Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 7, 2019

The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 10th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord.

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. 

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.' 

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, 

go out into its streets and say, 

"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.'” 

"Whoever listens to you listens to me, 

and whoever rejects you rejects me, 

and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

The seventy returned with joy, saying, 

"Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 

He said to them, 

"I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 

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. 

Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, 

that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ. 351

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last year when I went to Scotland and Ireland I kept looking at all the pretty bags and purses.  I especially liked the tartan plaid ones.  I think the weaving is beautiful, but I didn’t buy any.  I just looked.  Evidently, I looked at those bags enough that my daughter noticed and got me one for Christmas.  

I have several purses.  They all have to meet certain criteria for size - that is, be big enough to hold my ipad - and they all have to have the right number and size of pockets for my phone and glasses and keys.  

In addition to my purses, I had special bags that I used when I was in school.  They had to hold my laptop and books.  Even when I wasn’t in school, I had a very pretty bag that I got at a Global Mission Event. I used to carry it to work every day. Maybe that is a lot of baggage, I don’t know.   

You know what it’s like.  We need our electronic devices and other stuff.  It’s convenient to have someplace to put our wallets with our ID and credit cards, our checkbooks, our cell phones, and our keys.   

We keep things like this close to us because we feel insecure without them. Identity theft is a concern for many people these days. It seems you can’t travel anywhere without ID cards.  We pay for everything we need with credit cards.  Even the newest monopoly game uses electronic banking instead of cash.

In today’s gospel, Luke tells us a story about Jesus sending seventy people out on a mission.  

Imagine with me today, that we are among those people being sent out.  It is quite an honor.  In the story just before this one in the gospel, Jesus turns down some would-be followers. They told Jesus they really wanted to follow him, but they had some other stuff to do first, and they would have to catch him later.  

We have been chosen to go out on this mission.  But Jesus has some instructions, including a list of things we aren’t supposed to bring with us.  First of all, Jesus is sending us out without our bags.  

Just like the airlines these days, he’s not even allowing one free bag a piece.  

It seems all of our old identities and all of our old baggage interfere with the mission he is giving us.  

Additionally, we don’t get to follow our own itinerary.  We don’t get to pick where we go.  

Jesus makes the plans and he has chosen the places for the seventy of us to go.  

Seventy is a special number in the Hebrew Bible and biblical numbers are usually symbolic.  

Seventy is the number of nations descended from Noah.  

Seventy is the number of elders Moses chose to lead the people.  

Sixty-five is the number of synods in the ELCA, so the mission of Jesus is definitely larger than just our own church.  

This is not one of those vacation type mission trips either.   We aren’t allowed to make any side trips to visit with friends, or get distracted by a bunch of social activities, or waste time with idle conversations along the side of the road.  Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

This is going to be a working trip. Maybe it will feel like too much work sometimes, but we will always have a job. 

Jesus has good reason for all his instructions.  The mission is important and He wants us to be safe.  He reminds us that there will be wolves in the places where we are going. Wolves are the bad guys in both fairy tales and Bible stories.  They are the ones who steal sheep, especially the weaker young ones.  Jesus said we will be like lambs in the midst of these wolves.  

This could be very scary, if we had to go alone, but we don’t.   Jesus is sending us out together.  There is a large group of us and we will travel in pairs.  We will have each other.  We will help each other out.  We will support each other.   We can depend on each other.  

We will be gathering this harvest together.  The way we do that is by sharing the peace of Christ everywhere we go, and by telling everyone that the Reign of God is near.  

The reign of God is near. Isn’t this what we pray for when we say, “Your Kingdom come,” in the prayer that Jesus taught us?

What does the Reign of God look like?  

Imagine it - a world where God is supreme ruler.  

The harvest is plentiful.  Many, many people are waiting to hear the good news that we have to share. In God’s reign, whenever people greet each other they share the peace of Christ.  

Everyone shows hospitality to strangers no matter where they come from or what documents they carry with them.  

The harvest is plentiful. 

Food is shared and no one goes hungry.  

Everyone has a place to stay and shelter for the night.  

Everyone has meaningful work and is paid a fair wage.  

Everyone has access to health care, and the sick are made well.  

In this world where God reigns, we don’t need our baggage anymore.   Once it gave us our individual identity.  Now, God has given us new identities.  Together, we are the baptized children of God, all sent by Jesus, as missionaries to the world. 

We have been marked by the cross of Christ forever.  God gives us real power and authority In the name of Jesus.  

In the name of Jesus, we can even cast out the demons in our world.  

We no longer need to fear the wolves because together we have the power and authority of Jesus. He has promised that nothing will hurt us.  

Jesus calls us to leave our baggage behind and proclaim that the reign of God is near.  

He sends us as lambs in the midst of wolves, yet we are never sent alone.  

He gives us each other.  He gives us the power of his name.  The Lamb of God is with us whenever we are together.    

We proclaim that the reign of God is near every time we sing.  Today we have great reason to “praise the Lord, lift every voice, alleluia, sing Rejoice.”

The reign of God is near.  Our names are written in heaven.