Filed under: Sermons | Tags: disciples, Eastern North Dakota Synod, ELCA, Extra Mile for Mission, Jesus, parish
Grace and peace to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Today we gather to celebrate the new relationship we have in Christ. Through Jesus Christ, God has made us sisters and brothers. God has called us into worshipping communities, and those communities: Redeemer, Our Savior, and Trinity are united in one parish. God also brings us into relationship with our Eastern North Dakota Synod, the ELCA, the Lutheran World Federation, and all God’s people of every time and place. We are all united in Jesus Christ.
We are part of ever-widening circles of relationships, made possible through Jesus. It can be difficult to really grasp this abstract idea of being in relationship with people we’ll never meet. It can seem even more abstract and heady when we read in our lesson from Colossians: “Jesus Christ himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together…and through him God was pleased to reconcile to Godself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (1:17, 20). Colossians goes even farther than talking about Jesus’ creating relationship between all believers to talking about Jesus as the center and redeemer of all things. Everything, and everyone, is held together in Jesus Christ. Nothing and no one is outside the circle Jesus creates. What this means for us is that we are never alone or disconnected. We are never too few. We always have someone else, and we always have Jesus.
We chose a special gospel text for this parish celebration. We read from Luke the story of Jesus sending out the 70 disciples. Jesus sent them out into the towns and villages to declare the coming of the kingdom of God. But Jesus didn’t send them alone, he sent them in pairs. Jesus understood that carrying out God’s mission is not an easy task. People are not always receptive to the good news. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to persevere when things get difficult. If we are alone, we might just give up.
Jesus sent his followers out to do his work: not alone, but in pairs. Jesus works on the wisdom shared in Ecclesiastes, chapter 4: “9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.”
When hard times came for these disciples, when the whole town was against them, when no one’s heart was softened by their message of God’s love, then each disciple had another by his or her side. In each other, these pairs of disciples had a source of encouragement, hope, and a reminder of their God-given mission.
Jesus sent them out in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. Jesus did not send them where he had no intention of going himself. They must have met resistance and found people who were inhospitable, or even violent. None of this hardship was something Jesus wanted to avoid, and so the disciples had the courage to face the possibility of failure. Jesus told them that if their message of peace didn’t stick, they were simply to kick the dust of that town off their feet, not dwelling on their failure but moving on.
Jesus sent those pairs of followers out with nothing: no purse, no bag, no sandals. They had to rely on the hospitality of strangers. They were dependent on the ones to whom they were preaching. They found that they were provided with all they needed.
We are sent by Jesus to do his work- but we are not alone- we are a parish- three congregations joined together to do the work of God. We have been united by Jesus Christ. Each of us is a gift to the other, as each paired disciple was a gift to the other. We experience the blessings of each other both individually and congregationally. Our Savior and Trinity have been a blessing to Redeemer for these past 10 years, as they welcomed Redeemer into their parish arrangement. Together, you have made it possible for you all to be served by a full time pastor, and now by two not-quite full time pastors. You have enjoyed other parish celebrations in years past. You have relationships with each other that may be based other than in this parish relationship, but you can look to each other when you need the wisdom, comfort, and good news that only another Christian is able to give.
As we look forward to the next 10 years together, continue to see each other as the other half of your pair. Jesus has given you each other as you join in God’s work. You have each other as a source of encouragement, hope, and a reminder of your God-given mission. When one congregation is struggling to see God at work with them, or to know the hope and joy that come from God, then it’s time for the other two congregations to be the fellow disciple and speak God’s good word. When you see a need in our world and hear God calling you to do something about it, you have each other to join in the mission.
God has a mission for us: to follow Jesus and the disciples before us in proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom at hand. To do this is to share God’s love and forgiveness with those who have never heard or who have forgotten. To share our resources with those in need. To work for the healing and wholeness.
When we look at the troubles of our world, all those who are sick, struggling, hopeless, and oppressed, it can really feel overwhelming. What good can just you or I do? In that question we realize the joy in what God has done for us in giving us each other. When we are joined together as a congregation, we are joined by 10 or 40 or 100 more people with whom we can work. When we are joined as a parish, we are joined with 150 or 200 or more people. When we are joined as a synod, we are joined with 102,500 more people. Joined as the ELCA, we are joined with 4.5 million people, and the number keeps increasing as we consider all those circles of people united with Jesus as the center. Maybe we don’t have the time, resources, or skills as individuals, or individual congregations, but when we are united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, our joining in God’s work in our world can create miracles.
We don’t do this work alone. Jesus has already gone ahead of us. Jesus is already among the poor, the forgotten, and the lonely. We are not called to do what God is not willing to do. We are called to join our God who is already at work, healing the world. Jesus already has faced the greatest defeat for us: death. Jesus continued in his ministry even when it led him to danger, arrest, and death. Jesus has already given his very life away to be a part of God’s mission. That’s the path before us. We are called to give our selves and our lives away to join in God’s mission. It’s not a path that ends in fear and death. Jesus Christ died, but was raised from the dead. When we follow Jesus, we may encounter death, we may find ourselves sacrificing, and we may feel like we have been defeated. But because we follow Jesus, none of that is the end. We look forward to resurrection. In giving away our lives for Jesus’ sake, we will find life given to us that could never be taken away.
Jesus has called us, together as a parish, as a synod, as the ELCA, and as the whole global Church, to follow him together. We can do more together than apart. We have each other for encouragement. We have each other to multiply our efforts. We are ready and equipped to be sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God. We can go the extra mile together.
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