Pointing Toward Sunday - Pentecost 7C, 7/3/16 - Luke 10:1-11 (13-15), 16-20
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!' 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 "Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.'
[13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.]
16 "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18 He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Mission work is great when only steaks are at stake.
When the biggest question is wondering if the village will serve you dinner, not wondering what God will serve the village based upon your reception.
The lectionary abridges abrasion from Sunday's Gospel, reducing mission to a movement of mutual hospitality. The result will be either peace or parting ways in protest, but not punishment.
We are not comfortable hearing that the Kingdom of God comes near both in the form of peace and of punishment. That one village's "Wow!" becomes another village's "Woe!"
Clearly something more is at stake than whether steak is on the menu. Jesus sends 72 (12 disciples/tribes times the six days of creation?) into the mission field. These pairs are sheep by intention, not by inevitability. They open themselves to the in/hospitality of others by carrying nothing with them on their beeline to the next town.
Well, not nothing.
Peace is their possession. Jesus' authority is their power. Unlike the Western model of mission whereby we pack up our resources to go and give to those without, this first mission of the disciples is defined by going without, in part, to become the recipients of the resources of others. Certainly, they bring the power to heal and preach, and the laborer deserves his wages. But this evangelism is an exchange as an expression of relationship. Hospitality opens the way for the Holy Spirit to move in peace and power.
Have you ever been on a mission trip or served locally and found yourself feeling guilty because you seem to be receiving more than you are giving? How many Vacation Bible School leaders this summer will say, "I learn more from these kids than they learn from me..."?
If I understand Jesus' model of mission here, we are not supposed to feel guilty, but we are supposed to feel exceedingly blessed, to the point of an epiphany: we are sent not simply to bring the Kingdom Come, but to experience the coming of the Kingdom in the context of new relationship.
If this is so, the "Woe" is spoken to missionary and village alike. Woe to those villages who do not receive the peace of Christ. The day of judgment reveals inhospitality and so much more. And woe to those Christians who do not walk in peace toward those who do not know the Kingdom of God. Would the Kingdom of God come near if the disciples remained home?
The seventy-two return rejoicing when their church Mission Statement rang true and their congregational Vision and Values bore much measurable fruit. Jesus stands up at the Annual Meeting and throws shade on their celebration: "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Lord knows how easily our missionary motives can shift from a response to God's grace to a reenactment of our glory days. If Satan - Lucifer the Morning Star - can fall from heaven like lightning, what makes us think we would never stumble in our success?
Our rejoicing must surely and solely come from what God has done for us in writing our names in heaven.