Come as you are… You are Enough!

July 7, 2013

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 9 – Year C RCL 

2 Kings 5:1-14, Galatians 6:1-16 & Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When I was young, one of my family’s favorite summer-trips involved the seven of us piling into our wood-paneled station wagon for a two-day drive from Houston to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A few days before the trip, Mom would pull out the vacation trunk and begin layering in a week’s worth of clothes for five kids and two adults – warmer clothes for the cool Colorado evenings, hiking boots, and various other vacation necessities. She was a master-packer, but even so, when it came time to close the trunk, one or more of us kids would usually need to climb on top to get the lid latched.

I couldn’t help but think of this summer packing ritual, as a stark contrast to the travel mentioned in today’s gospel lesson.

We are told that Jesus appointed 70 to go out to other towns in the region – they are headed out on a journey, but this is no vacation. Instead, Jesus tells them plainly, “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” And if that isn’t daunting enough, they are then told to take nothing with them – no purse, no bag, and no sandals.

We would never intentionally travel that way today, and it certainly wouldn’t have been a normal way to travel in Jesus’ time either, especially when going to an unfamiliar town. And even if you did travel light, it wouldn’t be uncommon to strike up a conversation with others walking along the road. Perhaps find someone that knows your family so you can arrange for a place to stay when you get to your destination. But the 70 were instructed not to greet anyone along the road.

They were being sent out with no money or food, no extra clothes or shoes… it was only them, being sent out as God’s laborers – to go and prepare the way for Jesus who would be following soon.

  • None of these 70 were John the Baptist – the renowned proclaimer of Jesus.
  • These were not the disciples – Jesus’ inner circle – who you might expect to shoulder this  type of responsibility.
  • No, these are 70 un-named followers who were appointed by Jesus to be laborers – to go and collect the plentiful harvest. These un-named travelers will show others, and show us, what it is to be a follower of Jesus – what it means to be in relationship and demonstrate love for others.
  • And these 70, perhaps, include you and me.

When Jesus says that we need no purse, no bag, no sandals, no “network of Facebook friends” to connect with along the road – he is telling us that our mere presence is enough! It isn’t the money we accumulate, the car we drive, the fancy clothes or affluent friends that make us fit to do God’s work… to prepare the way for Jesus – we are actually told to leave all that behind.

lambs

Image from: Wayne Pacelle: A Humane Nation: October 2007
hsus.typepad.com

We can leave it behind because WE are ENOUGH.

God trusts us, just as we are, to do God’s work – to live into the person God made us to be. Just as we are – in all our differentness from one another, we are each one of us perfectly made, and perfectly able to bring God’s Kingdom near to those we meet.

Just as Jesus trusted this missional work to the 70 in his day, God trusts each of us to continue that work today, and to do this, we must rid ourselves of the THINGS of this world – allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Like lambs in the midst of wolves. It is in this open and honest posture that we can reveal God in the world.

But, we know all too well that the world sends a different message. From our earliest days we hear that we need put things around us to provide protection – whether it’s the Golden Calf in the days of Moses, or the CEO’s Golden parachute – these images are what our worldly-self looks to for protection. There are myriad messages that try to tell us how we should look or act or what we should do or not do and when we buy into these, we take on a worldly image – and mask God’s image within us.

But, God says no to this worldly image, and asks us to leave the things behind, because WE are enough. In the creation story of Genesis, we are told that we are made in God’s image and God declared that it was VERY GOOD – so just as God made you, YOU are VERY GOOD.

And when we are sent to do God’s work, to be the laborer sent to reap the harvest, bringing God’s Kingdom near, we must leave behind the worldly image. In doing this, we reveal our true self, stripping away the images of the world and revealing the image of God that is within us.

God trusts that we are enough, and we trust that God is with us on the journey.

II.   And be comforted by the good news that we aren’t given this mission to do alone. Ministry and the Church is not “Lone Ranger” stuff. And if you think about it, not even the Lone Ranger is “Lone Ranger” stuff. Who thinks of the Lone Ranger without also thinking of Tonto?

