We Are The Ones Who Are Sent
Oh Beloved God, Gather us in, all of your children here. Gathered, may we seek you together. As I embark upon these words to come, I pray that they would speak to your people of your kingdom. Where these words are only mine and falter or go astray, I pray that no harm would be done. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Beloved God, and may they touch lives gathered here in this place.
Good morning, Hedding Family! Good morning, Beloved Community! Here we are! Gathered in this place, at this time, with these people. Wow! I’ve imagined this moment, the first sermon here at Hedding, for about five months now. I’ve probably written about fifteen versions of this sermon during middle of the night musings and forgotten all of them by the time I woke up each morning that followed.
What do I want to say to you all? What do you want and need to hear from me? Why has God sent me here? How is God calling us to serve together so as to help bring the Kingdom to the community of Barre? These questions, have rumbled around in my brain these last few months.
Other questions have worried at me occasionally, too. Questions like: Will they like me? What if they don’t like me? What have I gotten myself into? God, what were you thinking?!
Do you remember the story of Moses before the Burning Bush? God told him to go to Pharaoh and get the Israelites released from Egypt. But what was Moses’ response? First he asks “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God responds “I will be with you.” Then he asks who this God is that is sending him. God responds “ Yahweh. I Am Who I Am.” Then Moses asks, ““What if they do not believe me or listen to me…?” And God gives him a sign to show. Then Moses tries to get out of it by tallying up his faults. God responds by assuring him that he’s got this. Finally Moses straight up says “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
I had a real Moses moment last Monday on the drive to Hedding for my first day here as your pastor. I’ve been working toward ordination and becoming a pastor pretty much for my whole life, but officially for about 20 years. During that time I have served in various churches mostly ministering to children, youth, and young adults, but also providing pastoral care for all ages and more recently taking on administrative roles in the life of ordering the church. God has shaped my life and molded me on the potter’s wheel for just this very thing. Yet as I was about to kneel before my bishop last month the question that echoed over and over in my mind was, “Who am I that I should be ordained to this work?” Yet ordain me they did. And on Monday, I confessed to Kurt on our drive down route 89, how scared I was that this beginning was finally here.
God, what were you thinking? This is huge! This is a big responsibility? You’re sending ME? You know my faults, flaws, and insecurities better than anyone, God. Yet you’re still sending ME? “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Thankfully, God sent Moses a helper in his brother Aaron and God sent me a partner in all things, my beloved Kurt. Kurt talked me through my momentary panic, he even quoted our bishop, and pretty much let God speak through him to me to simply say “You got this and you are not alone.” In case you are wondering how Kurt will be involved with ministry here, he’s on the Pastor Care Committee. He IS the Pastor Care Committee. (“You are the brute squad.”)
But Aaron wasn’t the only help that Moses needed. Once the Israelites were free, Moses became a bit overwhelmed by all their needs. Over and over again the needs of the people and their resentment and grumbling wore on Moses. Finally, we read in Numbers 11: “Moses asked the Lord, “Why have You brought such trouble on Your servant? Why are You angry with me, and why do You burden me with all these people? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth so You should tell me, ‘Carry them at your breast, as a nursing woman carries a baby,’ to the land that You swore to give their fathers?13 Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying to me: ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me. 15 If You are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now. If You are pleased with me, don’t let me see my misery anymore.” AND The Lord answered Moses, “Bring Me 70 men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the tent of meeting and have them stand there with you. Then I will come down and speak with you there. I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself.”
Why so much backstory on Moses today? Wasn’t today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke? Yes! And here’s the connection: The author of this gospel was likely referencing this story of Moses in this passage.
Luke’s readership was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. We think the Gospel was written sometime between 80 and 120 AD. Scholars differ on the exact timing. But they do generally agree that it was written after the gospels of Mark and Matthew, both of which provide and share some of Luke’s content. In the Gospel of Matthew, the story of Jesus is written through the lens of the story of Moses. For Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses. And in some ways, the gospel of Luke echoes this idea, particularly at this moment. Like Moses, Jesus sends out 70 people to help him in his work. The Jewish readership would get this connection. It’s part of the Torah and they would have grown up hearing this story about Moses regularly. These 70 are sent out to share the good news of the kingdom of God. But hold on a moment. This number “70” has a couple other connotations.
