Flying Together by Faith Through Grace

A sermon preached the sixth Sunday after Pentecost + July 4, 2010

The text this week has a sense of urgency.  Jesus extends his ministry beyond the twelve and appoints the seventy (and you and me) to share the good news of God’s peace with the world.  This urgency is to point out the Kingdom of God is not just near, it is here and now.  God’s kingdom is the peace which passes all understanding, and is our call to go and share.

So here we are, the people of Faith gathered in this time and place by God.  You and me, with me as your new pastor and me with you good people of Faith.  Called to the ministry of the kingdom together, saints and sinners, people of doubting faith and people of deep faith.  God gathers regular people together as God’s hands, feet, and voice to bring the peace that so many, so long for.

So what does the Word of God have to say to us today… 

  • We are called to serve together, not as lone rangers, or single super heroes… but together, in relationship. 
  • Jesus sent the 70 out in pairs and we are called to not live in our ‘I’m spiritual, but not religious’ aloneness… but to be the church, the body of Christ together. 
  • Called to go outside this building together, to support one another, to share God’s peace, consoling mourners, comforting afflicted… sharing Christ, sharing ourselves as the body of Christ together for the sake of the world.

Jesus does give us a heads-up that it won’t easy, relationships seldom are.  But he sends us on His behalf telling us there is a huge harvest and very few harvest hands to do God’s work.  So we pray, asking the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands. 

He warns to be careful, because it’s tough out there, then gives us our itinerary and travel advice…leave the cash and credit cards at home, forget the iPod and cell phone, bring only basics in your one carry-on; and greet no one on the road.

Discipleship is Risky… Jesus encourages to go out beyond the comfort of home and vast material things for the journey.  No sightseeing or conversing with those along the way.  No per-diem or picnic lunch packed, God will provide through the hospitality of strangers.  God’s Word has Urgency and Jesus sends us out to a world that urgently needs His peace, hope and love.  What does that mean for us in this time, in this place.

Let’s think about the world we live in.…In America:

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us,” the words of Abraham Lincoln.

Jesus continues…When you enter a home greet the family, ‘Peace.’ If your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay. But if it’s not received, take it back and get out. Don’t impose yourself.  Stay in the same place that welcomes you, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for you as a worker of the kingdom deserve to be fed.

God Provides… Hospitality is a free gift, no strings attached of grace!  We see our role as those who have more, to extend hospitality to those who have less.  But God see’s no barriers and we who have more in material ways can receive much from those who we and society perceives as having less. We are as materially wealthy people in fact every bit as dependent upon the grace of God.

Now here Jesus gets a little cranky….scolding don’t move from house to house looking for the best cook in town.  Wherever you are welcomed, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’  

But if and when you enter a place and they do not welcome you, go out the street and say, ‘The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we’re giving it back. Did you have any idea that God’s kingdom was right on your doorstep?’  Jesus said the one listens to you, listens to Him.  The one who rejects you rejects Jesus.  And rejecting Jesus is the same as rejecting God the Father, who sent Him.

Luke writes about travelling to towns and going house to house, but it really is about travelling to people and building relationships person to person.  It is a challenge to meet people ‘where they are’ and not pre-judge one another.  And when we do… all opportunity for relationship is lost! We often find ourselves already thinking we know what a person believes before they even have the chance to open their mouth.

In every relationship except the one with God… in order to reach a level of trust and have real regard for the other, we first encounter the prejudices, inhibitions, angers and fears that we as sinful people have.  As Christians, we know we need God’s grace to acknowledge and be forgiven for the evil and brokenness in each of us.  It is knowing this reality and the peace of Christ that enables us to share and serve others in Jesus’ name.

Most of us also have experienced what it is like to have an offer of being in relationship with another rejected.  God knows this, think of those in your life who appear to reject God, and Luke as well, pointing out is that rather than vengeful behavior, we just share our grief that it could not be by shaking off the dust and moving on. 

Thankfully, our good and gracious God loves us no matter what, a love so deep and everlasting that God rejoices and has written our names in heaven.  This never ending love transcends culture, creed, race, gender, time and place… from the 12 disciples to the 70, to you and me. 

Those first seventy came back triumphantly telling Jesus that even the demons danced to the tune of God!  Jesus said, “I know. I watched Satan fall from like a flash of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you?  Safe passage, as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in YOUR authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. It’s not what YOU do for God… but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing!”

Some of you may be familiar with “Lessons From Geese,” a powerful illustration from nature of how all need to work together in a relational, supportive way to journey together as one body.  Listen to the wonder of God’s creation in geese… 

As geese flap their wings, they create an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if any bird were to fly alone…  We share a common direction and a sense of community given by God.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front… God calls us to minister together with those who are headed much like geese.  We are called to go, and to be willing to accept help as well as give ours to others.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position… God calls us to the priesthood of all believers.  If we take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership as with the geese, we become interdependent with one another.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. If we “honk,” we need to be honest, constructive and encouraging… When a goose gets sick or wounded or is shot down, TWO geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. They then launch out on their own, with another formation or catch up with the flock.

We are called to relationship with God and each other, to accompany each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.  And more importantly, God welcomes all to experience the kingdom…

  • the abundance of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness,
  • to be uplifted in this community of faith,
  • and then to be lifted-up to life everlasting. 

Here through water of baptism and at a table where all are welcome, there are no strings attached.  There is no pre-screening to God’s grace.  There is no faith report card that scans your resume of good works or scans your heart and mind for belief.  There is just a God too big for words that loves us and gathers us in a home called Faith.  Amen

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