“The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him…” In Greek, the word for ‘he sent’ is apesteilon which has the same root as the English word apostle. When we talk about “the apostles” we are usually referring to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, when they were sent by Jesus to preach the gospel. But in today’s gospel reading, we see that apostleship is not limited to twelve men; 70, or some ancient documents say 72, people became apostles – those who are sent. They were sent to declare God’s peace, proclaim that the reign of God had come near and heal the sick. It was a successful mission trip, because they came back rejoicing in what had been accomplished.
We too are called not just to be disciples or those who learn from Jesus, but also apostles – those who are sent. We too are sent to declare God’s peace, proclaim the kindom of God and heal a sick world.
In many ways it’s easier to be a disciple. It’s easier to follow Jesus’ teachings as best we can, to pray privately and with the community of faith, seeking to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, than it is to accept our responsibility to be apostles. And it’s easier for us as a faith community to think of the Body of Christ here at St. Benedict’s as a disciple rather than an apostle. We gather for worship and study, for fellowship and fun; we accompany one another through some of the difficult places in life, giving and accepting help as we are able. We are a gathered community, learning, studying and doing our best to follow the path of Jesus. But is this all we are meant to be and do?
We all shy away from the E word – “evangelism.”
It makes us think of people who try to impose their point of view on you, and if you disagree tell you you’re going to hell. But that’s not really what it means. It comes from the same root as gospel. To evangelize is to tell the good news. Most contemporary evangelism doesn’t seem like good news. But like the 70 apostles, we have good news.
We have good news of God’s peace, God’s kindom and God’s healing.
One of the current buzz words in the wider church is “missional.” This came about as a reaction against traditional missionary activity where good Christian people went other countries and tried to make the people better. Often they imposed cultural values rather than offering truly good news. In the past fifty or more years we have come to realize that God has a mission, and our role is to participate fully in that mission, not create our own.
When Jesus sent the 70 apostles he sent them “before his face” which we have translated as “ahead of him”. That makes sense in English, but remember how last week we heard that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem”? I think that suggests that their mission “before his face” is an important part of his journey toward Jerusalem and the completion of the mission to which he has “set his face.” They were not on some mission of their own, but participating in the mission of Jesus. They were not to impose ideas or ideology but to offer peace, the reign of God and healing. In other words to be “missional.”
As we come towards the completion of this, our primary building and place of worship and turn our attention now to the property on which we sit, it is also time to re-consider how we are participating in God’s mission.
I don’t think that we, as St. Benedict’s often experience ourselves as an apostle “sent” by God… Let us imagine for a few moments that thirty ago there was a church meeting when Jesus met with St. Benedict’s and told us the reason we were sent to Los Osos, but we didn’t take minutes and since then we have forgotten most of what Jesus said. Let us take a couple of minutes in silence as we imagine that we are trying to reconstruct that conversation. What might Jesus have told us?
You’ve guessed what comes next… please find one or two other people to share with, and talk about what Jesus might have said when he sent St. Benedict’s to Los Osos.
Thank you for your ideas. This is an important conversation and one I hope we will continue to have.
We are part of God’s mission in Los Osos, just as the other churches here are, and a lot of other people and groups too. We don’t have a monopoly on peace, the reign of God or healing. But we do have a particular role to play. For twenty years we have been offering the love of God to our neighbors through the Abundance Shop. This is a way that those who have more can share with those who have less. It is a way that we can all recycle and reuse and be stewards of God’s abundance. That’s why it’s called the Abundance Shop. But it is primarily part of our participation in the missio Dei – the mission of God in Los Osos. Through it we make relationships, through it we serve the community. Through it we proclaim the peace and the kindom of God, and sometimes, even healing.
Yet over time there have been fewer and fewer church members involved in this work. As 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.” Even if you can’t personally volunteer as part of this ministry because you are working or have health issues, pray that God will provide the workers to continue to proclaim God’s love and abundance.
St. Benedict’s is a faith community that cares deeply about social justice and about proclaiming and living the peace and healing of the kindom of God. We are a missional people. I look forward to seeing how God will lead us forward.