Walking in Faith
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
I do not know if you have any special routine or rituals that you observe when you get ready to go on a trip, but I try to make a list, write checks in advance to pay bills, and start gathering things to put in my suitcase. I always seem to forget to do something, take too much stuff–or the wrong things, and then come home to a whole list of things I forgot to do before I left. They are waiting for me! Which is worse, getting ready to go on a trip or coming home and picking up the pieces? Today’s text from Luke speaks about Jesus’ followers, the route for them to take after his death, and their attempt to share the message of the gospel. The Disciples felt somewhat like “lambs in the midst of wolves” with very little success. Their situation was considerably different from that of the proclamation of the Jesus of history as a Jewish Messiah figure talking about God and the coming rule of God, giving hope to the oppressed Jewish people in Galilee before Jesus was crucified. As Christians today, we seek hope for a nation that is growing in the number of non-Christians taking power and having great influence. Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 is permeated by a sense of urgency. The message of the coming rule of God must be proclaimed in spite of all dangers. Apparently, the Jesus of history had pointed very effectively to the Lord God and to the necessity of acclaiming the Lord God and not Caesar as the ONE who should be the ruler in the lives of the people around him. We need to also claim Jesus as the Risen Christ and God for today and every day. Both the Old and New Testament readings express God’s mercy of the oppressed and the opposition of God to the oppressors, whether they be Canaanites (Syria), Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek or Roman, or within the Israelite or early Christian power structures. If we look around us after celebrating the birth of our nation, we must remember that in the biblical texts it is the Lord God, not any nation or secular power, including our own, who is Supreme. Luke’s account of sending forth seventy disciples in pairs to every town where Jesus went, seems simple enough but it is like each one of us planning a trip and packing our suitcases. We have a basic outline we follow but then Jesus gives marching orders for all who would follow him. We need to pay attention because Jesus is still speaking to us today, but there are some interesting glitches. To follow in Jesus’ footsteps: Carry no purse, no bag, nor any sandals. Travel light! I do not know about you, But I am in trouble already. I cannot pack to go away for more than twenty-four hours but what I take everything except the kitchen sink–and that is if I have my wipes with me. Think back to Jesus’ time. It made sense. The more stuff they took on a trip, the more they had to carry and worry about. Stuff would drag them down, and keep them from concentrating on preaching and healing. When I go to a conference, I pack more puzzles and books than I could ever do in a month, much less 4-6 days. And I have to pack for every conceivable weather pattern that exists in the northern hemisphere. It we have trouble packing for a few days, how much more difficult is it to pack for life? We accumulate things. The more we have, the more we want, and the more successful we may feel. Jesus knew things have a way of weighing us down and holding us back. Jesus knew people had to eat, be clothed and housed but possessions can take hold of us. Jesus wanted his disciples to remember what they could not live without was his power and authority–not what things they carried and claimed as their own. Our security comes from trusting in God’s word, not from material possessions. Our ability to hear and respond to that word can be encumbered if we do not learn to ravel our religious path/faith journey in a “light” fashion. (Jesus is the light of the world.) Second instruction: “Greet no one on the road.” That sounds pretty snobbish, doesn’t it? I like/love to talk as you all know. Imagine me walking by one of you and not saying a word! Jesus knew human nature. There is a job to do and it includes getting to a destination so that healing, words of comfort and salvation can be spoken. To dally along on the road engaged in mundane and superficial chatter is not our mission. The disciples had a job to do and so do we and Jesus does NOT want us distracted. Some of us can cut ourselves off from worldly distractions by removing or turning off hearing aids, but we need to determine what is truly important in how we spend our time here on earth. As people of God, we are given a task, “To go to all the nations of the world, baptize and teach in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” That great commission is also our commission, our calling and sending forth, and in Jesus’ instruction for travelers, he reminds us that there is an urgency to our message. We have news about life and death! Instruction three: Jesus goes right to the point when he says the task at hand is to announce peace, to heal the sick and to say “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” We are not the saviors here, we are the bearers of God’s news that the Kingdom of God is breaking into this world and we are called to point to it for others to see. We point to the baptismal font and say: “Here is life-giving water. God is at work laying claim to our lives.” On Communion Sundays we can point to food on the table and say, “This food is a foretaste/a sampling of the great banquet to come. God gave us his body and blood for strength for our journeys, wherever they may take us.” We are called to feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for the sick. God is at work through the loving hands of the people He calls into service. Final word: “Whenever you enter a town and you are not welcomed, go out into the streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.’ Time is too short to be wasted in futile arguments. Testify to God’s power and authority, proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom; and let your witness stand on your own merits, win or lose.” No one comes to faith without having been led to it by someone who shared the story of God’s love and grace with him or her. It is our job to tell people God loves them and cares for them and to prove it by what we say and do. Our role is to share the faith in a way that says we care and God cares. Trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
These are simple instructions for our road trip to life–in this world where we walk by faith with God on a mission to do God’s work. That is something to think about as we pack for our journeys. So long, for now. Have a great trip! Amen.