Proper 9c, July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016

Equipped With Christ

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20


10:1 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.”


There’s an interesting contrast between the nature of this morning’s teaching and the spirit of the national holiday we will be celebrating tomorrow. While our original declaration of independence was an exercise in striking out on our own without all of the resources we needed to make it as a nation, what we have become is arguably the most powerful nation on earth. We certainly aren’t totally independent, we cooperate with many other nations to get what we need to function, and we have the means to get what we need. We have our vulnerabilities, but we aren’t what you would call a vulnerable nation. We don’t rule the world, but we are autonomous, and we like it that way. You might say we exited from Europe a long time ago, and we haven’t looked back.


That was a good thing that we did. Independence has worked out well for us as a nation, but Jesus doesn’t want us to forget the importance of dependence. It seems to me that the instruction Jesus gave to this group of followers we are looking at this morning was that they were to set out in an intentionally dependent manner. So welcome to church, it’s the place where our natural instincts are perpetually challenged by the One we call our Lord and savior.


Jesus told this group of followers to go out with less than they needed for conventional safety or sustenance, but they weren’t going out without anything. In fact, what they had was incredibly valuable and powerful, but not in an obvious way. These original missionaries set out without anything but a message, and they engaged in some life-altering-world-changing work!


Now as a guy who now drives a four-wheel drive truck with a well-stocked tool box in the back, I am clearly someone who understands the value of being well-equipped. I don’t leave the house without a hat to protect my head, and I’m much more inclined to wear boots than sandals – even in the summertime. I like to feel protected and equipped, and while this is somewhat sensible on my part, it isn’t the strategy Jesus was using when he sent the seventy out to share the good news that they had experienced through Christ. He sent his people out with less than they needed.


I’m not apologetic for liking to be well equipped. It can be a useful thing for me and people around me, but I recognize that my affection for feeling prepared can get in the way of something Jesus wanted us to understand. It isn’t that he didn’t want his followers to be useful, or that he wants us to be needy, but he wants us all to understand that God’s power works in unconventional ways. We gain access to the healing power of God when we are the most vulnerable. The power of God was revealed when people accepted each other without the expectation of conventional payment or reward. The power of God is revealed when people treat one another in genuinely hospitable ways.


Jesus didn’t send his followers out with the guarantee that they would be well received. He anticipated that there would be villages who didn’t want to hear what they had to say, but Jesus sent people out with the best opportunity for a powerful relationship to develop. This instruction to go out without the means to support themselves didn’t insure success, but it did assure that there would be interaction and that people would hear what Jesus had to offer.



In those days, Jesus was not a name that impressed everyone, so Jesus prepared the disciples for the fact that his name wouldn’t open every door that they approached, but his name was all that they were to rely upon.  Jesus was a name that had great power, but the power of his name wasn’t obvious to everyone.  The name of Jesus would mean nothing to people who were oriented around the more visible forms of power, but to people who were open to this new message about the living God the name of Jesus was a life-altering gift.


This story is actually pretty intimidating to me. I’ve never returned from a missionary venture with the joy of having healed diseases and cast out demons with nothing but the use of Jesus’ name.  This is beyond the realm of my experience. But I don’t think we are to compare our results with their results.  Jesus didn’t get excited about their accomplishments — Jesus was happy about their willingness to get involved in the sharing of the good news of God’s love and nearness.  We aren’t judged by the result of our work.  The important thing is for us to do what we can to share what we know to be true about Jesus.


This story caused me to think about the people who attracted me to the church, and what it was about them that made me want to be a part of the church.  I’m sure that my attraction to the church began at a very early age, and it came through a number of different relationships I had with people who extended the grace of Christ in significant ways.


But one of the earliest influences on me was the pastor of our church when I was very young. Brother John McCormick died a few years ago, but there are a lot of people who could tell you of vivid experiences they had with Bro. McCormick – and most of them would be positive. As I say, I was very young when he was the pastor in Wynne, so I don’t remember a thing that he ever said in a sermon, but

I do remember how he made me feel when I was around him.  He acted as if it was the greatest thing in the world for me to be in the

church. He would say things to me that made me feel noticed and welcome.  There was a graciousness within him that spoke to my young heart.


