Luke 10, 2013
In today’s reading we continue with Jesus towards the place where his birth and ministry will be fulfilled. It’s a bit like a Maths teacher trying to fill her pupils’ heads with the facts they’ll need for their exams, or like a company of soldiers perfecting their tactics in an exercise before they fly out to the battlefield. Jesus is trying to instil in his disciples the skills and the theology they’ll need to continue proclaiming the Kingdom after the crisis has happened in Jerusalem.
Jesus has taught them over and over that nothing is as important as proclaiming the Kingdom of God. In today’s reading he sends them out in pairs to experience carrying God’s Good News in the world. It is an exercise which prefigures the way in which the news of Christ spread, with faithful people like us carrying the light of Christ into every corner of the world.
And when they come back they are exultant. They rush back to the Teacher and they tell him that it worked. And he is thrilled by their certainty, delighted by their faithfulness. He tells them: “I know, I saw Satan fall from the sky like lightning.” In other words, he tells them that when the power they have in Him is exercised, enacted, proclaimed then Satan is beaten down.
And we do the same every time we pray for other people, or are loving to those we live with, or go out of our way to shop for someone who can’t get out of their house: every time we smile or listen or bring someone to church: every time we share in Christ’s feast or open ourselves to God’s Word by reading our Bible. Every time we think of God and strive to be His people in the world we are being his disciples and the defeated forces of evil are beaten down once more.
We are Christ’s disciples and, like the 70, we are sent into the world, called to bear the news of the Kingdom wherever we go and in everything we do. One part of the Eucharist which always causes me to pause and draw breath is the Dismissal. It sometimes seems the bit we have to get through in order to lay our hands on the Rich Tea biscuits- but its real role is to make sense of everything that we have shared in the previous hour. We are not fed by Christ so that we can sit in church and wait for the next meal. We are fed in church in Word and Sacrament, we are strengthened in fellowship, and then we’re sent out into the world to live out what we’ve heard and confessed and sung.
In the name of Christ we go in peace to love and to serve the LORD. At the end of the Baptism service we hand the newly baptised person a candle lit from the Paschal Candle (symbol of Christ’s resurrection) and say to them “Shine as a light in the World.” The same happens at the end of Mass, the very name of which comes from the Latin Mittere for Sending out. What we do here we call the Sending out. That is what gives it meaning and life. It’s what we do with what we do here which counts, worshipping God in the world with our lives.
Christ is our comfort and our light, and our message. It is Christ who walks with us, Christ who we carry to others. We are called to be lights in the World, not holy people who refuse to get their hands dirty. If Jesus was willing to lay aside his majesty and come in frail flesh to rescue us then the least we can do is be part of the world he hallowed by his presence. Christians do not belong in church- they belong in the world. We are not called to live and serve only in St Paul’s Church, but in St Paul’s Parish.
That is precisely why the Dismissal is such a precious moment. We are the Body of Christ. At the end of the service we are filled with his light and life, in our stomachs and in our hearts and on our lips. In that moment everything is possible. We are all potential. We are poised on the doorway of the world. And once we’re there, back at home in daily life, we will have countless chances to bear witness to the love of God every day, countless chances to proclaim the kingdom to which we belong. We can do this in the way we talk to others, in the way we go out of our way to be loving and neighbourly, in the way we think and work and live. And, if all else fails, we can speak of God.
In that moment of Dismissal, in that second, we are filled with the Spirit and everything is possible. How Satan must tremble at what God unleashes every Sunday morning. How our world needs us, people who are loving and selfless, people who know that we do not belong to ourselves but to God and, in his name and example, to neighbour. We are loved and we are fed and we are sent to love and to feed.
This is what is truly happening here every Sunday, every time we gather in the name of God. Do you still want to come? Do you want to be part of this, the coming of the Kingdom? Does your heart sung to be one of the 70 as they step out into the world and return to Christ with their hearts ablaze with all that God is doing?
Our message is the same as the message the 70 carried to the villages, the message of peace. If we are rejected it is because people do not long for the peace of Christ’s acceptance as they should. If we’re rejected it is because people still think that the man with the biggest stick is best, that if you have power you must use it. If we’re rejected it is because people think that the power and influence we each have is best used to benefit me and not to build the Kingdom of justice and love and wholeness. It is Christ’s peace and God’s Kingdom which is rejected in us.
Remember that Jesus was crucified, 11 of the 12 apostles were martyred. If we’re being God’s people in the world we can cope with a little rejection. And so we shake the dust off our feet and we carry on proclaiming the Kingdom of God which has come near. Not everyone will reject the peace we offer. Many will rejoice at what God has done for them, at the peace we embody and bear witness to simply by being Christ’s people in the world, being Christ to others.
The Kingdom of God is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We proclaim it with our service, with our love of God and neighbour: and when we proclaim it we also bring it in. We make it real and visible and present. When we are filled with joy at the Kingdom, fulfilled by our inheritance with the saints in light, we make the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And all because we can’t help but respond to the love of God by being loving to others.
What is God urging you to get involved with? Visiting the sick, helping with J-Club from time to time, volunteering for the Foodbank, ringing people who are in hospital…
Being God’s shop-window is an enormous responsibility, an enormous privilege. It is our responsibility and our privilege, our response to the amazing love of God in Christ Jesus. And we don’t bear it alone. We bear it together as the Church of God, with the Spirit filling our souls.
Let us share in the feast Christ prepares for us. And then let us, like the disciples, go in Christ’s peace to love and to serve the Lord. And to this the whole people of God say, Amen.