Posted on Jul 07, 2019 by Pastor Dave Whetter
This past Monday a small group of us gathered in the Salem Café to discuss our Bible readings for the past couple of weeks from the Bible Challenge. As we started, one person said something to the affect, “How can we be assured when we share the Gospel that we are convincing others to follow Jesus?”. That is a great question, and I think our Gospel lesson today gives us the answer.
If you have been around here for at least ten years, you might have flinched a little when I read the Gospel story, because this is the text that we spent almost three years dwelling in as we went through the Partnership for Mission Church process. Every time we started a meeting or we gathered for an event, we would use this text for our devotional. I remember well the groans and conversations about “when will we stop using this text?”. But this text is an important text for us to dwell in again today.
Now, when we talk about the disciples, most of us think of The Twelve. But, there were many more disciples than twelve. Yes, we are told the Jesus chose twelve disciples (Luke 6) as part of his inner circle. These were the disciples that were closest to Jesus. These were the disciples Jesus spent the most time with and the ones he spent extra time with explaining things in detail and sharing his inner-most thoughts. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus “gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (9:1-2). But as we heard today, they were not to be the “professional healers and Gospel sharers.” No, as we heard today, all followers of Jesus have a mission, and that mission is to share the good news.
Last week we heard how Jesus had “set his face to Jerusalem,” and in so doing he began to call more followers, and in his calling of those followers, he shared with them the difficulties and the high expectations of being a follower. And today, we discover why he wanted to make sure they were aware of the difficulties of following him. Today we are told that after calling these new disciples, he appointed seventy of them to go “on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go” (10:1). He sent them with nothing and he instructed them to take nothing. And when they arrived in a new place, they were to enter peacefully, offer God’s peace, cure those who needed healing, and share the incredible good news of this God who loved them and whose kingdom was near to them. That’s it! That is all they were to do.
And then he said, if they refuse to welcome you, then leave, don’t stick around and force them to listen, but when you leave, remind them that the kingdom of God had come near. And this is why I think this is such an important story for us to hear. Our job is to always be a healing presence in the lives of those who need healing. Secondly, our job is to share the love of Jesus with everyone, but our job is not to save people, or to force them to believe. Our job isn’t to convince them of anything. If others choose not to listen, that is OK. That is between them and God. The point here is this, the good news is meant to be shared far and wide by those who trust Jesus and follow him. That is you and me.
Sometimes I think we make our mission a lot harder than it is. Back at the beginning of June, many of us spent time at the Gay Pride Festival sharing the good news that Salem, as well as several other ELCA congregations in this area, were open and affirming of them. Our mission was just to share with them that God loved them. For some of us, we want to say, well, wait, we spent hundreds of dollars on that event, did we get any people to come here? Well, at this point I would say no, we didn’t, but that wasn’t our mission. Our mission was to be a healing presence to a community that has often been cast aside by the church.
Two weeks ago, we had a booth at the Lenexa BBQ. It was a lot of fun, and we could ask again, but did we convince anyone to come to Salem? Again, I say wrong question, our mission was to show the local community that following Christ can be fun and that there are healthy, open, and welcoming faith communities here for them when they need us.
This past Thursday, we were scheduled to have a float in the 4th of July parade. Many of us showed up to march and share our story with the wider community. Our plan was to hand out chip clips and cards telling about Salem. We were going to invite people to come and have a free hot dog. The parade got rained out, but our band still played and we still attempted to share with those walking by our story. You can continue this by taking some of these cards that are in the narthex and sharing our story with others. I hope more people come to Salem to be part of this community, but that is not our mission.
My point is this: It doesn’t take fancy degrees or paid professionals to be the work of Jesus. Our job, all of our jobs, is to share the gospel, and we do that with both words and our actions. But once we’ve done that, we are done. Some people will accept, but others will reject, but we move on. But here is the most important piece to remember, when we move on, the Holy Spirit remains. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convince them to become followers, not ours.
I know we live in a world that wants to see results, but oftentimes we have no idea what responses our efforts will bring about; our job is to trust that the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Sharing the good news is not just the responsibility of “professionals” like clergy, or the Twelve. Sharing the good news is the calling of everyone who follows Jesus. We don’t need more Bible study, we don’t need more time, we don’t need more people. We just need to trust that the Holy Spirit will do what needs to be done.
I get it can be very discouraging to share your time and talents in the church and not see the results you hoped you would, but answering a call to serve will always make a difference. The world needs us. Service to the church, the community, and the world can, and will, bring us plenty of discouragement. We desperately want to change the world, but our job isn’t to change the world; our job is to be open to letting the Holy Spirit change us and then go share that good news with the world.
Today, I hope you realize that your efforts for the church make a difference, no matter what. Our efforts to serve and share the good news do push back the evil in world, even if it’s just for a moment.
Our committee work, our work in the community, our mission efforts make a difference, even if we can’t see it, and we do this work in response to God’s free gift of grace. We worry about the church’s finances, we make food bags for the hungry, we serve at the Gathering Table, we march in parades, we stand at festivals, and we listen to those who need to be heard, to share the love of a God that loves us so much he died for us. Today, my hope and my prayer is that you know you have all you need to fulfill the mission God has set before you. For God’s kingdom to be fully realized we all have been entrusted with the Gospel and we all are called to share that good news. Our work matters. Thanks be to God! Amen.