7-3-16--Proper 9C

Readings for Proper 9C

 

For 3 years between 2012 and 2015 a committee of about 25 Episcopalians from around the country—lay folk, bishops, priests, and deacons, (our bishop was one of them) met on what was called a Task Force to Re-Imagine the Episcopal Chruch, or TREC for short.  TREC came up with a very long document, as you might expect, with all kinds of technical recommendations for simplifying the policies, procedures, and structures of the Episcopal Church at a church-wide level.  This was their mandate.  But the most surprising thing TREC came up with by way of recommendation was something they call the “3 practices,” with an adorable series of cartoons they made into buttons.  The 3 practices are based on the gospel reading we heard today from Luke 10, and they are: Follow Jesus together, Into the neighborhood, Travelling Lightly.

 

Now I like to look at the gospel readings quite a bit ahead of time, taking a season or chunk at a time, so I know where I’m headed with sermons over a given span of time.  When I saw that this was the gospel reading for the first Sunday of my last month with you I had to laugh—it’s perfect, almost too perfect!  Here is Jesus, sending out the disciples two by two to carry on his mission.  Here is Jesus, asking for laborers to be sent into the harvest , where the harvest is plentiful.  But it’s not the final sending, for Jesus has a way to go still to get to Jerusalem, to cross, resurrection, and the commissioning of the Holy Spirit.  No, this is the “practice sending!”

 

Now, this month is kind of a “practice sending” for us.  I’m around, I’m here 4/5 Sundays in July, I’m holding my office hours at Mars Hill, attending most meetings and events and working on wrapping things up.  But I’m also using up my vacation time, mostly sorting and packing!  A lot of the administrative things I oversee on a week-by-week basis have been turned over to Dee, Debbie, Rosy, and other leaders. 

 

Last week, on Mission Sunday, I charged and challenged St. Luke’s with carrying on the mission and ministry to which you are called in Hollister.  St. Luke’s survival is not what I hear being questioned in this transition, I said, but rather what I hear people wondering about is whether the mission and ministry to which St. Luke’s is called will continue once I am gone.  Now I’m not Jesus!  But I wonder if we might think of this month as a “practice sending” not just administratively, but in terms of the mission and ministry of this congregation.  And I am still around so you can come back and tell me how it went!

 

So if you’re willing to entertain the idea that the mission and ministry of St. Luke’s in this place is YOURs, Luke 10 has a lot to tell us.  The “practice sending” in Luke 10, as TREC wisely summarized, has 3 components: Follow Jesus Together, Into the Neighborhood, Travelling Lightly.

 

Follow Jesus together.

Following Jesus makes sense—I mean, that’s why we’re Christians, right?  There is something in the person, words, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus that draws us, and draws us closer to God.  Following Jesus means we let him take the lead; we spend time centering ourselves in worship, in scripture, and in prayer.  We seek the Spirit’s guidance, and we wait for it—both as individuals and as a congregation.

But the “together” part—that’s easier to forget!!  Remember the “buddy system?” Somewhere after kindergarten we forget that. We tend to be lone rangers.  Not wanting to ask anyone for help.  Not wanting to “bother” anyone.  Not wanting our ideas to get diluted with anyone else’s.  But friends, if you’ve tried to go down this path in life, as I have, you know we NEED one another.  We need one another for help, support, encouragement—to keep us on the path.  We need one another to show us the face of Jesus.  Please, if there is one thing you take out of this sermon, into your life in ministry in the future, let it be this—don’t go it alone.  Be there for one another.  And if you find yourself charging ahead with church work all by yourself, STOP yourself and ask, “what is wrong with this picture?”  Maybe you’ve gotten ahead of yourself and need to let others catch up.  Maybe they’re on a different path and you need to switch gears.  But this Christian life is not something we can do alone—community is not optional for Christians.  Follow Jesus TOGETHER.