I was probably ten years old when he left Wynne, and I didn’t see him much after that, but I spent a memorable evening with him many years later. It happened while I was on my first big bicycle adventure. During the summer after my sophomore year in college I rode from Wynne to Fayetteville and back. I didn’t communicate with anyone in advance of my trip, but I sort of planned my route through places where I thought I knew people. I had decided I would stay in Harrison on the third night as I made my way to Fayetteville, and I had hoped to stay in the home of a friend that I had made at the Wesley Foundation in Fayetteville.


I hadn’t bothered to get her number in advance, and I found no trace of her family’s name in the phone book when I got there. It was late in the day, and I was feeling pretty unsettled about where I was going to stay that night. I really was a lot like one of the guys Jesus sent out without everything they needed, and I can testify that it moves you to reach out to people in ways you wouldn’t normally exercise. As I sat in the Harrison town square with darkness approaching I was racking my brain for people I might know in Harrison I suddenly remembered hearing my parents talk about Bro. McCormick being the pastor of a church in Harrison, and it wasn’t hard to find his number.


Bro. McCormick wasn’t someone I had seen him in a long time, but I called him, and fortunately he acted like he remembered who I was. It certainly wasn’t a call he was expecting to get, and he was pretty surprised by the situation, but the Queen of England wouldn’t have been treated with more hospitality than I was that night.


After I became a pastor I would see him at Annual Conference, and every time I saw him he would recall in great detail how much food I ate that night. That evening wasn’t miraculous in any way, but it served to remind me of how good it is be to be in this community that we call the church.


The church is a community that is founded upon radical dependence and hospitality. Our calling and our instruction is to offer the peace of Christ to anyone that we have the opportunity to get involved with.  Grand miracles don’t happen all the time, but it is always a redeeming thing when people are motivated by the love of Jesus to be gracious and open to each other.  I don’t guess I’ve ever seen Satan falling from the sky like lightening, but it’s something I might see if I spent more time being vulnerable and open to people who are battling with devilish problems in their lives.


What I do know is that there’s hardly anything that feels better than to make connections with other people that’s rooted in this formula of extending and/or receiving the hospitality of Jesus Christ.


I think most of us prefer to be in the role of providing for the needs of others, but in order to fully appreciate the nature of God’s power as it was revealed in Jesus I think it’s important to be the one who is in need every now and then. We Americans love our independence, but as followers of Christ we need to have an equal amount of love for dependence. Jesus doesn’t want us to have an overabundance of trust in our trucks and our tools and our amazing communication devices. Jesus knows what we primarily need to have is deep trust in the power of God. Such trust doesn’t guarantee that we will always be well fed and highly regarded, but it does provide us with the kind of hospitality that extends beyond this time and place.


Jesus has invited us to become citizens of a community that extends beyond the borders of our nation. We are very fortunate to live in a place that enjoys as much independence as we do, but we don’t need to place an overabundant amount of trust in the basic stability of our political situation. Our primary allegiance needs to be with the kingdom that Jesus Christ so beautifully revealed. The church isn’t the perfect embodiment of that eternal kingdom, but sometimes we get it right, and we are always called to keep trying. We are to continue this work of stepping out with nothing but trust in the name of Christ and of extending the hospitality of Christ in new and gracious ways.


Jesus knew he would never change the world with a conventionally equipped army. He sent his troops out with nothing but trust in the power of his name, and the revolution he began continues to change the shape of this world and the state of our hearts.


Thanks be to God.



2 Responses to “Proper 9c, July 3, 2016”

  1. Lois G. Russell Says:

    Thanks for that sweet reminder of Brother McCormick, who was a former pastor of First Methodist in Magnolia. I took my sister Bittie’s place as church secretary for two summers when I was a young college student. This was while our beautiful sanctuary was being built. Every morning he would come into the office and say, “Let’s go see what they’ve done.” And we would make our inspection. It was awe inspiring then and is to this day as I enter that building. He loved to ride horses with his children, and a few times I would borrow a horse and go all over town with them. He was so dedicated…so truly GOOD….that it was an honor to be with him. Why they didnt fire me is a miracle, because our bulletins were printed on an old mimeograph machine that held a grudge against me. Nearly made me lose what little religion I had!! I do enjoy your messages!!

    Do you know Pam Estes, our new minister? We had Pancakes With Pastor Pam yesterday, her first Sunday here.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Earl Jones Says:

    Thompson, You were and are our Bro. McCormick.

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