July 3, 2022
Sunday Between July 3 and July 9 Inclusive
Proper 9, Ordinary Time 14
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, The Message or Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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Instead of Trinity Sunday, I wish the designers of the Lectionary had used this text and its variations to follow Pentecost Sunday - and called it, "Discipling Sunday," or some such thing. This seems like a more natural follow up text to Pentecost than preaching about the Trinity. But maybe that's just me.
In any case, Verses 1-11 give us a snap-shot into the life of an itinerant preacher-teacher-healer at the time of Jesus.
Verse 1. Note that at this point, there has either been an error in copying the original manuscript, or the number of Jesus' closest followers has increased from 12 to 70 or 72, depending on which ancient manuscript one chooses to use.
I find it strangely comforting that Jesus is sending these folk "where he himself intended to go." We could read this as Jesus is sending them as an advance party to prepare his way. But I also read it as Jesus not asking us to do anything that he himself wouldn't do. And also - just in case I really screw up - not asking me to do something that he won't come along afterwards and make right.
Verse 2. A classic, often used, recruiting slogan. Note that the harvest is already owned. That is, we are not winning souls for Jesus. Our souls already belong to God. The work to be done is to bring to God what already belongs to God.
Verse 3. A classic, often used, recruiting slogan. Often quoted by ministers and pastors after a particularly difficult church meeting. And a common-sense precaution not to be naive about the world.
Verses 4 to 11. These verses give a snap-shot of the lifestyle of a travelling teacher-preacher-healer.
Travelling without personal possessions was an indicator of one's humility and possible holiness. It also made one wholly dependent on the hospitality of strangers.
The interplay between the offering of hospitality and the offering of peace, providing healing, and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near is what is detailed in these verses. Where there is hospitable receptivity - blessings can be offered. Where there is no welcome, there can be no blessings offered.
Taking back your greeting of peace, and shaking the dust off one's feet would be felt as extremely insulting rebukes - the modern day equivalent of giving someone "the finger."
Verse 16. This sounds like Luke is quoting a passage from John. What it does do is emphasize the reality of the close, inter-personal bond of trust and loyalty that is expected between Jesus and his followers - the same bond that already exists between Jesus and the One who sent him.
The bond that is spoken of here is a crucial prerequisite for being sent out, and for the results that are reported in the following verses.
Verse 17. "In your name" does not mean simply speaking Jesus' name out loud. It means, "in your honour," or, "worthy of you." That is to say, "By being loyal and true to the bond between us, we have done deeds that are worthy of you."
Verse 18. The whole cosmos is changed when as few as 72 people are loyal to Jesus and do what is worthy of him. Deceit, temptation, and testing lose their power.
Verses 19 and 20. Do not read Verse 19 without going on to read the, "Nevertheless;" the, "But," that begins Verse 20. That is, Verse 19 is not the point. Verse 20 is.
And the point of Verse 20 is: The joy in following Jesus is NOT in the results; the joy is in our relationship with him.
Yes, Jesus has given us a mission. But don't lose your focus. If there is no welcoming receptivity, the mission cannot succeed. And if the mission does succeed, it is because of the authority / power / honour of Jesus working through you, not you.
So don't get distracted by "success." The credit for that all belongs to God anyways. Instead, stay focused on your relationship with God who has written your name on the palm of His hand.
Alan Roxburgh (See footnote below.) makes an interesting observation, connecting this passage with last week's lesson of the disciples passing through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51-62, and next weeks' lesson, the Good Samaritan parable, Luke 10:25-37: Having just been sent out, the 70 would identify with the traveler in the Parable who was attacked, beaten, and stripped. And having just experienced the animosity of the Samaritans, they would be astounded at Jesus' teaching.
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 268-269; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Alan Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God in the Neighbourhood, 2011, Ch. 10. (I'm reading this an iBook and can't give a paper page reference.)
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (NRSV)
1 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. 2 He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain 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. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But 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."
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18 He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (The Message)
1 Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go. 2 He gave them this charge:
"What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.
3 "On your way! But be careful—this is hazardous work. You're like lambs in a wolf pack.
4 "Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.
"Don't loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.
5 "When you enter a home, greet the family, 'Peace.' 6 If your greeting is received, then it's a good place to stay. But if it's not received, take it back and get out. Don't impose yourself.
7 "Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don't move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town.
8 "When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, 9 heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, 'God's kingdom is right on your doorstep!'
10 "When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, 11 'The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we're giving it back. Did you have any idea that God's kingdom was right on your doorstep?'
16 "The one who listens to you, listens to me. The one who rejects you, rejects me. And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me."
17 The seventy came back triumphant. "Master, even the demons danced to your tune!"
18 Jesus said, "I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. 19 See what I've given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. 20 All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God's authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that's the agenda for rejoicing."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.