Psalm 30; 2 Kings 5 : 1 – 14; Galatians 6 : 7 – 16; Luke 10 : 1 – 11, 16 – 20
by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone (Zion).
This reflection is from last July (I’m using this because no reflection is available this week Pat H)
Most committed, Church going Christians can identify with Jesus’ words in the gospel reading, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ As Jesus sends out the seventy-two, how we wish that we had seventy-two within our churches to send out into the community and bring in the harvest.
Biblical numbers and their multiples are always taken with some caution and often fit a pattern, 7 for the days of creation, 12 for the tribes of Israel, 40 for the days and nights of the flood and Jesus being in the wilderness. Some manuscripts of this story refer to the seventy, possibly linking with the seventy of Israel’s elders, summoned by Moses (Numbers 11 : 16 – 17) to ‘share the burden of the people.’ Seventy – two is also significant, Genesis refers to their being seventy – two nations on earth.
Jesus divides the seventy – two into pairs and sends them ahead of him to all the places he is preparing to go. They are told to travel light, not taking a purse, bag or sandals nor are they to greet people on the road. They are to find hospitality by visiting households where they can stay and receiving hospitality, they should stay in that household until their task is complete. This is to be the equivalent of their wages. Maybe Jesus thinks that as they are travelling without purse, bag or sandals people will take pity on them, the offer of hospitality may come easier.
There is work to be done in the communities where they are staying, ‘heal those who are ill and tell them, the Kingdom of God is near.’
I wonder what the effect of their work was, we are told later that, ‘the seventy – two returned with joy!!’ because ‘even the demons submit to us in your name.’ Each pair appear to have had a positive experience. Their joy, Jesus warns them is misplaced, their real joy should be that, ‘your names are written in heaven.’
How light should we travel as we go out in Jesus’ name? Within the Church, there are monastic communities made up of members who are prepared to renounce worldly possessions to live lives of prayer, fasting and poverty. Volunteer gap year roles are commonplace in Christian retreat centres and charitable organisations, where accommodation and a basic allowance are the reward for time given in Christian service. Clergy give their time to serve churches, rewarded with a house to live in, a stipend and expenses.
As we go out into the communities surrounding our churches, what do we need to take?
How will be greeted and rewarded? What are we preparing the places we go for? If we restrict the purpose of going out to bring people into the church building for the main event of the week, then maybe our task will not reap the rewards we hope for.
Within our Circuit, the ARK sets an example and pattern of being out with its few workers, in places like the Galleries, the South Glos Show and other places. Walking around the streets surrounding our churches, in places like Alveston, Easter Compton and Speedwell has become part of their trademark. What can we learn from them and their courage to go out? We may never know the fruit of being present, outside our buildings. This is as much the work of the Kingdom as maintaining a pattern of weekly Sunday worship.
Hymns in the Mission and Evangelism section of Singing the Faith remind us of this commitment, especially 402 ‘Go to the world! Go into all the world.’
Lord, give us the courage and confidence to go out in your name, to proclaim the gospel, to share our story and listen to the stories of those we meet on the way. Amen.