Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
July 7, 2013

Scripture: Revelation 22:1-5 & Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Podcast: fpcpodcast20130707.mp3

Revelation 22:1-5

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2through the middle of the street of the city.
On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
3Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him;
4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

“Sent Out”

It was May 1995; I was looking forward to turning 21 and to spending the summer in southeast Alaska where I was going to be serving as a volunteer in mission. I was more than a little nervous because I was going to spend the summer traveling from village to village in small groups leading a vacation bible school with the local children.

I flew from Atlanta to Seattle and then from there boarded an Alaska Air flight to Juneau, which would be our home base for the next three months.

When we gathered for the first time in the basement of the local church where we would be sleeping and training there were 8 college aged kids, an adult coordinator and two year-long young adult volunteers.

We spent two weeks in that basement learning the lessons and having conversations about cultural sensitivity. Our little bit of free time was spent hiking the trails around Juneau before enjoying dinners in church members homes.

On Friday morning of the 2nd week we were paired up into teams of two and given tickets for the ferry at which point we repacked our backpacks and boarded the ferry together.

That night, with the sun low in the sky, but never quite gone, the 8 of us pulled out our sleeping bags on the deck of the ferry and gathered around. Our evening devotion that night was our assigned Gospel lesson for today.

Let us listen for God’s word speaking to us this day from:

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into God’s harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.

5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God.

The disciples and Jesus had been very busy. The 12 disciples had just returned from a very similar trip, going out in the name of Jesus to preach and to heal and to cast out demons. They had returned triumphant, feeling empowered and amazed by the works they accomplished. Then with Jesus they managed to feed 5000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and two fish and did many other amazing things. And then Jesus made up his mind to head towards Jerusalem. This was a milestone moment in his ministry and to mark the occasion he decided it was time for another mission for his followers.

This time it wasn’t just the 12 disciples he sent forth. The text tells us he appointed 70 others and sent them ahead of him. He sent them in pairs to engage in ministry in the places he himself intended to visit. Who were these 70 people? Who did Jesus send out ahead of him? Luke doesn’t give us details about their identity. But theologians through the years have helped us remember that the number 70 in scripture has a special significance.

“The number 70 implies all of humanity, as Genesis 10 provides a list of all the nations of the world, numbering 70 .” Meaning that not only is salvation for all of humanity, but that each person is sent out to help others know about God’s grace.

Wait, what? Did Luke just say what I think he said? Did he just throw a HUGE rock into a lake and send ripples out in all directions? Did the work of Christ just shift from Jesus and the disciples to all those who believe in him?

We are the 70…we are the ones Jesus sends out ahead of him…we are the ones who are called to go forth in our vulnerability to offer Christ’ peace, to offer Christ’ healing, to help people know that the reign of God has come near.

But here’s the thing, the piece of the story that was so real to me that night 18 years ago on the deck of that ferry in Alaska. This charge makes us vulnerable.

I was barely 21, and I was on a boat in the middle of Alaska with people I barely knew. I was sailing towards a village where I was going to be totally dependent on strangers to provide food and shelter to me in the coming week. We had no money, all we had was the name of a church and the person that was supposed to be meeting us at the dock.

It was clear to those of us on the deck of that ferry that we were where we were supposed to be. We had been charged by Christ to be in that place, to go forth and help others know that the reign of God had come near. But it was also clear that this charge required us to go forth in courage to embrace the vulnerability, to depend on the hospitality of others and to accept what was given to us, for good and for ill with love in our hearts. From village to village we went that summer, eating more rhubarb than I care to remember, talking with adults and children alike about their lives and the joys of living in such remote locations, sharing with them the stories of Jesus that guided our bible school lessons.

That was 18 years ago, before I was married, before I had three children and a mortgage. It was relatively easy to spend that summer in total dependence on God’s grace to provide. It was easy to volunteer my time teaching and talking with children about God’s love, to spend my free time hiking with Trey, my fellow volunteer, and eating in different people’s homes each night.

It was easy to sit in the midst of the unknown on a deck of a ferry boat in Alaska and read this passage and to accept that I was sent forth in vulnerability to love and serve the Lord. But I read it today and it is scary. Am I willing to be that vulnerable today? Am I willing to trust enough to believe that God will provide?

Am I willing to just eat what is given to me, knowing that it might upset my stomach?

Am I willing to offer Christ’ peace to all I meet even if they don’t want to hear it? Am I willing not to curse a person if he or she rejects the peace that is offered?

As we prepare to begin a new chapter in our life together these are important questions.

We need to remember that we have been appointed by Christ…we are the ones being sent out to help the world know that the kingdom of God has come near. As those who have experienced the amazing grace of God in our midst during this time of transition we can be witnesses to God’s work in the world.

But, this requires us to be vulnerable. It requires us to go forth in dependence on God and to believe that God will provide, to believe that the Lord of the harvest will provide ABUNDANTLY.

And this abundance will help us to see the river of the water of life flowing through the middle of the holy city and to claim our place on its shores. We are the trees of life on the shores of the river producing fruits; we are the trees of life and our leaves, the works of our hands and hearts, are for the healing of the nations.

We are appointed…we are sent forth to help others know that the reign of God has come near.

May it be so. Amen.