 

Into the neighborhood.  For me, following Jesus into the neighborhood is primarily about accepting hospitality.  Jesus has only 2 sentences to say about the gospel the disciples are to proclaim, but a whole lot of instructions on how they are to receive hospitality!  I had the opportunity lots of times to receive hospitality in El Salvador, but one stands out in particular.  We had only been there a few weeks; I was travelling on the bus from our apartment to church and was not “travelling lightly.”  I had a bag I really liked with a clergy shirt to be mended, a bible and prayer book that were my grandfather’s; a cell phone, id, and wallet with a little money, and some cards that the kids at the school had made for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Four young guys got on the bus and robbed it; one had  a gun and one had a knife, and they took everything from everyone on the bus and then got off.  When I got to the church I was pretty rattled, and the lady who cleaned the church, who was also a member, invited me to her home, which was a little shack along the railroad tracks.  She gave me some food, and then started rooting around among her things and pulled out a small leather back-pack purse that she gave me to replace the bag I had lost. 

 

Hospitality levels the playing field between the one who comes with this tremendous, life-changing gift of gospel, good news, and the one who receives it—and wants to give something back.  I don’t know how much good news I had brought to the community in just the couple of weeks I had been there, but she shared a life-giving gift to me.  Accepting hospitality reminds us that hat God is already there, working, and that we have both something to give and something to receive.  We don’t know what shape God’s good news will take in this context—at Johnny’s Bar, or at San Benito High School, or at Dunne Park, or in Swope Alley.  But we can be certain of one thing, if we have followed Jesus into the neighborhood, Jesus is already there!  We look for signs of his resurrected life, signs of the Spirit at work, and we start there.  Simply pointing to those places where God might be already at work, saying—“Hey guys, look what’s good here!”—can be incredibly powerful.  It is a way of saying, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”

 

Travel lightly.

Our family is getting an object lesson in travelling lightly!!  I’ve spent the last couple of days going through 35 years worth of papers, almost all of which have been moved once, some twice or even 3 times.  Each object we select to take with us adds weight and cost to the move.  Each object also takes up space in our lives, it takes up the space that something which might bring us more joy could occupy.  Each object also requires a certain amount of time to care for and maintain it.  So we’re asking ourselves—what do we really need and want in our new lives?  What brings us joy?  What represents for us an essential part of who we are, and what can we let go of?

 

Jesus sends the 70 out with instructions as radical as his call to them last week—last week it was—“Don’t say goodbye to those at home, don’t go and bury your father, just follow me.”  This week he sends them out with literally nothing but the clothes on their back—no wallet, no luggage, not even a good pair of walking shoes.  Later on those Jesus sends out on his mission will be allowed to carry a little more with them, but for this training period, this “practice sending,” he sends them with nothing, so that the truth of their dependence on God, on one another, and on the people to whom they are sent (wolves though they may be!!) sinks into their very souls.  Besides Jesus and each other, we don’t need much else!

I would be remiss in a sermon like this if I didn’t give you any homework.  If you can do all 3 practices this month or this week—wonderful!!  Some of you have already done all 3 in the last couple of days with the Biker Rally parking! But at the very least, the assignment for this month is this: find your travelling buddy.  Who is it that you will engage in mission and ministry WITH?  Find at least one other member or friend of St. Luke’s who is willing to “go out” on mission with you—tell them, “This is the buddy system, and you are my buddy!!”  Then figure out what your ministry together is!!  Imagine, dream together, about how God might be calling you to connect even in some small way with the folks beyond our walls and doors.  It may be something that you’re already doing, but thinking of it in a new light—How is this ministry following Jesus together?  How is it connecting, even in some small way, to the neighborhood?  How might you be called, along the way, to lighten the load, or to hold things (or take ourselves!) more lightly?   

 

Follow Jesus together.  Into the Neighborhood.  Travelling lightly.

 

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And may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds with joy, in the knowledge and love of Christ Jesus.   Amen.

 

Sermon C. 2016 The Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga

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