Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's a Missional Road (Luke 10:1-24)... On the Cross Road: Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel (ch 10-19) and what it means for us today (Part 1)

I want to give each of you a little gift this morning(sorry not available if you are reading this online). Something you can hold in your hand while I’m preaching and something I hope you will take with you and keep in your purse, I’ve checked it will fit even fit into a wallet as well, or you could put it in a prominent place in your car, or home or workplace. I want it to be a reminder of what we are looking at today, something that will hopefully inspire you to put what we talk about into practise in your everyday life.

It’s a light bulb, but not a real one because if you put one of those in your wallet and sat down you’d definitely get the point, but not of what I wanted to say today. Rather it’s a symbolic cardboard one.  Over the period between Easter and Pentecost we’ve been talking about the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the way it empowers us to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and how the gifts of the spirit enable us to serve and show his love to one another and the world around us. In one of Jesus parables he says that we are to be like a lamp, on a lamps stand, and updating it to our twenty first century world it’s like we are called to be light bulbs and as the power of the Holy Spirit fills us and enables us we are to shine Christ’s light in the world around us. WE bear witness to Christ, just as a light bulb bears witness to the fact that the power is on and flowing through them. We are going to talk about some practical ways of doing that today.

Today we start a new series, which is part of our ongoing Journey through Luke’s Gospel. Before Easter we left Jesus at the end of his Galilean ministry. In chapter 9:51 it tells us that as Jesus time was near 'so he resolutely set out for Jerusalem…' he started on the road that would lead him to the cross. It just so happens that journey actually fills up the central part of Luke’s gospel (ch10-19), it covers a lot of his teaching about what it means to be a follower of his. So the series we are starting today is called ‘on the cross road: Jesus journey to Jerusalem and what it has to say to us as his followers’. You know often I think we like to stay at the crossroads, the place where we chose which way we are going to go, the broad highway, that Jesus in Matthew 7:14 said but is the easy route through life but would lead to hell, or the narrow way following him the only way that leads to eternal life. We kind of like to sit at the cross roads, but Jesus teaching is about following him down that narrow way; that cross road: Being wholehearted about following Jesus. My hope is that just as we follow Jesus footsteps on the journey to Jerusalem that we will find real practical steps we can take to follow him in our everyday life and deepen our discipleship. We are staring today with a passage that tells us that this cross road is a missional road… That to follow Jesus is to have him send us out to prepare the way for him to come into the lives and situations around us.

The passage we are having a look at today, is Jesus sending of the seventy two to go out before him and preparing the way. They were not the advance guard of some logistics team, but rather were sent to proclaim that the kingdom of God was at hand: to tell people about Jesus. We have Jesus instructions to them, and then we have Jesus reaction and further teaching when they come back.

The passage starts with the statement that Jesus sent out the seventy or seventy two. There are manuscript differences as to the number… Bu the key thing here is that Jesus sending of people was growing. At the beginning of Luke 9 Jesus had sent out his twelve disciples, now we see Jesus send out seventy or seventy two. The number Seventy has to do with Moses on the advice of his father in law establishing seventy elders in Israel to help him. We’ve just looked at Pentecost where it talks of God’s spirit filling the one hundred and twenty gathered together in Jerusalem. There is a real sense that Jesus wants all who follow him to be sent out, it’s not just the twelve. Not just those leaders. It’s not just the minister. It is all of us.

His sending starts with prayer. That because the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few, that they should pray to the Lord of the harvest field to send out more workers.

This week I used a screen shot from google earth as the image for our service. It shows the area around our church, an area that is both the geographic and demographic centre of Auckland. That goes from the affluent hill suburbs, to streets where people really struggle to survive. It covers old established families, people moving here recently from other places, literally from all over the world. Google earth gives us what is called God’s eye view of the place, it is daunting as we look at it, but it also calls us to look at it
with Christ’s eyes. Eyes of compassion, in Matthew’s account of the sending of the twelve, Jesus  sees the crowds and sees them as seep without a shepherd and that inspires him to ask his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest field . and Eyes of expectancy that there is a plentiful harvest... that there opening  for the gospel message.

The first call for being sent then is to pray and seek the Lord of the harvest to send out people into that harvest field.  God’s work, God’s mission starts and ends with prayer.

It’s interesting then that the ones who are called to pray are then sent out into that harvest field. They are the ones told to go. I don’t know about you but we can often feel well Jesus I’m not ready for this sort of thing, I’m not equipped to share my faith or tell people about you. The interesting thing is here in this case Jesus sent them out without the resources and equipment you’d think you’d need for the journey either. They did bring sandals a bag or a purse. In fact he says he was sending them out as sheep amongst wolves. They like we were to go and trust in God to provide.

Jesus was upfront and honest about, that there would be places where they wouldn’t be welcomed. There would be nos and no thank yous, rejections and as we will see later on even opposition. He even said woe to some of the towns that would not accept him. But Jesus tells them that where they are welcomed that they were to allow God’s peace to settle on those places. I think we can be afraid of the negative responses we can think that people don’t want to hear so we don’t share what we’ve found. At the Pentecost gathering last Sunday night Jim Wallace spoke and he asked the question what is the worst thing that could happen if you invited someone to church?... that right they could say no… The he told the story of an eighty year old in his congregation who asked a friend to church who came and whose faith came alive… and she came bouncing up to Jim full of Joy and said ‘You know If I’d of known this would happen I’d have asked them years ago.” That negative response we shouldn’t let put us off neiither should we take personally, as Jesus says “if they reject you, they reject me, and they reject the one who sent me.”

