BIBLE READING††††† Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20
David Scholer was a New Testament professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lived with cancer for the last six years of his life. It spread to both lungs, he struggled with asthma, diabetes, and arthritis. Despite all these problems and the effects of chemotherapy he kept on on teaching. He was one of that theological college's most popular professors. Students say that he would tell them that the ability to live with ambiguity is a sign of maturity. Fuller is a conservative college yet he was known for his inclusiveness. He would tell his students: ďYou have no right to oppose women in ministry until you have made a friend who is called to ministry and youíve listened to her story. You have no right to make a statement about homosexuality until you have made friends with a Christian homosexual person.Ē
Maybe this is what Jesus was doing when he sent his disciples out two by two. He called them labourers, he warned them that they would be like lambs in the midst of wolves. He instructed them to say, ďPeace be with you.Ē He said they should accept hospitality and tell them, ďThe Kingdom of God has come near to you.Ē
Wouldnít it be a challenge for us Christians to pair up with someone we disagree with and go on a mission together, showing the world that we are modelling what the Kingdom of God is likeÖ hospitality, grace, love for one another. The amazing thing about David Scholerís ministry was that he was saying to the students, relationship and respect for your fellow human being is more important that what you believe. He was saying, your relationships with others needs to inform your beliefs. Get your nose out of the Bible and get to know someone you are judging. And we need to do that with people of other faiths, nationalities, classes. We need to cross those lines that we have drawn.
So, the seventy went out in twos on their mission from town to town, eating with people, healing, proclaiming. When they returned they were filled with joy. Here in the gospel we have an example of effective leadership and evangelism. Jesus equipped his followers; he appointed them. Jesus did this. Jesus who was powerful yet gentle, convincing yet understanding. Why did he need to send people out before him who probably bungled through their couple of testimonies, who probably felt like they were lambs being fed to wolves? Why didnít Jesus do it all himself, since he was the one?
According to New Testament scholar Professor John Crossan, the commissioning the Seventy Ė is the roots of the early church. The harvest is ready but the labourers are few, Jesus said, and sent them out to reap the world. Sending out this group, by twos and threes, to operate independently, was an organizational strategy of brilliance, according to Prof. Crossan. John the Baptistís movement was ended with the single sword stroke that decapitated him, Crossan points out. Herod and Caesar had no trouble ending Johnís power and scattering his followers. But Jesus decentralized his movement, and became unstoppable.
By the time Jesus was crucified Prof. Crossan estimates there were hundreds of commissioned ministers, scattered all over. The news that Jesus was dead would have reached them slowly over weeks of time. And they would have responded by saying what the seventy said on their return from that first test run, in todayís reading, The blind see, the lame walk, the spirit is with us, Christ is alive. So there was no stopping Jesusí movement. Pentecost would confirm this strategy, this model, in a huge crowd of people who would disperse all over the Mediterranean world.
The seventy, excited with the thrill of success return to Jesus with joy. They tell of their successes, saying demons submit to them. And Jesus tells them he has watched Satan fall from heaven (but he knows what awaits him in Jerusalem), and urges them not to rejoice in these experiences of power, but instead to hold as their joy that their names are written in heaven.
Like most of us, they go forth filled with a hope that it may all be joy. But there is a harvest of tears waiting in the world, and the seventy are sent for that, too.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who commissioned his students in the Underground Church to be missionaries to the German Fascist Third Reich and proclaim the gospel while facing the possibility of death, made the distinction between cheap grace and costly grace, the grace which is truly from Christ. Cheap grace, he said, expects endless pleasantness, and is unwilling to confront powers and principalities. True grace knows the cross is part of life in Christ.
Jesus is telling you and me that we will not always find it easy be his follower, to do his work. He told his disciples then, and he is warning us now Ė that we will be lambs amongst wolves Ė that we will not always succeed Ė and that we need to pick ourselves up and move on. Leave them to God and move on. Jesus is saying donít let what we canít do control us. Leave it to God and get on with your life.
Do you see what Jesus is doing.Ē He is giving the disciples, giving us permission to fail. Failure isnít a crime. Failure is part of life, part of being human. Yes, it hurts, but it isnít good or bad, it just is! So, donít dwell on it.
Jesus gives us permission to fail. Itís going to happen, you know. Itís inevitable. And I know, I donít like it either. Nothing is worse than when a project goes flat. Some things are not going to work out. Get used to it. Dust off your feet. Put it behind you and move on. Let God bring some good out of our failure--and God does. Believe me, I do know that.
Conscientious people are usually the ones most plagued by failure. We want to do the best all the time. We want all our relationships to be lasting and meaningful and secure. We want to be able to help everyone, support all who seek support, not let anyone down and be successful in all our endeavours for good. And when we want all of that, you know what we are wanting? To be like God. Itís like this, people trying to be faithful to God, thinking that if we donít do it, it wonít get done, let alone done right, wind up thinking they have to be God--well, it canít be done! We have been given permission to fail because it is not all up to us. We are not God! Thank God!
Itís not our mistakes and failures, not even our most glaring, most spectacular mistakes that name us, despite what other people might say, despite what you think. We donít have to be perfect because there is a power in the world greater than us--God. What we are to do is to be faithful, to do what we can the best we can, to be sure, but to trust that when we fail, as we shall, itís not the last chance. Dust off your feet and move on. Not only are we not invincible, we donít have to be. We have been given permission to be human.
Acknowledgements: Rev Rockwell; Rev Drake, Prof.Crossan Prof. Scholer