Boldly Go

Written by Joel on July 5th, 2010

July 4, 2010
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Notes:

What’s Your Name

There is a man who takes our gospel reading today quite literally. He does not carry a bag, or a wallet. He travels all over this country and has been all over the world telling people about Jesus. He takes this text so literally, in fact, that he does not even wear shoes, not even in the winter. He depends on the hospitality of others. His hair has grown out, he has a beard, and deep blue eyes. He wears a robe, carries a bible and many call him “The Jesus Guy.” Whenever he is asked the question “What’s your name?” He will simply repeat the question back “What’s your name. I am known by the question.” He has been featured on 20/20, in Time magazine, and there is a recent documentary about him, this man who takes this Gospel call seriously. He is not an ordained minister, he holds a high school diploma, he is just a normal guy.

I have meant him once. Back in Hagerstown, about 8 years ago. I remember it being summer time and I was on my way home from a summer church camp. I was driving down Potomac Street, stopped at a traffic light and looked over to see a man in a white robe, long hair, beard and immediately my mind went to “That must be Jesus…or at least one of those street preachers you hear about in the big cities.” I drove around the block and found a place to park. I got out and greeted him. After a few moments of speaking with I realized that he depends on the goodwill of the people he encounters. I offered to take him to the nearby Denny’s for lunch. I had to lend him a pair of extra sandals because the waiter wouldn’t let him come in bare foot. We spoke over lunch about God, Jesus, the church and telling others about it. What struck me most about this man was that he was not afraid to ask spiritual questions “How is your spiritual life?” So matter-of-factly, like he was asking about the weather. When lunch was over, he continued on with the mission to declare the good news of the kingdom of God.

Our gospel reading today picks up where we left off last week – with Jesus making extreme calls on the disciples; such as “let the dead bury their own dead;” and “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Stark reminders of the cost of discipleship. And yet, we read here about the sending of 70 disciples. Apparently this call did not deter all would-be followers of Christ.

Christ has set his face to Jerusalem. He is approaching the cross and our salvation, and he has commissioned these disciples to announce this mission and that the kingdom of God is near. This mission sounds very similar to the sending out of the 12 disciples in chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel. But now this time, he has chosen 72 to carry out the mission. Simple, ordinary people, tasked with the extra-ordinary mission of expanding God’s kingdom.

Jesus gives them a few rules for the road. Take nothing, no walking stick, no food, no money, don’t even pack a bag. You will be dependent on the hospitality of the people you encounter on this journey.

Road trip – intro

In response to my sense of call to the ministry, I decided to attend seminary. Through prayer, discernment, and the guidance of a college professor, I determined that I should attend Fuller Theological Seminary; nearly 3000 miles away. Just outside of Los Angeles, California. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, no family and no friends, no job. Some might say that this small town boy was heading out like a sheep among wolves. I had the call and desire, now I just had to get there. I was recently out of college and had little savings and so I had to find a way to get there on the cheap. Flying was out, so I decided to make a road trip of it. To save money I came up with the idea of calling up churches along the way and begging for a place to stay each night of my trip. In order to get to seminary, to begin my formal training for the ministry, it seemed I was would also be dependent on the hospitality of others – somewhat like the 72 we read about today. Though I did pack some bags and shoes.

Road trip – welcome/unwelcome.

I am quite the pre-planner. I picked a route, the number of days it would take and the sites I would see. I was not as ambitious as the 72 disciples who had no idea where they were staying until someone welcomed them into their homes. I called ahead. I made a ton of phone calls that summer. “Hi, my name is Joel. I am traveling to seminary this summer and I wanted to see if your church would be willing to help me with a place to stay along the way.” You might be surprised at how many churches said no. “Sorry, we don’t do that;” “We only do that for people who are ___________ denomination.” Interestingly enough the “no”s came from churches in larger cities. Undeterred, I called churches in smaller cities along my route. You know I could count on the small churches to help me out. Any pastor who said yes almost always said so immediately. I was just expecting to sleep in a church basement, but they offered to let me stay in their homes and feed me dinner. It was an unexpected measure of hospitality.

The disciples were only able to go where they were welcomed. They stayed in homes which pronounced peace and gave them a place to stay. Cities which were not welcoming did not hear the good news proclaimed by the 72. But, despite the outcome, we read the the kingdom of God had come near regardless.

Road trip – eat.

I was treated quite well. The first night at a strange pastor’s home they feed me steak, gave me a private bed room and bath room. They showed me around town and their church, gave me tips on sites to see, and even gave me lunch for the next day.

Sometimes the accommodations were not as great as that first night. The middle of my trip, Oklahoma, took me through rather economically depressed areas of the country. Buildings in dis-repair, some even caved in on themselves; dirt roads, no businesses anywhere in town. And I was welcomed here. The pastor was single, and living in a small run down house sorely in need of a paint job. Inside was not much better. The kitchen was developing an obvious sink hole. None of the furniture matched, it was old, torn up…and that couch was my bed. No steak tonight, instead we went to the local fast food joint. But, I ate what was set before me, and slept on the couch which was provided.

We chatted over dinner and he told me about some of the struggles of small town, rural ministry. How the town was struggling with, well everything. He told me about how he came to be divorced…I suspect he had not been given the opportunity to be so open about that painful story. It was in this form of hospitality, that I believe the kingdom of God came to him in some way that day.

I may have sacrificed some independence, privacy, and spontaneity during that trip. But staying with people was one of the most fulfilling aspects of this trip. It was wonderful to share stories with these fellow christians and to see the great expanse of the kingdom of God.

Receiving hospitality

Jesus gave an interesting commission to the 72. It was not like other calls from Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned. It was not a call to give hospitality. It was a call to receive hospitality. To eat with others, to live with others, to be with others. To be where others are. Christ was calling these 72 not just to go out and tell the good news. It wasn’t like going to the mall and handing out paper tracts without so much as a “how ya doing” to the person you are sharing the good news with. No, Jesus told these apostles to go deeper. It was such an important message that it had to come from someone who made a personal connection.

The Kingdom was expanded through hospitality.

When those disciples return, they are full of joy. Christ shares with them that he saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. There mission was a success. It was because they were bold enough to Go. To go where they were uncomfortable, to go where they were vulnerable, and go with the purpose of a mission. They went as Christ first came to us. To live among us, to eat with us, and to share in his hospitality.


 

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