I fell like it has been quite a while since the Lectionary gave us a quality set of lessons for a Sunday morning, but this week, they’ve come through for the preacher. You’ve got the story of Naaman the Leper, the beautiful God as Mother imagery of Isaiah 66, “you reap what you sow” in Galatians, and the great narrative of Jesus sending out the 70 in Luke. As life gets back to normal, I hope to write real blog posts again, and this week is a great chance to dive in.
The story of Jesus sending out the 70 is one of my favorites. As I begin my seventh year on staff at Saint Paul’s, I’m reminded this morning of the power of team ministry. Every day, I’m thankful that I get to work alongside a wise and seasoned priest to do the work of ministry in Foley. We’ve had ups and downs, successes and failures, but each time we’ve engaged a new goal, we’ve done it with prayer and study, together. I’m convinced that Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs as a model for ministry, and I’m glad to be a continuation of that model.
But I didn’t set out this morning to sing praises to two-by-two ministry. No, instead I was struck this morning by Jesus’ instructions for those who entered a town and did not find peace there. He says, “But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `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.'”
“Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”
Even in rejection, Jesus encourages this group of 70 apostles to share the Good News. I’m reminded of the story of Jonah, whom God sent to Nineveh to proclaim his judgment and demand repentance. If the Veggie Tales are to be believed, Nineveh was an awful, fish slapping sort of place, with no real hope for salvation, but God sent his prophet there anyway. The great miracle of the Jonah story is that the whole city repented and turned to the Lord. Maybe that is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his apostles to share the Good News, even as they left town, rejected.
Heaven only knows the impact a simple word of hope might have on a people starving for restoration. Know this: the kingdom of God has come near.