Happy 4th of July! I hope you all had a safe and memorable holiday. Since it’s a holiday weekend I thought I would throw a bit of a history lesson in.
Did you know that John Adams (the second president of the United States) and one of the original authors of the Declaration of Independence, believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest? That is because July 2nd is when the continental congress voted for its independence from Great Britain but the document outlining all the legalities was signed on the 4th. Interestingly enough both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.
When the war first broke out in 1775 most of the colonists believed that an agreement could be reached between them and the crown. There were only a handful of people who believed that the best course of action to take was to be completely separated from the British government. Those who felt this way were considered radical.
Consider that for a moment, the very people who gave us reason to celebrate this weekend, the ones who fought and helped to craft the country we are today were originally considered to be on the outside! They were thought of as radical and I’m sure that made people feel uncomfortable.
Because the truth is being radical will be uncomfortable to others it may even be uncomfortable for us. To those who don’t understand or can’t see the bigger picture.
But what does it mean to be ‘radical’? These days’ media outlets use the word to identify extremists, but that is not entirely what the word refers to.
If we look it up radical is defined as:
- Very different from the usual or traditional
- To affect the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching and thorough
- To proceed from the root
- Causing or being an example of great change
Jesus was radical. How he showed the love of God to the world was beyond anything people at that time understood. How he taught us about the kingdom of God through parables and acts of healing and kindness was radical. That he didn’t preach in the synagogue but instead took his message to the people where they were, was radical. That he would heal and eat with those that were considered outside of the acceptable people was radical.
One thing I’m afraid that we have lost in our missions as a church is the courage to be radical. To have the courage to step outside of our own doors and create a ministry that reflects the one that Jesus instructed us to create. Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy (as Jesus tells us in today’s gospel message) but we don’t go into this alone.
How many of you remember the mission trip of the 72 other disciples (remember that disciples means followers)? I’m sure you remember the scripture that reads “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” But it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t remember the rest of the story given that we know absolutely nothing about who these people are. Were they men? Were they women? The truth is that Luke didn’t want us to know, who they are is not important to the story. Because Luke wanted us to see ourselves in this mission. To be the ones being given these instructions by Jesus to go out and ready the way for his arrival.
Here is what we do know. These 72 people were chosen by Jesus (which means he had more than 72 to choose from) and they were trained by him specifically for this mission trip. Their mission was to go ahead of Jesus into the towns and villages heading towards Jerusalem.
The mission given to these 72 disciples by Jesus can serve as a reminder to us of what radical ministry should look like. Consider how your own life and the ministries of the church reflect these instructions.
- Jesus spells out our mission for us – how would our current lives match those orders:
- Go (Luke 10:3). This is foundational. The 70 were to divide into pairs and visit all the places where Jesus was about to go.
- Be wary (Luke 10:3).The 70 were like lambs among wolves, surrounded by danger.
- Live by faith (Luke 10:4). The 70 were to carry no extra provisions. They carried the message of Jesus and didn’t need to be burdened down with material things. God would provide what they needed to complete their mission.
- Be focused (Luke 10:4). The 70 were to greet no one along the road and not allow themselves to be sidetracked from the more important mission of evangelism.
- Extend your blessing (Luke 10:5–6). Whoever housed the 70 were to be blessed, using the common greeting of the day, “Peace to this house.”
- Be content (Luke 10:7). The 70 were told not to seek better accommodations; they were to stay in the home that first received them. Hospitality is the name of the game here.
- Receive your due (Luke 10:7). The laborer is worthy of his wages (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17–18). Doing evangelistic work is indeed work and is worthy of compensation. In this case, compensation was shelter and food,
- Be flexible (Luke 10:7–8). The 70 were to eat whatever their hosts served; as God’s servants, they were not to be finicky. This would ultimately mean putting aside any food restrictions that they would follow
- Heal the sick (Luke 10:9). Jesus gave the 70 disciples specific authority to heal diseases and illness. It was as if the Great Physician had 70 interns making house calls. When the 70 returned to Jesus, they jubilantly recounted how they were able not only to heal diseases but to cast out demons as well (verse 17).
- Proclaim the kingdom (Luke 10:9). The message of the 70 disciples was simple: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” This was a clear-cut call to faith in the King who would soon visit each village.
- Jesus also gave instructions on what to do when faced with any town that was not hospitable. To shake the dust off their feet and still let them know that the kingdom of God came near but that their rejection will be noted in the kingdom of heaven.
- Jesus then reminds us that we are his messengers given all of the power and authority. “If they listen to you then they have listened to me”
What I love about this story is that the mission here is truly radical. Its taking the message of Jesus into people’s homes, not waiting for the people to come to him. And when they did that we can see from the passage that the 72 were welcomed more often than not and were able to accomplish more than they even thought possible.
But remember this, just as we do not know who the 72 are in this story, neither does it matter who you or I are. What matters is the word of God and spreading that to the people who need to hear it. Our reward is not being recognized or named for our good deeds, but instead we look to have our names written in heaven.
So like take the instructions that were given
to the 72, in what ways can you continue the radical ministry of Jesus?