Jesus’ Advance Team

Luke 10 After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 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. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] 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.’

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[a] 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.”

Jill Duffield editor of Presbyterians Today wrote:

“Not battalions of soldiers. Not a gathering of world leaders. Not a carefully selected group of the brightest and the best. Just 72 disciples made up of tradespeople and tax collectors. Just the least of the least. Just a young, female servant. Just those unworthy to advise the powerful who muster the courage to speak up. Both Old and New Testament lessons this week point to God’s choice of ordinary people to shape the salvation story and do divine work.”

Namaan and Elisha

Jesus and the 72

God’s healing comes to us and to our communities when we let go of our assumptions and open ourselves to the divine in our midst, no matter what form the holy embodies. Even demons give in to those whom God sends when human beings set aside their suspicion and greed, their pride and their ambition, and instead trust God’s power, God’s plan for us, God’s gifts that are in each of us.

Imagine for a moment how different our conversations and actions would be around almost any challenge if we truly believed that God not only could, but will, provide for all involved. Imagine if we believed we are Jesus’ advance team – those sent without worldly status or security, but equipped with the power of God – and truly tried to heal and cast out demons in all the places we know Jesus goes: places where people are suffering and in pain. Imagine if we entered those places with humility, with hopeful expectation, with joy when we are welcomed and without anger when we are rejected, knowing that Jesus will come after us and the work is not solely up to us. Imagine if, daily, we looked to offer hospitality to those in need of food, shelter and a place of rest. Imagine if, daily, we sought to listen to those whose voices do not get heard, let alone the silent in our culture. Imagine if, daily, we prayerfully spoke the God-given words we too often silence for fear of sounding foolish or being ridiculed.

The stunning truth of these texts is that God works miracles through ordinary people when we trust, not ourselves, but God at work through and with and in us.

Right now, election season is off and running. The relentless news cycle rolls on 24/7. Children lack basic needs in detention centers. Families risk their lives in search of a better future. War persists in places far away. Violence shatters communities close to home because of drug addiction. The powerful and the lowly alike struggle with the pain of diseases like cancer, grief and reconciling ourselves to the ends of each person’s life. Systemic oppression feels overwhelming. Mental illness holds many in a demonic grip. And Jesus sends a mere 72 disciples, two by two, with nothing but the clothes on their backs to heal and cast out demons, to proclaim the Good News and bring in a plentiful harvest that can nurture the world if only there are enough willing workers. Imagine.

Imagine if we simply went, two by two, trusting God: God’s power, God’s providence, God’s provision. No doubt, not everyone would welcome us. Certainly, there would be disappointments and heartbreaking failures. Some days, we will be rejected by the cruelty and meanness, the unfairness and the unmitigated hate we encounter. Nonetheless, we will also discover and extend human kindness, generosity from unexpected places, love in the middle of unspeakable desperation and a relentless mercy that causes even the demons to submit to us in the name of Jesus Christ. We can be utterly confident that Jesus will not abandon us, nor those we meet, the ones who embrace the message and the ones who cause us to shake the dust off our feet. In short, when Jesus sends us out, we can trust that we will lack nothing. In fact, we will witness and participate in miracles – healing, life-giving miracles.

Imagine. No, don’t imagine. Go and see for yourself. Amen

 

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