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. 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.’
~ Luke 10:1 - 11
So much has happened since the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning. In the church, the period known as Easter Time is entering the last week of what has been a fifty day journey, and let's face it, I think for those first people who were present with Christ, a lot of changes are occurring.
Among those changes, groups have been created, rules have been shared, and there is a new emphasis. To go out and to share the news of Jesus Christ, and allow others to respond.
Years ago one of the youth I pastored came up and asked, "Why didn't God just convince everyone to follow Jesus by sending angels? I mean, it would have been so much more convincing. Or, why did God give them a choice at all?"
All were very good questions, and frankly, I completely understand. Could you imagine a world where everyone believed in God? I guess that's why heaven is called heaven, because that's exactly what heaven will be like.
In the meantime, Christ picks seventy people to go out and to serve as missionaries bringing the news of Christ to others. Leading up to Pentecost, there seemed to be an exhaustive effort on Jesus' effort to ensure that others would come to know him.
Today the emphasis isn't so much about sending out others to share the news of Christ, instead, it seems that outposts, or churches, seem to be on every corner, hoping to offer something that will bring people in. Programs, elaborate structures and monoliths that have become signatures of the past, have difficulty just keeping their doors open. When if we consider the original mission outreach effort was all about going out and being invited in, it begins to make you wonder why more churches aren't doing exactly that?
And if they did not accept those who came in the name of Christ, they left, and shook the dust from the place off their feet.
How many of you have encountered a church that reacted to the possibility that a member, or family of members might decide to leave the faith community and go elsewhere? As a young pastor I used to nearly bend over backwards to do what families wanted to see happen when the option of leaving was brought up, especially when others would come to me and share that the member or family offered significant financial support. For that reason alone, I never wanted to know about what members contributed. And in the years to come, I learned that if someone wasn't happy, then it was easier to shake the dust off my feet than to continue to make myself crazy trying to convince them to stay.
The early disciples would have looked more like circus acts than missionaries in their efforts if they tried to bring people in using anything other than what Christ asked them to do!
Jesus says to his followers to go and make disciples of others. Tell the good news, and offer peace to each household you enter. If they don't want to listen, or to offer a welcome, then just leave.
Over the years I have discovered that God will continue to send others. Others who will once again offer the invitation, and await a response.
Back to the earlier question by the young man, "Why didn't God just convince every person that God is real?"
God does. God sends each of us! We are the instruments that God utilizes to share about the life of Christ, his death, resurrection, and that life everlasting is what awaits.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, send me... Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.