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.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
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.’
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
I wonder if Jesus asked the original twelve if he should expand this low-budget discipleship program. They were the first ones to take on this bare bones approach to evangelism. Was it their feedback, their success, that expanded this endeavor?
“Oh yeah,” Peter would’ve said, “I loved not taking any extra clothes along.”
“I did like that power over demons and diseases!” Philip could’ve chimed in.
“Definitely enjoyed trusting complete strangers for food and a place to stay,” Thomas might have added, “It’s really my natural inclination to step out on faith.”
Feedback or no, Jesus took the original sending of the twelve disciples and like a mid-level marketing boss, expanded his team. Why stop with twelve? Let’s have seventy! It’s a cheap mission if you don’t have to provide these newly commissioned disciples with food vouchers or hotel money. Just go, taking nothing, and spread the word that the Kingdom of God has come near.
I might personally be skeptical about the lack of investment in this mission, but it seems to have worked. Even with the man himself, Jesus, around, Christianity has always been a movement of the people. It’s a message that’s meant to be carried beyond the one into the many. Let me repeat, even with Jesus around, this wasn’t a one man show. Presumably he could’ve used some of his miracle-power to zoom around and do all of this himself, but he was a teacher. He called disciples and students to share this message, too. As it turns out, sharing is a very effective tool. Even for Jesus, it’s best to not go it alone.
So I’m not going to spend my time trying to convince you that you have a call from Jesus to go forth. You likely have some sense of that in your identity as a Christian, a Christ-follower. Hanging out with Jesus has always required a high level of participation. What I want to challenge us to do is look closer at what our personal callings might be like. Because let me tell you, if I were coming up with a discipleship program, it certainly wouldn’t look like this one that Jesus proposes here for the seventy.
But this little model here, this strange purseless, bagless, sandleless model, teaches us something about how to discern our own personal call. We may not have been part of that original seventy, but Jesus is still sending us out in some very specific ways.
Because first, this model shows us that our calling can very quite vulnerable. These early disciples were called not to welcome people to them, but to go into other’s homes. They put themselves at the mercy of others. They didn’t wait for people to come to them.
If you are an astute reader of our newsletter, The Grapevine, you may have read a devotional written by Mary Luti that talks about a similar thing. Let me read part of it to you. It says:
I find only three instances in scripture when Jesus hosts a meal--the improvised feeding of the four (or five) thousand, the members-only Last Supper, and the post-resurrection breakfast for a handful of frustrated fishermen. Other than that, Jesus doesn’t host anyone at his table. He doesn’t have a table. He’s always at someone else’s. Tax collectors like Levi and Zacchaeus throw him banquets. Pharisees, too. Peter’s wife feeds him. And Martha in Bethany. Jesus doesn’t invite; he gets invited.
It seems that Jesus practiced what he preached. He sent the disciples out to go to people’s homes, to be vulnerable and at the mercy of others, because that’s what he was doing. Which is so funny then, that so much of our evangelism and sense of what it means to be church and disciples now involves people coming to us.
What might it look like if our calling was a little more vulnerable, involved us putting ourselves out there, and maybe even be rejected? How might our discernment be open to this kind of vulnerable, difficult work?
Second, this model of disciple and ministry had depth. Did you notice how when they were finally invited into a home, they were to stay there for a while? “Do not move about from house to house!” Jesus said.
What an interesting barometer for success. Because I can hardly do the same thing for an hour at at time, with the allure of Snapchat games and Netflix queues. Just being honest--I have to work hard at cultivating the kind of attention span that allows for deep listening and paying attention.
The disciples didn’t just give a quick knock, stuff a brochure in the door, and move on. They sat down to eat. To listen. To form relationships.
Compared to the ways we can be buffeted about, this is quite focused and challenging. How might it look if our discernment about our calling was looking for these places of depth?
A colleague of mine from seminary, David Black, wrote the following this week:
In America, we treat justice issues like consumable goods. There are lots of options. We browse the racks, see which one fits us best, and then claim it and wear it until we abandon it for a new trend.
This resonated with me as I thought about the depth of our discipleship. It’s easy to claim a bit of everything, it’s difficult to pursue and follow your specific calling. There’s a pressure to be everything to everyone, when actually, Jesus called his disciples to go sit in one home at a time.
Friends, we are called. But not just to buzz around and do a little bit here and there, but to find places of vulnerability and depth. This is why discernment is so important. It’s about taking the time to wait and listen for where Jesus is sending you.
Horrified about the treatment of children at the border? Don’t just call your representative this week. Be the person calling them six weeks, be donating money to organizations monthly, be continually reading, showing up where and when you can.
Interested in how South Haven can be a true haven for the LGBTQ community, including being a distinctively religious space for weddings? Commit time to it! Set aside an hour every couple weeks to work on the space maintenance, the policies, the marketing that we might need to follow that call.
For me, I’ve been seeking and discerning how I can be a more consistent and informed advocate for fair housing and finding ways to support people who are housing insecure or homeless. I encounter many people who are without a safe place to sleep as a pastor, but I have realized I didn’t really know how to help. I started by signing up for some email newsletters, working on ordering a clergy shirt (you know, the ones with the collar) so I can show up for public advocacy, and by asking for sleeping bags for my birthday so I could donate them to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Which, by the way, if you’d like to give me a belated 29th birthday present, I will certainly accept a sleeping bag or five to pass along.
I tell you this, well first to shamelessly ask for sleeping bag donations, but really to share how I’m trying to figure out this discernment thing along with you. It’s overwhelming to figure out how to join in God’s mission. There’s so much trouble in the world. But Jesus knew this and still dared to send us out.
We can find these holy moments of showing up, leaving our homes, trembling at a stranger’s doorstep. Knowing that it’s risky. Knowing that we’re going to have to dig in. “God is near,” we might whisper to ourselves, “Peace to this house.” And you take a deep breath, and you go.
“We had to eat some really terrible food, but it was incredible to hear their story,” James might have recounted.
“I was really nervous and some people slammed the door in my face, but I believed what I was saying from my head to my toes, so I could do it,” Andrew could’ve said.
“Did you know it would be like this, Jesus?” John likely questioned. “I can’t believe you trusted us. Did you really know that we could do this? Did you know how much everything would change?”