The journey ahead

July 7, 2019 (The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost)

Indian Hill Church

Cincinnati, OH

Isaiah 66:10-14

Psalm 66:1-9

Luke 10:1-11,16-20

Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine

10:1 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.’

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.” (Luke 10:1-11,16-20 NRSV)

Let us pray: God of fresh beginnings, you make all things new in the wisdom of Jesus Christ. Make us agents of your transforming power and heralds of your reign of justice and peace, that all may share in the healing Christ brings. Amen.

In his final sermon last week, George, urged us not to “look back,” and he encouraged us to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”[1]  It is not only good advice for us at the Indian Hill Church but it is also Jesus’ command.   In the spirit of looking forward, we pick up todays Gospel lesson from Luke where Jesus gives his disciples a second sending. In the first sending, (last week’s reading Luke 9) Jesus sent the 12 disciples out but, in this second sending, he sends 70 disciples out.  This is especially important for us to hear today as we are once again a church in transition.  George’s resignation and departure may have caught you off guard and surprised many of you.  Some may still be in the dark about his situation, some confusion, some misinformation and some sadness.  I am not going to delve into the specifics of his resignation but instead I will follow his own advice and move forward.  So, I choose to focus on the positive and the future.  We must be encouraged to move forward as Christ gives us a plan for the challenging journey ahead of us.

Biblical commentaries describe this story of Jesus sending the seventy as the model for church growth.  Jesus sends the 70 out to gather people.  Some call this church growth, but it is so, so much more.  More like joining God in God’s purpose.  More like helping people become themselves.  Please notice that it is a plan of action, active, moving, sending out.  It is not static; it is not sleepy, and it is not still.  I heard a sermon on this text from Bishop Rob Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, in which he says, “many of us were baptized into the church of the Eisenhower era, when soldiers came home from war and everyone went to church.  The church can no longer enjoy the benefits of that begone time.”[2]  We can no longer assume that if we build it, they will come.  No today is a new day and we must go out.  Jesus envisioned a church that is sent out. He did not want a church that is comfortable, complacent, even lethargic.  He sends out small committed group of disciples, who are nimble and active.  Who will go out into the world and engage the world on the world’s terms.  Meet them where they are mentality.

Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” and he tells his disciples that the journey ahead requires their single-minded purpose.[3]  He tells the seventy what to expect on the road ahead.  He remarks that the laborers are few and the risks are great.  He encourages them to travel in pairs.  Travel lite, take no provisions with them.  Instead they will depend on the hospitality of others to provide for their needs.  Bishop Wright says, “Harvest is how God says, ‘Come along side me and know me.’ Harvest is how God says, ‘Join me. Follow me. Do my will. Delight in my word.’ Harvest is the work God needs partners for. Not because God couldn’t do it all by God’s self, but because God has decided to include us in the joy of making an eternal difference in the world.”[4]

And so, Jesus sends them out in pairs.  So, when one falters, the other can help.  When one is lost, the other can find the way.  When one is discouraged, the other can hold the other one up.  That’s what the company of believers does – we hold on to each other, console each other, encourage and embolden each other, and even believe for each other.  We are stronger when we stay together, and our future is brighter when we are together.

And so, we can find comfort and security that Jesus doesn’t send the disciples out solo.  We need each other in this thing called church.  We never travel alone.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and he invites us to walk with him.  And Jesus gives his disciples a great gift, that they do not travel alone.  Because when we work together, you and I and all of us are stronger together.

The Christian faith is a communal faith, we often hear about a personal relationship with Jesus but that seems way to isolationist and independent.  Instead, let us focus on Jesus, saying where two or three are gathered together, their I am also.  We are in this journey together.

So, I am “all in” in this community of Indian Hill Church.  I want us to move forward together and here are some ways we are doing this.  We are offering more worship opportunities other than the traditional 8 and 10:30. We had an incredible worship service on Wednesday June 19, with youth choir, jazz band and Ice Cream, who doesn’t love ice cream.  Join us for our next Wednesday worship on July 17.  We are trying to meet busy families with opportunities that might work better for them.  Another opportunity we are trying is Vacation Bible School. We are offering VBS August 5-8 from 9:30 – noon for Children 4 years old by September 1 through entering 4th grade. We will help kids discover the wonders of God’s universe.  Children will rotate through crafts, snacks, worship, music, mission and recreation.  We have so much positive happening at IHC, new opportunities, new staff members and a plan for the journey ahead with a promise.

Please remember when Jesus sends them out, actually the number is really seventy-two, as we are reminded of the promise of God’s constant provision and the presence of the Holy Spirit. See, no matter what, we are never, ever alone.[5]

Let us pray:

[1] Luke 9:60, 61

[2]The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright serves as the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, GA, to which he was ordained in October 2012.

[3] Luke 9:51-62.

[4] The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright serves as the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, GA, to which he was ordained in October 2012.

[5] Karoline Lewis