Community, Connection, and Communion
It is with deep gratitude and joy that I stand before you today. Despite my plans and preparations to stand here three weeks ago, illness and a case of laryngitis left me unable to follow-through on that commitment. However, you, dear church, responded with kindness and continued support. I am told Mike did wonderful as a last-minute stand in, and am thankful for the hospitality offered to so quickly share the pulpit with me once again.
It happens to feels quite apt that this would be the text I have the privilege to share with you today. I feel connected to the concept of sending out, as the reason I stand before you today is in preparation and discernment to request my own “sending out” by this very congregation. The call of ordination for me holds true to my work now, and in the future as a chaplain. It is a call to live my life in a manner that provides space for the work of the Holy Spirit, God at work through me to offer peace, nurture connection, and speak to Christ’s presence to the world.
The instructions of Jesus to the 70 offers similarities. Jesus calls the seventy to go out into the world, to speak peace on the homes in which they enter, to receive hospitality, and tell them that the Kingdom of God has come near to them. Granted, this is vastly simplified in comparison to the depth of all that Jesus spoke in this commissioning. In fact, I found myself digging deeply into the text, seeking to understand the complexities of the thorough instructions of Jesus, pondering why the liturgy left out 4 verses in the center of this text, and struggling to decide what emphasis would be most important in the brevity of a sermon.
I decided to read through the additional scriptures of our liturgy to seek guidance, and I found a common thread. Throughout the passages of our texts this week, I found continued expressions of Gratitude to God, and a context of receiving of what God is offering through others.
In 2 Kings, Naaman almost chooses not to receive what is offered by Elisha’s messenger to experience healing from his leprosy. It is not until he is convinced by his servants to complete the simple task of washing in the waters of Israel that he was made clean - experiencing healing. Psalm 30 is written as a song of thanksgiving and praise to the God, for help and healing, as well as speaking to the presence and nearness of the Lord. Lastly, the text in Galatians, a passage that calls believers to work for the good of all, is concluded with the words; May I not boast of any but Jesus Christ, granting peace and mercy upon the Israel of God.
Gratitude to God, receiving what God has to offer.
When we approach Luke 10, it begins with the words “after this.” Speaking directly from our passage last week, of the would-be followers of Jesus. Those that liked the idea of following Jesus, but allowed other things to get in the way. It is “after this” that Jesus appoints 70 others to go ahead of him. He gives them a detailed list of instructions - instructions that I know I would have a very hard time following in this day, and in fact, I imagine many of us who like to plan, and prepare would have a difficult time with Jesus’ instructions. Jesus tells them “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves” - he begins with a promise of feeling vulnerable, and at risk. Then he continues: “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” I cannot imagine a more vulnerable place to begin a brand-new ministry, than to have no belongings or finances, or shoes, and armed with an image of a small lamb in the midst of wolves. Equipped merely with a message of peace and the hope of hospitality.
However, Jesus offers more with sending forth: Jesus offers: community, connection, and communion. First, Jesus sends them in pairs. No one is alone in this, an important community of two. Jesus’ honesty about the challenges before them is tempered with a partner, a fellow believer that shares the same conviction to share the peace of Christ with others.
He tells them to remain in the same house, not to move about, but to remain. I believe this is about connection. The disciples are sent out to offer something important to their hosts, but also to spend time with them. Remaining present in the home they are in for a duration of time calls for the disciples to know the people they are sharing space with.
Lastly, they break bread together. Jesus instructs the 70 to eat and drink whatever they provide - placing relationship and hospitality over any expectation to remain committed to God’s food laws of Jewish tradition. This is a powerful invitation to receive something unexpected from what others have to offer to you.
But Jesus’ instructions are not yet complete: he offers instructions on what to do when they are welcomed, as well as when they are not. Jesus does not call for the disciples to remain where they are not wanted. In fact, he offers them to state: “even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.” Now, theologians differ on the intent of this passage. I myself find it hard to understand that in the midst of ministry work Jesus would offer words that sound full of judgement?
However, just last week our text offered a similar experience of rejection: an account of Jesus preparing to enter a city of Samaritans, who “did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” Jesus himself was not welcomed into this city. If you recall, when this took place, the disciples offered judgement as they stated: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” And Jesus rebuked them, and they went on to another village.
Therefore why, in the very next passage would Jesus’ instructions be read as judgement?
Perhaps there is a different way to see it. You see, immediately after the instruction to wipe the dust, they are instructed to tell the city: “The kingdom of God has come near.”
This is the same message to the cities that welcome the disciples. The kingdom of God is near to them regardless of their decision to welcome the disciples into their cities.
Jesus calls the disciples to offer Peace, and when welcomed, to eat what is set before you, cure the sick who are there, and say: “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” The seventy were called to be faithful, accept the hospitality of others, and offer what God is doing through them. Jesus offers instructions and authority for the disciples to go out, to share the good news that the kingdom of God has come near, and when they returned and celebrated their success, they were instructed not to not rejoice in that authority, but to rejoice that their names are written in heaven.
They are called to offer to others, and in turn are granted themselves, a reminder of God’s continued presence and activity in the world. Church, we are in the season of Pentecost - the season in which we are reminded of the work of God through us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. By offering the presence of God to others, we have the opportunity to see and experience the work of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.
Offering the presence of God to others brings us to the table fellowship of communion: sharing in the breaking of bread with others is important enough that through the passage Jesus instructs them not once, but twice to “eat what is set before you.” Although this could easily be overlooked in a passage this full of content, I want to pause for a moment to reflect on what it means to receive the hospitality of another. After all, isn’t that what we are doing each time we partake and receive communion? God is freely offering the blessing of Christ with us. By receiving, we are joined together in community and connection to one another. We have the opportunity to see what God is offering. Here at Royal Lane, we are diverse people, united in Christ. We come from unique perspectives and places in our lives, and join together with the common thread of thanksgiving for what God has done, and living it forward.
The invitation to us is to join in community, connection, and communion. Are you offering the Peace of Christ? May it be so.