The Seventy Go Out
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
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. 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. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `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.'
"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
It is Independence day weekend. We celebrate freedoms in this nation that are not shared in every country. The constitution's First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". You and I have the constitutional right to worship God without government interference. That was a pretty novel idea back in the 1700's.
The seventy in our gospel reading didn't have the protections we enjoy. Yet they went out two by two and shared the good news with whoever would listen. This story does not end with the seventy but it continues with each of us. Practicing your Christianity is not just about knocking on doors. It is about living your faith. Practicing Christians love their God, love their neighbor, visit the sick and imprisoned, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked.
Several years ago when Sherry and I lived in Wyoming, I was involved in negotiations with a high powered real estate agent on some property our town wanted to buy. This lady and I spent quite a bit of time on the phone and one day, out of the blue she said, “you're a religious man Fred aren't you.” It was more of a statement than a question. I said, “Yes, I guess I am.” And then I asked, “How did you know?” because I didn't think I had said anything that would lead her to believe that. She replied, “Oh, I could just tell.” She had picked up on the little things that I had said and done and came to her conclusion. It must have been the way I was practicing my faith.
There is a story about a person who was interviewing a book seller. He was looking at the religious section of the bookstore and he asked the bookseller which books he sold more of, the books on Christianity or the books on Buddhism. The bookseller responded quickly, “O the books on Buddhism two to one.” The interviewer was shocked and asked the bookseller, “Why on earth do you think that is?” The bookseller paused for a moment and said, “Maybe its because people say they are Christian but people practice Buddhism.”
Part of my Christian faith is to attend worship services but it is more than that. It is also watching what I say and how I say it. It means doing acts of kindness toward all of God's creation. It is also about openly sharing my faith with others. It is all of those things I said earlier about feeding, visiting, clothing and welcoming.
It is also knowing that I am flawed. I am a sinner. Yet, at the same time I know that God walks with me on this spiritual journey and that when I sin and sincerely ask for God's forgiveness, God gives it. I am so grateful for that.
I am also grateful to live in this nation, under God. And to have the liberty to worship freely and share that faith with others. I encourage all of you to go out as those seventy followers of Jesus did thousands of years ago and practice your Christianity in this land of the free. This home of the brave.