Many of you may know what I am about to tell you, but for those of you who don’t know what I am about to confess to you, I hope you don’t think worse of me and that none of you take offence . . . but . . . I don’t like tennis.
I don’t understand the hype, and why it’s taken up so much people’s attention this week. I don’t see the attraction in watching a two people hit a ball from one side of a net to another. I don’t understand how there can be so much money involved in sports, how players can be paid so much for playing a game.
However, saying all this, I can appreciate that some people are very talented at sports and there has to be a huge amount of motivation to train, especially when things are going well.
And I have wondered how some of them keep going when all seems hopeless and they’re failing, but I guess regular motivational speeches and pep talks, fame, glory, money and pretty much anything they want makes it much easier to carry on.
The first missionaries of the church did not have the same motivations or comforts. Today we heard in our gospel the 70 disciples being sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel to towns and villages. They are commanded to go empty handed, without basic provisions necessary for the road. They did not take money, bags or even a spare set of shoes.
Jesus knew how hazardous the work of the gospel could be, but still sent them out with very little to aid them on their way. The disciples knew they would not gain fame, or money or power for the work they were about to do but they were willing to give up their jobs and families to share in the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel.
The 70 went out in pairs into the dusty roads empowered in the knowledge that the peace they will give will be the peace of Christ.
This knowledge was all they needed. All the encouragement they needed was to know that the work they were doing was the most important thing they could do at that time.
There is something about the Christian faith that needs to be lived out to be understood.
There are some truths within the gospel that only make sense in streets, in the homeless shelter, and at the hospital bed or anywhere were people are crying out for mercy, bread, compassion and justice. Perhaps this is why Jesus sent out his followers with only the message that the kingdom had come.
At times we might disagree with this message. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the kingdom has come. When we turn on the news or open a paper and scan the headlines it is easy to come to the conclusion that we do not live in the kingdom. Wars rage with little sign of stopping, poverty and hunger claim the lives of so many while others live in great comfort without want or need. Many are unsafe even in their homes while others enjoy security behind walls and fences.
These are not the signs of the kingdom that we would expect. In fact, if the kingdom itself knocked on our door with no sandals, no food, and no money-we might be tempted to ask it to leave us alone.
But Jesus is persistent. The seventy are to proclaim to those who receive them and to those who do not that the kingdom is near. How could they do such a thing? If the kingdom has indeed come near, what are the signs of its coming?
Let’s look again at the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy missionaries: they are to enter a town, and where welcomed they are to stay-that’s Christian hospitality. They are to eat what is given to them-that’s fellowship. Then they are to cure the sick and care for the poor-that’s compassion and care. Finally, they are to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.
Could it be that in the faithful and loving ministry of the disciples the kingdom of God in fact comes near?
If we use these messages and tools in our lives and try to live them out, can we along with those first missionaries bring and live in the kingdom of God?
Many Christians in our own time speak of the kingdom of God as a idyllic symbol of life as it will never be. But this is not Jesus’ message to the seventy as he sends them out. Instead, Jesus declares that, within the mission and ministry of these believers, in their work going out into the world, the kingdom of God will come near.
There is something about the Christian faith that must be lived in order to be understood. Jesus knew this and sent his disciples out into the world with the only thing they needed.
Some Christians today can use their theology as a bludgeon with which to beat others who cannot share in the faith we have. Some believe that we can make people believe by shouting louder or speaking longer then others. Some never step out of their comfort zones and insist on being that person who shouts the loudest and beat their views into others, but how can we spread the gospel and the good news of Christ if we refuse to get our hands dirty, if we never take that step out of ourselves and share in someone else’s life, if only for a few minutes. How will we ever be able to show Gods love to those around us if we don’t take the time to share our message.
How can we show to ourselves and others that God is here, and we are living in his kingdom?
Jesus has called us to be his messengers in the world, to show the love he has for all by caring for those we meet.
He has sent us out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, but we have all we need. We are not without protection, we have all we need, we have the message that the kingdom of God has come near. Amen.