Then the narrative moves to when they come back, and they have stories of people listening, and haling and that even the demons obeyed them. Jesus responds by telling them that he saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning… It’s an amazing image isn’t it, we can see the world in darkness and oppressed and held captive by evil, but all it takes for things to change is God’s people to be willing to share their faith. Sometimes we don’t believe that. My friend Jono Hesp, who is the head of Alpha in New Zealand, told me the parable of the starfish. “one night there had been a great storm and  all along the beach thousands of starfish had been washed up above the high tide mark, and as the sun came up they were dying. A man went for a walk on the beach and was disturbed by what he saw. Then he came upon a young boy, who was picking up starfish one at a time, and carrying them back down into the sea. The man went up to him and told him that he wasn’t really making a difference. There was no way he could avert the tragedy of the starfish dying. The boy didn’t stop he picked up another starfish and carried it down to the water and up it in. the starfish was revived and started to move its legs. The bot turned to the man and said ‘well it’s made a difference in that starfish’s life” and went back to his work. The man joined him. I think as Christians we are called to confront evil and stand for justice and peace on a systemic level but also to be about seeing God bring his life giving presence into one person at a time. Even we are to find our joy in our relationship with Jesus Christ, not that demons or evil submit to us in Jesus name.’

Then we have what I think is my new favourite verse in scripture in verse 21 it says at that time Jesus was full of joy, through the Holy Spirit” and began praising God that the things of heaven were being revealed to ordinary people. Not held bottled up for the wise and learned but even little children were hearing and responding to them.  Wow! what a wonderful inspiration to be about working in God’s harvestfeild... it fills  Jesus with joy.

Ok how do we apply this to our lives? Really there are many ways, for example if you want to look at short term missions I have a friend who runs a company where you can go on overseas holidays and be involved in building projects to help poor communities in Mexico and round the pacific. That’s up to you…
But I want to invite us all to take one step along the missional cross road this morning and who knows where it will lead. I’m going to ask you to pray for five friends or family members who do not know Jesus to become followers of his. It’s kind of that first step that Jesus asked the seventy two to take right… prayer. Maybe this whole area seems too vast for us but we can start with five friends. In fact when I shared this with someone who wasn’t going to be here today she said she already prays for more people than that. I want you to pray for them regularly, daily and consistently to keep praying.

Will that make a difference? The great evangelist DL Moody, had a list of one hundred non-Christian friends and he prayed for them fervently every day of his life. When one became a Christian he’d tick them off the list. By the time he died ninety six of those people had become followers of Jesus. At his funeral the other four made decisions for Christ. and if that seems a bit to big for us. AS a young adult I was part of our churches drama team…one night a women who was in the team came along bouncing of the walls. She had been praying for her non churched husband to become a Christian everyday for well over ten years, and before the drama team meeting he’d sat her down and told her a friend had shared his faith with him and he had become a Christian… he told her he’d waited few months to tell her as well because he just wanted to make sure it was the real thing. They are both church leaders today… It does make a difference. We are to pray to the Lord of the harvestfeild.

It may sound a bit contrived and you don’t want to treat a friend like they are some sort of Christian project or target? The narrative in Luke 10 finishes with Jesus pulling aside his disciples and sharing his joy with them… He tells them that there had been many kings and prohpets who had longed for and wanted to see what was happening in Jesus time. They wanted to see God’s saviour come and the kingdom of God begin to be established. We have good news, Jesus comes so that we might have life in all its fullness, we might have that relationship we were created for with God restored through Jesus Christ. When we are praying we are saying we want people to know the freedom and truth and liberty and wholeness that comes in knowing and being know by Jesus, To have their sins forgiven and be reconciled with God, one another, the world around them. I love the arch Bishop of Canterbury’s vision of revival. He says he longs to see the church filled up with the life and joy of Christ that it overflows to all around them and transforms society. All we are doing is asking God that our friends and family members maybe filled with that life and joy. I can't thnk of a better thing to hope for your friends and family. If you don’t have that in your own life I’m happy to meet with you and pray with you… It’s a joy and life that springs up even when we are facing hard times.

Lastly, maybe you feel like you don’t have the words to say and I’m not good at remembering… this is where the light bulb comes in. It will act as a reminder. And I have another gift for you. It’s a lamp shade for your light bulb, not to hide that light but as a way of saying I’m shining my light for these people, and on it is space to write the names of the people you are praying for. The other things is that the praying for five people comes from a campaign in the church of England called ‘thy kingdom come’ and our dear Anglican brothers and sisters are good at writing prayers so as an insert in the order of service today there is a handout they produced with ideas for remembering to pray for people on it and prayers that will help you to pray.

This is the first step, and my prayer is that in your going, at home at school where you work or shop as you met people in the street that you will be like your lightbulbs and shine Christ’s light and I long to hear the stories of the difference it makes.

I used it last week but I want to finish today with a prayer for the renewal of evangaelism fr the 'they kingdom come' campaign in the Church of England

Gracious God,

 We thank you that you have brought us to know and recognise you Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We thank you for those who shared the Gospel of Jesus with us.

We ask that in turn we may pass the Good News on to others.

Give us confidence to speak of you,

Sensitivity to walk with others on their journey,

And love to inspire us to reach out to others.

Most of all, give us a passion to see your Kingdom come,

That we might take risky steps

To be your witnesses to your world.

Through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


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