29 January 2019

Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Luke with you this week.

REFLECTION:

Today, we will look at Luke 10, verses 1-24, focusing on verses 8, 9, and 13.

This passage tells the story of Jesus sending out 70 disciples in pairs to preach the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God. Imagine 35 pairs of people sent out with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a bit of money for transport into towns across Yorkshire with no instructions other than to knock on doors, offer people a sign of peace, and see whether someone might invite them in to eat and sleep there. Depending on what one thinks of Jesus before you read this passage, this is either a demonstration of immense faith in God and people or the most ill-conceived strategy for spreading the message of a new movement one can imagine.

What always strikes me most about this passage is the way Jesus describes this task in verse 3: he tells them to go while explaining to the group that they will be like lambs sent out among wolves. And they still went. I seriously wonder if I would have joined them. Perhaps you feel different, but I’m not terribly confident I would have.

I was reminded of this passage last summer when I was ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England. The most poignant line in the whole of the ordination service comes at the end of the section where the Bishop gives us our charge—that is, where he makes it plain what we’re called to do as ordained ministers in the Church. At the very end, all on its own, is this statement: you cannot bear the weight of this call. Ouch.

There is no beating around the bush. There is no attempt to make one feel better about the situation. There is no equivocation, no footnote with an exception, no ‘you’ll be alright if you do this or that…’ It is harsh. It is cold. It is frightening. And, it is true.

Perhaps you are familiar with Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth. One of the themes to which those letters return a number of times is that human weakness is the means by which God works in this world. Paul tells the Corinthians that God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:25), that our bodies are created in weakness but will rise again for eternity in power (1 Cor 15:43), that if Paul will boast in anything it will be in those things that make him appear weak (2 Cor 11:30), and that three times Jesus declared to Paul that ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Paul speaks about being content in his weaknesses.

Where are you in this process? Have you admitted your weaknesses to yourself and to God? If not, why not? What are you afraid of?

For my own part, I do well at this sometimes and sometimes I fail miserably. Some of my weaknesses I’m happy to admit to myself, to God, and to others. Just ask my son: he will tell you that I’m rubbish at video games, and I’m happy to admit it. But what about weaknesses that may say something more serious about me as a person? What about weaknesses in my leadership, in my relationships, in my parenting? I’m not so quick to admit those—to myself, to God, or heaven forbid to anyone else.

Luke continues on, reminding us what we’re running away from when we fail to admit these weaknesses. It is 35 pairs of people willing to take on a task that they know they are not capable of completing, who see the amazing works of God. Why? Because, as Paul says, God’s design is to work through that which appears weak in this world.

Do you see the wonderful things God is doing in our weaknesses to heal the brokenness and chaos of this world? Perhaps not. Perhaps we need to look closer. We are not capable of fixing the food insecurity crisis in this nation. Yet, through the foodbank STC is making a positive impact on people’s lives. Can we eliminate the problem of loneliness among the elderly in the United Kingdom? No, we are far too weak. Still, Natter makes a powerful difference in people’s lives.

These are gifts from God, born through the simultaneous recognition of our weakness and need for God and our willingness to start the task anyway. Do you want God to show up and do a powerful thing in the world? Find something that breaks God’s heart, that you are not capable of fixing because of your own weaknesses, and then start to deal with it anyway. That is when God shows up in power.

READING: Luke 10:1-24

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’