“See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”
May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Now, don’t get too excited. We are not cutting services short today because it is a holiday weekend. Rather I would like for us to reflect on this charge given us by our deacons at the end of every Eucharist we do here. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” There is both conclusion and continuation in that command. There is conclusion in that we are sent away from this place and out into the world beyond the walls of this parish. There is continuation as well because we are commanded to love and serve the Lord just as we have been doing within these walls in the midst of our worship. The deacon’s dismissal of us is simply saying that the worship may have ended but the service is just begun. When we have said our prayers, when we have confessed our sins and received God’s forgiveness, when we have remembered Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and received the body and blood of Christ, the spiritual food of communion, then we are sent out into the world to serve God, as the catechism says, in the actions of proclaiming the Gospel and promoting justice, peace, and love.
I highlight the end of our worship today because of our Gospel text. Jesus sends out the seventy to proclaim his coming to towns ahead of them on the journey. They are given a mission to heal the sick, and proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God. Jesus gives them rules of engagement as well, traveling procedures and mission strategies if you will. I would like to highlight a few of these commands of Christ today because they will help us when out deacons send us out on Christ’s behalf at the end of worship.
First, and foremost, Jesus tells them to remain dependent upon God. He says, “See I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” The way that sheep survive in the midst of wolves is to depend upon a shepherd. Christ is our shepherd and to him we should look for care and providence. To paraphrase St. Paul, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” The trick here isn’t getting ourselves to believe in the power of Christ, however, but to resist the temptation of thinking that we can serve without Christ. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once put it this way, “With out us, God won’t; Without God, we can’t.”
Next we should remember to travel light; in others words, check your baggage. Jesus commands the disciples to, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals;…” The disciples need not be weighed down by belongings nor seek souvenirs along the way. In turn, we should check our physical baggage. We should not allow the collection, consumption, or maintenance of our material possessions to impede upon our service off God. We should check our emotional baggage as well. Our personal prejudices, imagined slights, desire for glory and accolades, need be left behind so that there is emotional space to care for those that we meet.
Checking our physical and emotional baggage at the door is helpful with the next directive as well. Jesus tells the disciples to proclaim not to judge. The message to be given to those who listen, those who are receptive and welcoming, is the same message to be given to those who do not: the Kingdom of God is near. If there is a word of judgment it is Christ’s to give not ours. Therefore it does not matter if we are witnessing to the good or the bad, the beautiful or the ugly, the kind or the cruel, the powerful or the powerless the message is always the same and freely given: God loves you, God’s kingdom is near, come and feast.
Which leads us to the final marching order I would like to reflect on today: Eat what is put in front of you. While Jesus is commanding his disciples to depend on the hospitality of those they meet, there is for us a reference to communion here. When we come to this place, when we pray together over the bread and wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit it becomes the body and blood of Christ. It becomes spiritual food meant to empower us for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and promoting Justice, Peace, and Love. We come to this feast not merely for our own nourishment, but for strength for the mission. We come to this altar of God’s not merely for our own sake but to be empowered to carry God’s love to the world. We come to the table not merely for our own peace, but to be sent to wage peace for all. We come to this heavenly meal, not merely for our own personal justification, rather to seek justice for all. Therefore, I invite you, I implore you come! Eat what is sat before you, and then go in peace to love and serve the Lord! Amen!