Sermon 7 July 2019 Luke 10; 1-11, 16-20
Imagine being told, not asked, but told that you are to go on a journey without money or a bag, and no accommodation booked in advance. You are not to greet anyone on your journey and it could be dangerous; but you are allowed a companion.
I should imagine your immediate response would be, ‘No way! That’s asking too much; you’ll have to find someone else!’
This was the task that Jesus set his followers in today’s gospel reading but apparently no one refused.
As I read the passage again I tried to picture how those people felt as they set off on their travels; probably apprehensive, maybe a little bit excited, possibly discussing their plans with their companion, (because they were sent out in twos), wondering where they would spend the nights and what kind of reception they would get. Jesus had given them explicit instructions about how to behave; whatever house they went into their first words were to be ‘Peace to this house,’ and if they were welcomed they were to stay in that house till they moved on, with the words, “ The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” If they were not welcomed they moved on, shaking the dust off their feet in protest but still saying, “Know this, the kingdom of God has come near.” I thought of the adventures they must have had, the variety of people they must have met , both friendly and threatening, and the stories they would tell when they returned home from their adventure. And we are told they returned with joy!
I don’t know how many of you met a man called Stuart Nelson who was up here two years ago cycling from Hermaness to the Scilly Isles? Reading this story reminded me of him. He has just finished a pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem, a distance of over 2000 miles. He did carry a bag and money, and had accommodation booked on the journey but did not know what he would find at each nights lodging, nor what to expect on the way. I have been following his adventures on his daily blog and in a way it has made me appreciate what a huge task these disciples undertook. But he did have a mobile phone and a GPS, and a clear idea of where he was going, unlike our travellers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a similar record of the adventures of the 70? I suppose the nearest we have to a biblical blog is Luke’s description of his travels with Paul.
Two things occurred to me while studying this passage, that could apply
to us today. First, they went in twos. They were not alone. There was someone to plan with, to work out problems, to commiserate with on the bad days and to celebrate the good days. Someone to depend on when the going gets tough. . No one was going this alone. Jesus is teaching his disciples already this early on in his ministry the importance of the reliance on each other, especially in his absence. As practising Christians this is something we could do well to remember; we are not alone but part of a supportive community.
Last Sunday we had our Celebration of Creation in St Colman’s (also known as the Flower Festival!) and we were delighted to welcome so many from St Magnus as well as Church of Scotland, Methodists and Catholics all sharing in worship. It was wonderful to feel the support and companionship as we came together in praise and prayer. But it’s important that this experience should not just be for special occasions. As companions in Christ we should feel comfortable sharing our faith, and our doubts, because doubting or questioning is how we grow our faith, maybe not in public worship but certainly in informal or organised discussions. We should not feel alone! We all need at least one person to support us on our faith journey.
The second thing that I found particularly amazing about this passage is not the miracles but the willingness to be dependent on others. Think about it: no purse, no bag, no sandals and, importantly, no guarantees about how they will be received. All they have is the promise of Jesus to go with them, to do great things through them, and to bring them home again. They had to give up their independence. Now that’s scary! I think that possibly the thing that worries most people is having to be dependent on others, even in small ways. But sharing what we have, or helping other people tends to give us great pleasure. After all isn’t it better to give than to receive? Accepting charity is much harder than giving it. However if we turn this idea around, when we accept help, that is given freely, then we are actually giving pleasure to someone else.
The word charity comes from the Latin caritas which can be translated as giving Love, and that puts a different aspect on the situation. We all need love and to show it and also to accept it is a joyous experience. The equivalent word in Greek is agape – love of humankind, which is what, as Christians, we are taught to do. Jesus himself had no problem accepting help from his followers.
There are few things more satisfying and life giving, it turns out, than andsharing with others, giving of our abundance, receiving in our need, all the while being knit more closely together as the Body of Christ. And on that note I’d like to conclude with a quote from St Theresa of Avila.
Christ has no body on earth but yours; no
hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.
Christ has no body on earth but yours.Acknowledgements to David Lose, Michael Rogness,Melissa Bane Sevier and Karoline Lewis