I am especially struck today by the profound risk Jesus asks his followers to take as he sends them on ahead.
- For it is risky, isn’t it, this call to step into the world with so little to protect them, to protect us, from the ‘wolves’ which will surely meet us there?
- To carry so little as one goes, beyond the message of peace with which they have been entrusted.
- To go intending only to heal and to point beyond oneself to the remarkable gifts of God in the nearness of the kingdom.
- And to do so full well knowing that the outcome is nowhere near guaranteed?
One is more than grateful, of course, to know that one is not sent out alone.
One is surely grateful for the implied promise that along the way there will be some who will welcome and who will offer places for rest and food to sustain.
One is powerfully grateful to realize that the mission matters, maybe more than anything.
And yet, as we take the first step and the next one after that, we realize along with the first ones who took it, that such a journey is not without risk. Even great risk. For as we take the first step and the next one after that, we cannot yet know that before long we will be able, along with the disciples, to so resoundingly celebrate the powerful gifts of God experienced along the way.
- Perhaps it is so that I am struck by the riskiness of this right now as I listen deeply to the people among whom I serve and realize that we stand, as I expect you do, too, on just such a threshold.
- Perhaps this hits home as I realize how fragile, how vulnerable, we really are even as we heed to call to not go alone.
- Perhaps it is so that we are some distance yet from realizing all the gifts which will soon be ours to celebrate.
- And yes, perhaps it is so, as the disciples learn, that the gifts worth celebrating are not necessarily counted as having worth by the world, and maybe not also by us at first. That even should we be among those who see ‘Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning,’ in the end even that does not compare with what is in store: this certainty that we are a part of something larger still for as Jesus puts it, ‘our names are written in heaven.’
And oh, it is something to simply step out in faith in this way, trusting that the hand of God will protect and guide and that there will be helpers along the way. Perhaps it is especially something for those of us who like to imagine and prepare for every eventuality which may or may not come our way. And while I do not believe this is a call to haphazardly leap into what’s next, it is a call to only tend what matters, namely a sense of clarity about Who it is that calls us and that to which we are called. And to pay attention to where we need to keep our hearts fixed. It is a call to trust that all of this is surely, always, so much bigger than we are. It is a call to rest in the certainty that though Jesus sends the seventy ahead, Jesus has also already been there and waits, still and now, to meet us there.
Indeed, as I think about this now it is so that the story of this journey is told as a one-time event — a singular journey on which seventy of Jesus’ followers were sent to at least thirty-five destinations. And while we can receive its wisdom as bound by those parameters, it occurs to me now that the gifts of this are ours to receive on simply ordinary days as we are sent into the world:
- As we are sent to interact with those we know well and those we will have just met.
- As we consider where and how we are called to give and receive the gifts of God.
- As we pay attention to the one or ones traveling alongside us, often sent as gift and guide, even as we are to them.
- As we recognize that to be about the things God calls us to, we don’t have to take much with us.
- As we find ourselves gratefully receiving the hospitality extended along the way.
Oh, I do wonder what it means to see our every day in this way, knowing the risky importance of it all. Realizing that we cannot know the outcome.
But going anyway, because we have been so called.
Because we have been so sent.
It seems as though of late I have experienced this ‘sending’ as singular, extraordinary events:
- In the too soon death of a beloved friend and responding to the call to go and be and experience and give where I could and receive so much more. I did not experience anything quite so dramatic as ‘Satan falling from heaven like a flash,’ but even in the midst of it I witnessed the kindness of so many who in small ways and large lived in a way which would offer the promise that a world too much marked by treachery, by unkindness, or just by indifference, is being banished one day at a time, one moment at a time.
- In stories of God’s beloved who had experienced profound ‘singular’ losses in their lives and who, now, these decades later, continue to sense the call to go where others struggle in similar ways and to be beacons of the promises not yet fully realized. I know you hold these stories of so many, too.
- And yes, on seemingly ordinary beginnings to ordinary days when God’s people step into the world not realizing that it will become the sort of day described in Luke’s Gospel now, where we thought we were just going to work or to school, where we went to pick up the phone from friend or stranger, where a meal shared suddenly became so much more. For it is all extraordinary, isn’t it? And whether we recognize it or not, it is not without risk. And yet, we have been and we will be given all we need to step into the world simply with God’s gift of peace. I wonder what that looks like for you? I wonder what will look for you tomorrow.