Remain.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Mission of the Seventy

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] 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.’[b]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.’[c]

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The Return of the Seventy

17 The seventy[a] 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.”

Last week we discussed being on a journey and the importance of our journey partners.  Our passage in Luke was about Jesus setting his eyes towards Jerusalem and being set on the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, of living out the peace and presence of God on all of humanity.

This week, we find Jesus sending out 70, or in some manuscripts, 72, messengers to towns and places to proclaim the message that God’s Kingdom, God’s presence is now…that the time for release of prisoners, of welcoming of immigrants, of freedom for those being oppressed or persecuted has come…that community, true community…community marked by honest conversation, checking our egos at the door, being confident in who we are in Christ and what God has created within us, radical inclusion of everyone, of opening up the doors of our lives and our communities to all of those around us in some way while trusting that God’s love will flow in and through us is here!  

Jesus goes on to say that this is a message that is ripe and ready for harvest.  I get that.  When I’m out in my neighborhood I hear folks all of the time saying bits and pieces in their conversations for a yearning to belong to a larger purpose, to a community that will not judge them or hem them in, but will allow them to ask questions, to live in accountability and in friendship.  

Just this past week, in conversations at Panera, in my office, on my patio, in Northside, dinner guests in our house, and in so many other places, I’ve heard from folks their desire to be a part of a community that is marked by Presence…which is the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is not saying that he came to make a kingdom marked by boundaries and power, but a kingdom marked by authentic friendship…friendship that leads to freedom and growth.  Friendship, Kingdom friendship, happens when folks believe in each other, love one another, don’t hold grudges, are willing to ask questions out of love for one another and not out of winning arguments or out of some sort of personal agenda.  In that Kingdom, transformation is a mark of friendship, a mark of relationship, not transactions or “if I do this, you’ll do this”.  

Jesus, the representation of God, who’s very character is defined by relationship in the trinity…Father, son, HS…is sending out 72 folks to give this message.  The number is symbolic also, since we don’t know the exact number or even the exact mission of the 72,  it’s important to note that the author is simply trying to say that this is a message that needs to be spread…and that even 72 folks isn’t enough…the harvest is huge, all of humanity really.  But, have hope, you have all you need…you have yourself and a friend.  

My friends John McKnight and Peter Block have given us the concept of asset based community development.  

My friends John McKnight and Peter Block have given us the concept of asset based community development.  

This is a concept that has spread in community development and even corporate development around the world.  The idea is that you don’t go into a situation asking what the need is, you go in looking for your assets…you gather your assets, then apply them in a community and development and growth will hopefully follow.

I saw that firsthand in the ECI Oasis summer camp that my wife, Debbie, co-created four years ago. 

She’s busy with work and co-leading our family full time, but she has amazing assets in friendships.  She was able to gather neighborhood friends, get other relational assets such as local churches in our neighborhood, our local school district, and another local non-profit to put together this summer camp and feeding program for our community.  It was amazing…we did not have a huge budget, when we started, just about $5000 from various churches, now we have a budget of about $23,000 thanks to this church, other churches, individuals, and a foundation in the UMC.  But, we had the asset and the power of relationship and vision and imagination…and it took off.  We now have other members of our neighborhood coming out of the woodwork offering to take the camp to the next level, eventually all summer.  

Now, this is a message that some folks aren’t up for…they’d rather stay in their comfort zone, or they have something that they are enslaved to that is keeping them down.  

Jesus tells his messengers to model presence, even in the midst of resistors.  He tells them to go to homes and if they are welcomed there, to remain there, to bless the house, to give them peace.  For those who do not welcome God’s message, Jesus says to go into the streets, to shake the dust off their feet in protest…but, notice, he doesn’t tell them to leave.  They remain and still proclaim and live out their message.  What I understand in this passage is that the early jewish listener to this story would understand that the dust represents rejection or criticism.  Shake it off Jesus is saying, don’t let it stick to you.  And remain being the person that I’ve called you to be.  

Remain is a good thing to remember…always.  I have found that being in one place for a while helps to build up love and trust and beauty in that place…when someone makes a commitment to the growth of an area and remaining…and if that place is welcoming and open to the message, good things usually follow.  

It’s also a good reminder to remain in Christ, our true home in Christ is welcoming and allows us to grow to a place of self awareness, others awareness, and God awareness.   That awareness while remaining moves us towards growth.  

When we remain somewhere and we experience the dirt of criticism for our message and desire for loving Kingdom of God type community, to remember that we are not defined by that criticism, that we can shake it off and continue on with the message that we’ve been given to share.

God’s flow can’t be stopped, it will continue to flow over those who welcome it, and those who reject it.  Those who welcome it will grow, and those who can’t seem to welcome it, who can’t let go of the demons in their lives that are oppressing them, will continue to live in the hell that they’ve created…

But, to those whom God has called to be his messengers, we must continue to go and to share and to remain in ourselves and in friendships with others the authentic selves we are called to be…when we do this, we experience power over the demons of others, and even the demons, or the voices that torment us.

Friends, Jesus says that there is a thief that comes to steal and destroy, but in Jesus, we experience abundant life…life filled with wonderful assets of relationship, possibility, imagination, and purpose.  We are called to be the body of Christ together…and to experience the abundant life of Christ poured into us.

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