The Pas Propers / Ordinary 14 – Pentecost + 4
7 July 2019
Psalm 66:1-8 pg 786
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
whose kingdom comes near:
share with us the authority that sets others free
and send us on the way of challenge and conversion;
through Jesus, who empowers us. Amen.
When we look at today’s gospel passage, we tend to focus on the fact that Jesus sends us, sends the disciples, he sends the apostles out without luggage. Today, we look at Jesus telling us that this world, in which we live, is hostile and predatory place to live.
Jesus tells us, “3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” (Lk 10:3-4)
And, then we look at all of the good work that the 72 were able to accomplish in Jesus name.
They went out to “9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Lk 10:9)
But what about those places where the 72, where we are not welcome in Jesus’ name?
This is an often-overlooked part of todays gospel because “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Lk 10:2b) So we want to focus on the positive, on the achievable, on the places where things go particularly well, or easily in our lives.
We see all of this great work being done by the 72. They’re in their glory and they rightly revel in their successes amongst the villages and throughout the region that they visited when Jesus sent them out without bag, without purse, without even an extra pair of shoes.
“17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” … [Jesus said] 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Lk 10:17, 19)
So, for those communities who didn’t welcome the 72, and their message of God’s love, the nearness of the kingdom of God, or allow healing to take place, did the 72 just wipe the dust from their feet of the places where they couldn’t find welcome in Christ’s name?
Did they just brush off those negative interactions and just keep going, focussed only on the positive, on the next goal?
Jesus tells them, he tells us: “10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’” (Lk 10:10-11)
So, then Jesus is describing the unwelcome places of the world. He’s describing those who don’t have time, or who don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, or the ones who are looking for the better offer.
Today this could be the halls of power, where national decisions are made for all of the people. It could be the educational facilities who don’t believe that faith has a role in a rational and ordered life.
It could be the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the hospitals. It could be those who feel their lives are already intruded upon, too much, by modern society and desire to keep a sense of privacy about their actions, it could be absolutely anywhere.
But, it could be even closer than we think. It could be within our own homes, our families, or amongst those whom we love and for whom we worry, in the dark moments of the night who don’t welcome Jesus, and the message of God’s love, or the nearness of the kingdom of heaven.
And while we, as humanity, draw a line in the sand, challenging the claim of those bringing the love of God, the healing touch of the ability to lift our burden just by being a listening ear, Jesus, shows us the blessing in the dust.
Jesus gives us a tidbit, an olive branch, a hope upon which to grasp he tells us: “Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.” (Lk 10:11b)
And this reminds me of the long form of the Law that we recited, last week.
The second commandment, after warning us against making and worshipping idols tells us: “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.” (BCP pg. 68)
This, the second part of the second commandment, encourages us away from worshipping graven images, it encourages each of us away from worshipping anything other than God. Although, it happens anyway, when we’re unwary, overburdened, or take our eyes off of Jesus, for just a moment.
And, so we see that Free Will prevails. We have the choice to live our lives following the Law and the Will of God to love as God loves us, but we also have the choice to go our own way.
Karl Marx, the father of the Marxist Socialism the foundation of twentieth century socialism and communism stated quite bluntly his opinion that religion is “the opiate of the masses.”
He was writing in the 19th century, and saw religion, and patterns of faith offering the downtrodden a better afterlife if they would suffer through and tolerate their current circumstances. He saw the common people being encouraged to not change the status quo.
So, he equated a life of faith to being lulled into maintaining a pattern of earthly life that didn’t go anywhere. But what was seen, where religious life and observance was denied to the people, because it was seen to keep them weak and to hold them back, during the rise and life of the USSR, was a rise of alcoholism and drug use amongst these same people because they were denied access to the divine.
And we can see the same amongst those, today, who seek divine interaction but either don’t know about how to find the love of God, or are, in some way denied that knowledge, that healing, that interaction.
The dust was wiped from the feet of the 72, … but be sure of this: The Kingdom of God has come near. (Lk 10:11)
Jan Richardson, a modern poet, wrote “There are times … for leaning into the resistance that meets us; times when God calls us to engage the difficulty and struggle that will shape and form us in a way that ease and comfort never can. There are muscles – in our body, in our soul – that can be developed only by pressing through the resistance; not with pride, not with the utter conviction that we are in the right, but with the humility that enables us to summon our intention and will and open ourselves to the grace that carries us through situations that we cannot navigate on our own. There is ground that becomes holy only when we remain long enough to see the blessing that can emerge from struggle, that shimmers through only after the dust the struggle kicks up finally begins to settle.” (Jan Richardson, prelude to Blessing in the Dust.)
God is near. The kingdom has come near, and whether we realize it or not, whether we choose it or not, there is even a blessing in the dust.
Jesus tells us, today: “10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’” (Lk 10: 10-11)
Although it’s mentioned, as a warning, perhaps we can see it more as an invitation. The message of hope, of God’s love isn’t taken away, rather, it hangs there in the dust, waiting for each of us to realize that these words are spoken to the silent places in our lives, in our hearts that yearn for the divine to be a known and active participant.
And when we realize that, then we see that the door isn’t completely shut, rather God waits for each of us to see, to feel, to acknowledge the messenger who brings the light of God into our world.
Once the USSR broke apart and the various nations repealed their Marxian ban on religion, the churches reopened and people who never forgot the solace of a life lived in God’s love returned bringing with them those who may not have known of this divine influence in, for, and through their lives.
The Law may state that God is a jealous God, when God visits the sins upon the 3rd and the 4th generation of those who hate God. But perhaps this is what we can see, today in the lives of those who don’t know of the love of God because they weren’t taught, they weren’t introduced, they weren’t able to find the blessing in the dust, and so can’t and don’t share the knowledge of that love of God with their children and their grandchildren.
But for those who love God, mercy, love, and grace abound, and this is for everyone, absolutely everyone who loves God, whether it begins in the heart, today, or has been a lifelong and well shared practice makes no nevermind to God. Whether their part of that 3rd and 4th generation who is now meeting God for the first time, and realizing the love that is for each one of them, as well as for you, and for me.
The door isn’t shut. The encounter isn’t derailed, rather it’s paused, it’s set aside, it waits for each of us to be ready.
“There is ground that becomes holy only when we remain long enough to see the blessing that can emerge from struggle, that shimmers through only after the dust the struggle kicks up finally begins to settle.”
Because the Kingdom of God has come near to each one of us, to those who still don’t recognize the blessing, the hope and the love, today.
And, it comes near tomorrow, and every day, telling us, teaching us, and reminding us that we are loved by God, and that is the blessing in the dust.
It’s the blessing we share with those who need to hear, and to feel those words, that love, in their own lives and hearts. Who need to know, as we know that “The kingdom of God has come near.” (Lk 10:11b)