Time out. I’ll be honest. I’m a huge nerd. I can get really excited about lots of things that most folks would probably roll their eyes at or overlook completely. Connections are fascinating to me. Whether they are Easter Eggs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or biblical references in Shakesphere or Harry Potter, or connections between the books of the bible - I’m fascinated. (BTW, I mean Easter Eggs as in video game easter eggs - like in Ready Player One - I don’t currently mean the colored eggs in baskets in the spring. Ask my kids later if you need more info on that.)
Anyway, numbers in the bible pretty much always reference a connection. 12 - references Israel (the 12 tribes) and it relates to the number of disciples, the number of years the woman was bent, and the 12 year old girl Jesus healed. 40 connects wilderness wanderings of Noah, The Israelites, and Jesus. And now there’s 70. (or 72… but let’s not get into original manuscript discrepancies right now, we have enough on our plate today already.) Stick with me for a bit longer here.
70 also references the 70 nations as expressed by Genesis chapter 10. The early Jewish mythology considers each of Noah’s 70 grandsons to be the ancestor of each of the nations of the world. So Luke’s use of 70 is also referencing a global ministry, not just a Jewish one. Keep in mind that at the time of this gospel, Christianity was only just separating from its Jewish roots.
Finally, the sending of the 70 is actually the second sending out in the book of Luke. Only one chapter earlier, Jesus sends out the 12. What does 12 stand for? Right, Israel. We started with sharing the kingdom with the Jewish people and we move to a ministry to all the nations. See where we’re going now?
Also, and really finally finally now… we see a shift from a select few in the 12 - think pastors - to a much larger group in the 70 - think “all of us.” The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary says “The mission of the church has come to be regarded as something that only a few specially called professionals carry out…. The sending out of the seventy, however… reminds us that Jesus sent out not just the 12, but perhaps all of his followers.”
We are the ones who are sent. Not just me sent to you, but us sent to minister to the whole world! Lord knows, this bible nerd can’t do it alone!
We are the ones who are sent.
We are the ones who are sent!
God has called each one of us here, different parts of the body of Christ, together, sent to a hurting world.
And you know what? We can’t do it alone, either. Jesus said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Any farmer will tell you that there is an urgency at harvest time. Right? There is an urgency to the harvest of God’s kingdom. Seeds we planted long ago have grown full and ripe and the harvest awaits! If we wait to long, we’re going to miss it. Things will go to rot. Pray for more laborers! We need to grow! Hedding United Methodist Church needs to grow! Not for the sake of more butts in the pew. Not because coffers need filling. Not for any institutional reason at all. No! We need more laborers for God’s harvest! Who else out there can help us to feed people on Friday evenings, or stock food shelves, or visit the sick, or simply offer a place to escape an anxious world? We gather here to BE the church. We are sent from here to BE the church for the world. For all the world!
Jesus tells us to travel light and to offer peace.
We need to let go of and golden calf or sacred cows that might be weighing us down. We need to trust that God will provide for us through the very ministry that we are called to do.
And what are we called to do? Jesus tells us: 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.’ Three simple things: 1) break bread together - this is not just at a communion table, but it implies that we are eating with whomever we meet and building relationships, loving one another. 2) care for people’s physical needs - feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, help to heal the sick (both in body and mind) by visiting with them and praying for them. 3) proclaim the good news! ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ God is with us. God is with the poor. God is on the side of the oppressed. God’s love encompasses every person and this whole world. And God’s love is bigger than all of the pain and suffering of this broken, hurting planet.
Friends, this is our charge. We are the ones who are sent. Let’s invite others to help us do this awesome work. And, by God, let’s have fun doing it. Are you with me? Are we a team? Are we the Body of Christ?
Yes we are! Alleluia! Amen.