The 70 appointed are sent out in pairs, not individually. Having a partner in ministry and mission gives us an advocate. When we get confused or are feeling fatigued in our journey, which happens from time to time along the way, we have someone to help carry the load, and to guide us through. They also provide a different perspective, causing us to stop and think. This shared discernment is what is intended, and is more fruitful than a “my way or the highway” approach.

What’s more, having a partner provides a point of accountability. Have you ever decided to take on a new discipline, like exercising more, and asked a friend to partner with you? Someone to walk or run with? This provides not only support, but mutual obligation – you count on each other to keep you committed. One of the things that makes Weight Watchers successful is this kind of accountability in the program. And we see in twelve-step programs that each recovering addict is encouraged to have a sponsor, so there’is someone to turn to in difficult times, and also to be there to celebrate successes along the way!

The worldly message that we are to be a “self-made-person” makes us think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but I think the opposite is true. I believe it’s a sign of strength when we admit that we can’t do it alone, and that we aren’t experts at everything. We aren’t meant to do it all by ourselves – that’s why we have relationships with others.

Relationships matter!

To emphasize the importance of relationship even further, the 70 were told that once they arrive in a town, to go into a house and remain there… not to move from house to house. The mission wasn’t one of competition, to see how many people they could connect with; instead, it was more important to build a relationship with the people of the household. It is in building relationships that the Kingdom of God is brought near.

If we apply this to our church today, we can fill our pews to overflowing, but if we don’t have love, what good is it? If no one in our community feels like they know one another, if no one is willing to be their true selves, as God made them, as imperfect as we may feel sometimes, then we have fallen into the trap of making the world’s image more important. Instead, we are asked to reveal the image of God within us, and in doing this, we create a loving community.

And when we live into a love-centered community, a relationship of mutual obligation and commitment, we better grasp the necessity of being stewards to one another. In practicing stewardship, we care for, manage and support the work and mission of the church. Stewardship isn’t just about money. It’s grounded in the mutual commitment to the work that God would have us do – prayerfully seeking-out what harvest you are meant to labor for, while also helping your fellow laborers do the work God has called them to do.

Missional

Image from: Missional Monday
jeffgissing.com

III.   Today’s lesson ends by assuring us that when we develop relationships centered in love, God is with us, and when we do God’s work in the world, anything is possible!

The 70 return with joy and exclaim, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Trusting in the authority given to us by God through Christ, we can tread on snakes and scorpions! Using the snake as a metaphorical image for sin, by trusting in God, we can trample out those things in our life that separate us from God or distract us from doing God’s work in the world.

With God by our side – no purse, no sandals, not even our Facebook friends – we are enough to bring God’s Kingdom near to those we meet. Even those that don’t see things the same way we do, even those who understand God differently. You see, we are called to be in relationship – we are not commanded to agree on everything.

In saying that they were to eat whatever was put in front of them, the 70 were being told to set their religious dietary laws aside – it’s more important to build the relationship with the stranger than to offend them by refusing their offering.

This fits into Luke’s overall gospel message of opening up boundaries! Daring to let those who were outsiders now claim their own place at God’s table! The harvest is plentiful because all are welcome! All are made in God’s image. All are VERY GOOD.

Our mere presence brings God’s Kingdom near to others. In loving others, we show ourselves as a follower of Christ. It is that relationship, and not our relationship with worldly things, that matters. Our relationship with God, and our relationship with all people.

So, let us go out into the world as God’s laborers. With God by our side, WE are enough, and the harvest will be plentiful, indeed!

3 Responses to “Come as you are… You are Enough!”

  1. Just finished reading your words to Jim, Caty, & Dick and feel doubly blessed. I love you more than I think u could know. Mom

    Sent from my iPhone Cody 🙂

  2. ghl1 said

    I missed this yesterday since I just packed for Colorado. Of course, I have too much! Thank you for sharing this online so that we can be reminded of being worthy and Enough for our relationship with God.

  3. Jim Greenwood said

    Good message. Love, Dad

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