GOSPEL Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Jesus commissions harvesters and laborers to go where he would go and do what he would do. Risking hardship and danger in exchange for the experience of great joy, they offer peace and healing as signs that the reign of God is near.
1After 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. 2He 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. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain 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. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But 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.’ ”
16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Rev. Melissa L. Stoller
July 3, 2022
Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20, Galatians 6: 1-16
Grace and Peace to you my siblings in Christ from God our Father, Christ our brother and the Holy Spirit who gives us life, Grace to you and Peace, Amen.
Someone once told me: “There are two kinds of people: those who travel light, and those who wish they had!”
My husband is slowly trying to change me from the latter into the former.
But this is a challenge for me: I want to be prepared for anything, yet I don’t want so much stuff that I over pack, and then have a lot of extra weight that I end up dragging around. Maybe Jesus did have the right approach- at least there would be no extra checked baggage fees to contend with. Take nothing with you, he said. Trust that others will provide for you. I’m not sure about you, but that’s hard for me to trust.
The closest I came was when my husband and I were preparing to be missionaries in Russia. We were allowed two suitcases apiece, so we carefully packed and then weighed, and then repacked and reweighed until we were ready to go.
And when we arrived in Moscow, we found that the church receiving us had not yet been able to find a place for us to stay.
And when they brought this to the congregation the week before our arrival, Tadelle, an Ethiopian refugee, a man with no country, no documentation, and no security, offered up his apartment to us. He had never met us. He only knew we were in need of lodging. He moved out for a week, God knows where he stayed, and urged us to consider his home, our home.
I am still humbled by this action, especially as I think that my husband and I still had more things in our 4 bags than he had in his one room apartment.
Tadelle had left Ethiopia during some horrific times. He was able to escape to Russia because he could purchase a visa on the black market. Through friends and bribes to the Russian authorities, he was able to find an apartment, and begin the process of asylum seeking – because Russia didn’t want him, and many other places didn’t either according to the UN High Commission of Refugees.
But finally the US accepted his application. After years of struggle, living in a foreign country, learning the almost impossible Russian language, and surviving attacks from neo-Nazis, Tadelle was resettled to Houston, TX. And again leaving almost everything behind, bright eyed and full of hope, He moved to a place that welcomed him, wanted his hopes and dreams, and promised to shelter him.
Tomorrow is our country’s, Tadelle’s country’s, independence day.
He was so proud to become an American. To become a citizen of a country that welcomed people, that was itself a country of immigrants and asylum seekers.
And as I read the Gospel text for today, I couldn’t help but think of the many people that also traveled to this country, and often without much in the way of bags, coats and purses. Leaving almost everything behind, bright eyed and full of hope, they made their way here, to a land that offered hospitality.
To a place that wanted them, their hopes and dreams, and promised to protect them. To a place that welcomed them.
Others, and it must be said, came here not of their own choice, enslaved by others – and so it has been our work to repair that brokenness. Just as it is our work to reconcile with those who already lived here when my ancestors arrived.
However the first immigrants to America left England during terrible times. They moved here, seeking asylum. And years later, many of their children and grandchildren signed their names to a declaration of independence that gave birth to the country we call home.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they wrote, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was a statement of welcome. We will welcome you just as you are! This home is your home. My great grandparents came here. Many of your families did also. And for many of us, our ancestors offered hospitality. For they were here to welcome new people to this place, to share this land.
And I think we’ve lost sight of that somewhere along the way. I think as a nation we tend to forget that this country welcomed us. That many of our families came here seeking freedom and safety. And they received it.
People still seek it, this hospitality. And people still receive it today.
As Americans we strive to hold up the truths of the Declaration of Independence. And as American Christians we go even further.
As Christians, we agree that all people are created equal, but we also strive to affirm that every person, regardless of skin color, gender, genealogy, nationality, class or level of education, every person is created in the very image of God.
We are all God’s children, we are all loved equally.
And we are called to love one another, bear one another’s burdens, as Paul writes in Galatians, and whenever we have an opportunity, he continues, we work for the good of all. And we are to welcome all, as Jesus expects us to do.
And you do welcome others. You help those who come through these doors needing assistance. You provide food to those who need to feed their families. You offer a safe place for people to meet. A portion of your offerings to the larger church help refugees and asylum seekers.
These are just a few of the things the church does as we partake in the wonderful honor of being a place of welcome. We are the hosts that Jesus speaks of.
We are the homes and towns… we are in the great and honorable position to welcome others.
And what if we were the ones sent out? What if we left our homes, our families, our communities. What if we had only the clothes on our back and the good news on our lips? What would we find if we set out into the unknown?
Maybe it is only when we have nothing to lose. When we carry no purse or extra clothes. When we have packed light… Maybe it is in that place where we catch a glimpse of the true meaning of following Jesus. And in that moment, when we are the recipients of such great hospitality, we can grow in our understanding of welcoming others in Jesus name.
We have all experienced welcome at some point or another. It is one reason why we are here in worship today. Someone, often when we had nothing left to travel with, had nowhere to go, or were uncertain of the path ahead… welcomed us to God’s house, gave us nourishment, and said: our home is your home.
So what will you carry with you on this journey call life? What will you pack? Who will you trust? Trust in God. For his Home is our home. No matter where we are, we are welcomed and wanted. And it is in this welcome that we sense, the kingdom of God has indeed, come near. Amen