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Our Mission - Sermon on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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God sends us out on mission into the world. And it can sometimes be scary and feel lonely. But we don't do mission alone. And it isn't our mission. 

 Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

July 3, 2016- 7th Sunday after Pentecost

"Our Mission".  Text is from Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Click here for sermon audio


Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

I love imagining what it must have been like to hear the words of Jesus as he spoke, sending me out in mission. Now, to be clear, as a member of the seventy-two...and I note, that our translation here in the New Revised Standard Version does not take into account that today's scholars look to older manuscripts and it seems that the number seventy-two is found with more certainty than seventy... as a member of the seventy-two that Jesus sent out, I'm not one of the twelve apostles. These are other followers, comprised of the many men and women that are now following Jesus, and who he's given the authority to heal and cast out demons. 

But first listening to his instructions, while indeed this is a glorious thing he is asking us to do, but it is also a frightening time! Sending me and my fellow disciples out like lambs in the midst of wolves...I mean, what do wolves do with lambs? And then to go out with nothing on us, to carry no purse, which means no money, to carry no bag which means no spare clothing and not even a spare set of sandals in case mine get worn down, which, with all the walking that we will be doing, they will surely wear. 

But then, to rely on the kindness of strangers, hoping that there will be homes that will accept us into them, in order that we may eat, in order that we may sleep. And while this was the expected hospitality that people of the Jewish faith were meant to give one another, it was by no means guaranteed.

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Sent out, alone into the world. Like lambs with no food to carry and nothing to pay for it. To do God's work with those tools. And somehow, some way, the disciples not only returned, they returned filled with the joy that one has when having accomplished the good work that God had called them to do. 

It isn't easy for us, my sisters and brothers not to be self-sufficient. Somehow over the years our society has become a place where it has become more valuable for people to be entirely on their own, that the measure of success is the work you put forward by yourself. That people seek credit for accomplishments done by them without the help of others, and the worth of people is measured in what they can fit on a resume. 

Asking for help from others carries with it a stigma of shame. We are discouraged from helping because we believe as a society that when we give to people seeking handouts they won't learn to be self-sufficient and continue to ask for handouts. And so, when those of us who have derived our own self-worth from being self-sufficient finally arrive at a place where we need help, we are loathe to ask for it. 

But it is obvious from this passage that not only did Jesus not send the disciples out alone, he sent them out in a community. Not solely two-by-two but in a large group of seventy-two, and with the authority from God and the presence of the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission that God has given them. 

And it's not a mission that they themselves are taking for their own spiritual glory but done so at the Lord's command in order to share the good news of the kingdom of God come near. It is not the mission of the disciples. It is the mission of God.

So when we are selves are called by God to become doers of his mission, we have to stop asking ourselves the question, "What is our mission?" When we are seeking to do the work of God, and trying to determine what that work is, the more accurate question should be: "What is this mission that the Lord is calling us to do? How is God equipping us for this mission and how is God sending us out to be a part of this mission?" What is God's mission?  And if the very core of that mission is not "To love God with all our strength and all our might and all our heart and all our soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves"; then we need to go back and reexamine what that mission is.  And then figure out what success looks like. 

It should also be obvious by the words of Jesus that some houses will not return the piece and some houses will not take the traveling disciples and bearers of the good news, that sometimes the mission will not always have an affirmative reaction. Some people will reject the mission of God. But the fact that it is God's mission and not ours should remind us that we are nevertheless being called into engagement of it.  We should not judge the efficacy of the mission based on whether or not it has some sort of quantifiable success but on the faithfulness  to Jesus and the work of his Holy Spirit. What is to say that the work that we do that seems to be rejected does not pave the way forward for the next disciple to come along and be accepted? 

We also have to remember one key thing. The fact that this is the Lord's mission and not ours, we have to remember the old adage. If you want to make God laugh, make plans. The mission we do for the benefit of declaring the Kingdom of God is, once again, not our mission but God's and it can take us into all sorts of different places. What started out as a spaghetti dinner has turned out to be feeding from our facilities five days a week. And even though we are not the kind of church that proselytizes to those who need to be fed, we are nevertheless witnesses to the love that God has poured out upon us by virtue of the life, death and resurrection his loving Son in which he has gifted us the grace we have that surpasses all understanding, the freedom from sin, the devil and the power of the grave. That same gift that empowers us through faith to do the good deeds we do in his name; the work we do in the world that can only be accomplished because we have been set free.  

We don't bring people food for the promotion of ourselves, and we don't provide shelter for our own glory. The joy that is derived by being a part of Jesus' mission here on earth and in God's kingdom is a benefit, indeed, both for us and for those that are recipients of the fruit of our labors. The goal is the means of production of that fruit, because when we are filled with the Holy Spirit of God we cannot help but share the love that God has for us with others. It is in doing the good work of God and sharing the kingdom that is near that the wondrous feelings bubble up from deep within us.

But look around my sisters and brothers. We might not have 70 people in here today, but the mission that we do for the wider church, the church of Jesus we are doing in community, never alone. Whether we are the ... 18? 20? People here or 70 people who are active leaders in and around our parish any one week between all of the programs hosted here, we are nevertheless one great family. We struggle together, we pull each other's weight, we enrich one another, we carry the good news together. No one is an island... and this is the kind of wisdom and advice I can give to myself sometimes, as I have a tendency of suffering from pastoritis, that is, the idea that I am formally and solely responsible for the well being of everything and everyone at this parish... that I can remember that we are all driving this mission together, this going out and feeding the masses not just with food but with the Holy Spirit, gifted as we are by the nourishment we receive in word and meal when we gather together. 

The good news, my sisters and brothers, is that God loves us. The good news, is that God's kingdom is near and awaiting us. And the good news of God nourishes us and equips us to carry his mission in the world, sharing it together in community that we may grow the body of Christ and spread his Peace throughout the earth.


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