July 3, 2022 – Message

Gospel lesson and Pastor Richard Pokora’s sermon from Sunday, July 3, 2022

Message from July 3, 4th Sunday after Pentecost by Pastor Richard Pokora

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a story about two missionaries who were going door to door. They knocked on the door of one woman who was not happy to see them. She told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close and, in fact, almost magically bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it and slammed the door again with the same amazing results-the door bounced back open. Convinced that one of the missionaries was sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a third slam. She felt this would really teach them a lesson. But before she could act, one of them stopped her and politely said, “Ma’am, before you do that again, you really should move your cat”.

We don’t see many door-to-door salespeople anymore, do we? Why not? First of all, nobody’s home anymore, are they? At least, not in the daytime. And at night, with so much to do, and after husband and wife have worked all day, most people don’t want to be bothered with strangers at the door. So, at least in one respect, we live in a world that is different than the one in which Jesus appointed seventy emissaries and told them to go out two-by-two into the towns and villages from house to house and heal the sick and to tell everyone the Kingdom of God is near.

Jesus and politicians have a lot in common. Both struggle to get their message out. Both send out advance men to prepare the way and to excite the people for their arrival and their messages. The seventy disciples represented the universal mission to all nations-including the Gentiles and the Samaritans. Their discipleship had a multiplying effect because people wanted to hear the message-just like people want to hear the message today. The seventy were delegated to discover new opportunities that were there to bring the message to the people and the people into the kingdom.

Why did Jesus send 70? Some scholars believe that the seventy missionaries represented the 70 nations of the world that were listed in Genesis 10. By appointing seventy, Jesus was announcing God’s intention to take the news to the entire world. They were sent in pairs because their work was difficult, even with helpers. These men were sent into a vast field with very few workers to help them. They were to pray for more laborers to join them-just like we have to pray for more helpers today when we fulfill the same mission. The seventy were successful in their first attempt at spreading the Gospel. They conquered their fears and did what they were told.

Sometimes we in the church are not willing to follow some of Christ’s directions most of the time. Are they too difficult? Do we do only what is the easiest? What we fail to do most often is to not really ask something in Jesus’ name and expect it to come true. We only respond in partial faith, or we try to make our desires God’s desires. The task Christ gives us is not easy, but He helps us and supports us. Nothing is impossible with Christ.

The 70 disciples were totally defenseless. They were totally dependent on Christ and the reception of the people they met. We can be sure today that God is there with us. It is no secret that our world has a lot of problems such as violence, war, crime, and famine. Around the world today, the collapse of civil societies sobers us. We are descending toward individualisms that block our responsibilities for each other, including those who are poor. Some of us may think that we can escape the consequences of our wasteful lifestyles, deliberate ignorance of others’ poverty, and reluctance to combat injustice. We act as if we don’t have to pay for what we’ve done. The only way we can escape our problem-filled world is through peace-the peace that only Christ provides. We are to proclaim that peace, which is the arrival of God’s kingdom and ushered in by Jesus.

The church must also look at its own checkered past. All we have to do is to look at the residential school’s issue, especially the issue of how native students were treated. We must ask ourselves is we are converts or Christ’s disciples.

By God’s grace, and because of the Holy Spirit, the consequences of our living on earth can lead towards wonderful things that don’t break any law-such as helping one another and doing good deeds. We must go out into the world because there are people in great need. We must go out as caring people who identify with them in their hurt and their need. We must go out with the hope and realization that when we minister to the least and the lowest, we encounter Christ. When we feed the hungry or visit the sick or prisoners, we obey Christ. We can be so at one with Christ that Christ will live and act through us. He calls us to identify with those he came to save. The worst thing we can do is to make a person who is in need or in the middle of a crisis feel rejected or inferior. Sometimes those we minister to will do more for us than we will do for them.

When Jesus said, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves”, he was acknowledging the ferocity of the opposition that true followers of Christ would encounter. The image of the lamb is an image of self-sacrifice-the Pascal Lamb, who is slain to redeem His people. Any follower of Christ must also be an imitator of Christ. If we are to be like Christ, we can expect the same treatment he received. The image of the lamb is also a reminder that the kingdom of God will be marked by peace and reconciliation. We must confront the attitudes and behaviors that do not reflect God’s intentions. The word “lambs” implies that religious commitment can’t be compelled by force. This sets Christianity apart from other religions, especially the radical elements of Islam.

Jesus knew the seventy would stand out and was counting on it because they had a message to share-a message so vital and life-changing that everyone needed to hear it. People still need to hear it today. When we are changed by our encounter with Christ, we have the authority and responsibility to tell everyone, by our words and by our lifestyle, that the Kingdom of God has come near them. It defeats the powers of darkness and evil and brings the Kingdom of God among those who are lost and hurting. Jesus told the 70 to proclaim the rule and reign of God in people’s hearts, and he tells us to proclaim the same message today. We do this by respecting one another, live in loving relationships, working to bring about social justice, and reflecting the image of God in our works and deeds. As we pass through the various stages of our lives and the changes they bring, we are still disciples who have been sent to proclaim the Good News. God has sent us along with his presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.