Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sermon: Jesus Formed a Task Force

Ordinary Time 14 – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 - July 4, 2010
by Rob Ruff

Jesus formed a task force.

Twelve apostles weren’t going to be enough for this job, because as He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

So He selected 70 followers – a task force of 70.

(Although, according to one commentator, one wonders why anyone in his right mind would sign on with a Messiah who seemed determined to get himself killed.)
-Robert Farrar Capon in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

And indeed, Jesus told the 70 that He was giving them a dangerous task: “I’m sending you out as lambs among hungry wolves” was the way he put it.

And to make those 70 lambs even more vulnerable, Jesus instructed them to take nothing with them – nothing! Not a backpack, or a sack lunch, not even a pair of shoes.

It’s as if He wanted them to rely on only what he provided. And what did He provide? Only a couple of words.

And so He sent them down the roads
He himself planned to travel,
he sent them out two by two,
empty handed and barefoot,
to prepare his way.

“Don’t talk to anyone along the way” he instructed.

And to each house you enter, say “Peace be upon you.” “Peace be upon you.”

There’s the first word Jesus gave the 70 – a word of peace.

“My peace I give you, not as the world gives.”
“The peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”
A foretaste of Easter’s peace.

He gives them a word that not only describes peace but bestows it, a blessing: “Peace be upon you.”

“See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves”, he told them.
  • Which is to say that some will accept you but others will reject you.
  • Some will welcome but others will oppose.
  • Some will be fellow sheep but others will be enemy wolves.
And so, to those who welcome and accept you, he said, cure their sick and say to them
“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

And to those who reject and oppose you, shake the dust of their town off your feet in protest but say to them as well, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

To friend and foe alike: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

And there is the second word Jesus gave the 70 to carry with them – a word announcing the nearness of God’s kingdom.

Which is also is a word that not only describes the kingdom’s nearness but bestows it – a word of good news (and, I suppose, also of warning) that the realm where God reigns is nearby.

Now the kingdom of God was one of Jesus’ favorite topics. He spoke of it often.

And what did Jesus say about the Kingdom of God?

He said things like this:
  • I was sent for this purpose – to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
  • Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.
  • How hard it is for those with riches to enter the kingdom. Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
  • Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will never enter it.
  • Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
  • To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed that someone planted in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.
  • And again he said, the kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until the entire batch was leavened.”
A curious and mystical place this kingdom of God:
  • Lots of poor folk there and precious few who are rich;
  • A place filled with children. (Are there any adults??)
  • The kingdom starts small like a tiny seed or a grain of yeast – hard to see and easy to miss – but it grows and matures into something large and substantial and bountiful.
And it is apparently costly to enter the kingdom. Everything must be surrendered: wealth, maturity, pretensions, power, family obligations, national allegiance, and in the end, life itself.

We have to die in order to be reborn into the kingdom of God.

Theologians William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas put it this way:

When you join the Rotary Club, they give you a handshake and a membership card. When you join the church, we throw you into water, bathe you, …drown you, (raise) you up, and tell you that you have been born again. We thus signify that being a Christian is not natural, not a by-product of being an American. To be Christian is to be adopted by a new nation, the kingdom of God.” (Lord, Teach Us page 54)

To each house you enter, Jesus told the 70, say “Peace to you”.

Doesn’t that peace often seem in depressingly short supply these days, amidst all of life’s worries and fears, pains and heartaches?

To those who welcome you and to those who oppose you say “The Kingdom of God has come near you.” Doesn’t the kingdom of God often seem frustratingly far away here in this world where wars and oil spills, suffering and violence seem never to end?

If so, then isn’t it good news to hear Jesus say that the kingdom of God, and the peace it brings, has come and is near??

One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, says this about the kingdom:
If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God…is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within (us) and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it is what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all homesick for it. (The Clown in the Belfry, pages 152-53)
The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and we are homesick for it.


Long ago and far away Jesus formed a task force and sent them out carrying only a word of peace and a word announcing to a homesick world that the kingdom of God, our true home, is near.

In all the years since, Jesus’ task force has grown and expanded. It now includes believers in every land around the globe, believers of every time through the ages down to this present moment, including you and me.

That task force is now called the church, that mystical and curious body of Christ, made up of little children and adults, the poor and the wealthy, outcasts, and sinners who are simultaneously saints.

The task force called the church is equipped with very little. We have only a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, a bowel of water, a book of words, and each other.

But thanks be to God, that loaf is the bread of heaven, that that wine the cup of salvation.

The bowel contains holy water with the power to wash us clean and give us new birth.

Our book contains the words of eternal life.

And together we are members of the communion of saints.

So out you go, Brothers and Sisters, out those doors and into the city, Christian lambs in a world of wolves.

Out you go, as Jesus’ task force taking nothing with you save what he’s provided.

Speak peace to all you meet.

Tell them the kingdom of God – our true and final home – is near.

And rejoice! Rejoice, I say, rejoice in the grace and certainty and wonder that, because of Jesus’ love, your names are written in heaven.


No comments:

Post a Comment


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church