, so that she could try a new method of taking waterfall pictures. You can imagine the kind impression he made on us!
During our stay, we also ended up talking with a young staff member who had grown up in the area. She directed us to several terrific local eating places. In turn, we encouraged her to continue her pursuit of a graduate degree as a Naturalist. On the day we set off for home, we left her a note and a little tip in appreciation for conversation and her food recommendations. She then sent us this e-mail:
“It was lovely to meet you and your family during your stay. One of the reasons I love this kind of work is because of the connections I can make with people and the stories and wisdom I can learn from our interactions. Your family was a highlight of my week”.
(We said the same of her)
Wherever we go, near or far – what do people experience when we meet them? That’s the question at the heart of the gospel for today.
Jesus sends out 70 people in pairs (a much larger number of people than the original 12 disciples). He commissions this crowd to do the same things that He does for whomever they meet. We are all here this morning because Christ has called us to himself. Christ has done things for us we could not do for ourselves, namely he has saved us and made us part of God’s kingdom of grace & love. Having been brought into the joy, peace, and purpose of God’s salvation in Jesus, we are also joined to His ministry. Jesus doesn’t work alone. His mission is cooperative. In today’s gospel, Jesus “co-missions” us.
Pastor Janet Hunt, in her weekly blog, “Dancing with the Word” summarizes the challenges and reassurances of the task to which Jesus calls us. Here’s the assignment:
- The work is urgent. There is not time to waste, for the harvest is ready.
- It won’t be easy. In fact, sometimes you’ll feel like you are wolf prey.
- You don’t need to take much with you to do this. No cash or credit cards. Not a change of clothes. Not an extra pair of shoes. For that matter, you don’t need to bring your car, or your cell phone, or your Facebook page.On the other hand…
- You will have a companion with you. This mission is never meant to be undertaken alone.
- You do have a script — and a simple one at that — you are to declare peace wherever you go.
- You will need to be able to simply accept the gifts of those who welcome you — no shopping around for someone or something more to your taste.
- Again, it won’t be easy. Sometimes when you think the ‘harvest is ready’, it won’t be.
- You’re not in charge of how people respond. You are just the messenger, the one speaking in behalf of Jesus.”
Bigger than ourselves
Let’s consider a few of those specifics more closely. First, Jesus sends us out to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are loved and saved by Jesus Christ. We are to carry that awareness with us wherever we go. We belong to God’s purposes in this world. Someone once interviewed a man in their congregation who was a member of the “Greatest Generation.” He served in the US Army in World War II, was in the invasion of Normandy and D Day. When they were talking about his war experiences, he mentioned the suffering, the deprivation, the horror of war.
But then he said, “Still, I look back on those four years as the very best years of my life. For once in my life, I really had the feeling that I was part of something, part of something bigger than myself. I was on the move. We had a mission.” “I was part of something bigger than myself.”1 As great as that generation was, we don’t need to wait for a war to have that sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. The kingdom of God is something bigger than ourselves. We are to carry that kingdom with us wherever we go. It should be evident in every interaction we have with others.
Second, Jesus sends us out with a word of peace, just as he sent the 70. According to Dr. David Tiede in his commentary on Luke’s gospel, this is the same greeting used in a story told in the Old Testament. King David’s servants extended this greeting to a foreign clan as they stood on the fringe of Israel. They said, “Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have” (1 Samuel 25:6) (p. 202). That’s God’s word of blessing. These words must have sounded familiar to those who first heard them.
Today, people are reached in the same way: with a blessing and with a message of peace. It is not fancy, but it is still oh so effective. You’ve had that experience, haven’t you, when someone’s simple presence, simple words, or simple actions brought you peace? Extending God’s peace to those around you can mean more than you’ll ever know. Be aware – this week and beyond – that you just might be the person someone needs to encounter to receive a glimmer of peace shining into their lives.
I have a friend who, a few years ago, had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to take her family to Europe. This friend, the Mom in that family enjoys the hobby of genealogy. While on this vacation, she intentionally visited the Brittany American Cemetery because she had noticed 9 online requests from U.S. families at FindAGrave.com for pictures of headstones of family members who died overseas while serving in WWII. They were buried in this cemetery in Brittany. My friend spent an hour of her time, taking pictures of tombstones for these complete strangers and posting them on the appropriate website. Almost immediately after posting these pictures, she heard from one family.
They emailed her this note: “Dear Erin, I can’t tell you how much your picture means to my family. Donald was my Grandfather’s younger brother and one of eight children. The only living sibling is the youngest sister Delores, who is eighty- five. The family has never had the means to travel to France to honor Donald and being able to see his grave marker gives not only Delores, but the whole family, a sense of peace. Thank you Erin, you will be in our hearts and prayers forever. God Bless you, The family of Donald A. Blavat.” Erin’s actions brought closure. They brought peace.
“Peace to this house”. It’s a simple greeting that Jesus calls us to convey to all those we meet. In this gospel passage for today we also hear Jesus’ words about the harvest being plentiful. There are people who are ready right now to hear the message we have to bring.
Now, of course, it’s a lot easier to tell when an actual harvest is ready to be brought in —than it is to tell when a person is ready to hear the message Jesus calls for us to offer. But maybe that’s why Jesus says we should share that message with anyone and everyone. “Just go and do it,” Jesus seems to be saying today. And leave the results up to God.
Give Thanks. Share the Story.
Most of all, whenever I consider this story, I marvel at the privilege you and I have of participating in what God is up to. The final great part of our gospel story is that the 70 CAME BACK to Jesus and one another and told of their experiences.
So, for your own reflection today, take a minute and pull from your mind one time from this past week when you may have brought God’s peace and grace to another person. Nothing huge. Nothing complex. Or maybe it was something more involved. What would that moment be?
That’s my assignment for you as we move into our offering time and Holy Communion time today. When you are seated, waiting your turn to pass the offering plate or receive the sacrament, privately give thanks to God for one moment when God’s peace, God’s kingdom, touched another person through you. Then celebrate with me that we’re getting better, as a church community, about coming back to each other regularly and sharing our stories of how we have touched others with Christ’s peace during our weekday lives.
We’re sharing personal stories in our Bible studies, small groups. We’re talking to each other about faith moments during coffee and donuts after worship. We’re teaching our children to share tales of where they see God at work when they are in small group in AMPED/confirmation. Our younger children sang Vacation Bible School songs a few weeks ago at Verona Campus so that everyone who worshipped that morning, especially other children could hear them communicate the good things God had done for them during the week.
Then in particular, our Communications Team has done a great job of trying to collect the ways we are serving a co-missioned witnesses to God’s work in the world, so we can all learn of them together. If you haven’t already, go to our church’s website, scroll down and read the daily blogs written by high schoolers and adults about their experience, just a week ago, in ministry at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota – one of the most impoverished communities in our country. Their words and photos are powerfully moving.
As we become a community more eager to hear each other’s brief stories of how we’ve shared God’s peace or love with others, then the Holy Spirit blows among us to give us greater courage to become even more comfortable sharing God’s peace each week with others when we are sent from this place. We need to keep telling each other how God’s kingdom is meeting others through us, in order to encourage one another as Jesus’ disciples. Then Jesus told his friends that their experience wasn’t about a power trip or about boasting about themselves. It was about noticing what happens when your names are already written in heaven. Because of Jesus, our names are not only already written in heaven, but you and I have peace, joy, love, healing, goodness and God’s grace to share with others. Be mindful of sharing those gifts. Be mindful of your co-mission with Jesus.
Thanks be to God. AMEN.
1 (PULPIT RESOURCE, William Willimon, 2013)