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Sunday July 5, 1998 ~ Luke 10:1-11; 16-20

Appointment With Destiny

Arthur was a nerd! A class "A" ... number one... no doubt about it nerd! He didn't hang around with the "cool" guys and he didn't have any girlfriends that anyone knew about. Arthur might even have been a geek!

But... Arthur received an appointment that turned all the "cool" guys green with envy and brought up the interest of the girls several notches. He received an appointment to the Air Force Academy and one of Vermont's U.S. Senators came to his high school to announce the appointment. Even the captain of the football team jumped into the picture (with that "me 'n my ole buddy Art" look on his face) -- when a local reporter took a picture of Arthur.

So much for the "cool" guys. Arthur was the original "Revenge of the Nerds!" He had an appointment. A really important, much sought after, prestigious appointment. Only a few receive it.

Have you ever received an appointment that made your day? I can remember what was likely my very first appointment. I was so proud when I went home after school one day as a first grader and told my mom, "I was in charge of the chalk board erasers today!" I got to take them out and clean them and no one but me was in charge of those erasers. (My first grade teacher was a great psychologist!) I could tell that this appointment was really prestigious by the way Linda Baker warmed up to me when I became the chief eraser guy that day.

***

Today's scripture is about an appointment. Jesus appoints seventy people to become his "advance team" for the mission he was on. They were to go into all the towns and cities he intended to one day visit. Before we look more specifically at what took place, we need to take account of the fact that there are two ways to look at this episode. The "view" we take will make a huge difference in what we hear and how we react.

1. The "Movie" view: This story is like a movie we go to watch. It is about "Them" -- the people Jesus sent out on a mission. At the end of the movie, we comment, "I liked that, it was stimulating." or -- "It was okay -- not great, but okay." Either way, we are spectators.

2. The "Drama" view: The story is our story. We are the ones who will take the roles and play the characters. We listen to the story with a view to taking the parts and living them out. Rather than spectators, we are the "appointees".

I would like to suggest to you that our scripture lesson is meant to be seen with the "Drama" view. It is not just about what "they" did -- it is also what we are called to "do". It is about an appointment you and I have received -- an appointment with destiny.

This appointment has four dimensions: 1. Ambassadors of the Kingdom, 2. Nourishers of the Kingdom, 3. Bearers of the Kingdom and 4. Inheritors of the Kingdom.

1. Ambassadors of the Kingdom vv.1-4

When you receive an appointment, the prestige is dependent in part on the importance of the person making the appointment. When people say, "The mayor appointed me," or "The Senator appointed me," or "The President appointed me," -- they are taking on something of the prestige of the one who did the appointing.

Supposing you were able to say, "The Lord appointed me!" Wouldn't that be the ultimate prestige? If it is a big thing when a Senator of the United States appoints a high school student to the Air Force Academy, how much more is it a tremendous honor when the Lord God Almighty of this universe appoints someone?

Jesus Christ wants to appoint you and me! "I need some people to go into the world and bring the news of who I am and what I am all about," Jesus says, "I am not interested in your pedigree or your status -- I need willingness more than I need wealth, simplicity more than status, passion more than position. GO! Get Going! I am sending you into a world that may not be friendly to my message!"

This is not complicated. God is in need of people who are willing to receive an appointment to be ambassadors -- to represent Him in their worlds. This is not an easy appointment. You will be vulnerable and you will have to learn to depend on your faith to get you through the tough times. The question is... who will speak for God in your work environment... your social group? Are you willing to receive this "appointment"?

2. Nourishers of the Kingdom vv. 5-7

Jesus' next instructions can be translated this way: "When you find people who are open to receiving the message about God and His love -- take time with them. Don't jump around like a social butterfly. Keep your heart and soul focused on the task of sharing the good news of what it means to know God."

Do you see what this means? We have to be in touch with our faith and we have to be willing to share what our faith means to us. When we find someone who is open to the idea of what faith might mean in their lives, there will be some give and take. We will "feed" them and they will "feed" us. Nourishing the kingdom means nourishing relationships with people we hope to bring good news to.

If there is a contemporary thrust to Jesus' words here it is that people have no time for people anymore! The rat race so many of us live has taken over relationships. "Take time to eat with them," Jesus says, "Share your time with them and receive from them even as you hope to give to them." Someone has defined the true task of evangelism (sharing good news about God) as: "Developing a friendship with someone and gently nudging that person toward the love of God for their life!"

A key in sharing our faith is to be open to receiving from the one you are trying to give something to. Think about it. If you can "give" something to a person, but can not "receive" from that person -- isn't that the ultimate denial of that persons worth? This was one of the terrible mistakes of western evangelism for so long. Think about it... why in the world would the Lord God Almighty have to ask the likes of you and me to take His message to this mixed up and broken world? One of the most phenomenal statements of our worth is the fact that God is looking for people like you and me to become nourishers of the kingdom!

3. Bearers of the Kingdom vv. 8-11; 16

When Jesus sent out "advance teams", he sent them with an absolutely amazing instruction. Whether they were received well or rejected, they were to say, "The kingdom of God has come near!" But how? How is it that the kingdom of God had come near? Mark it down! The kingdom of God came near in the person of those who were sent!

This is where the "drama" view of this story starts our hearts beating a bit faster than the "movie" view does. If this were a movie, we could say, "Isn't it wonderful the way those disciples brought the kingdom of God to people through who they were and what they did?" But it is not a movie -- it is a drama and we are called to take on the role of "bearers of the kingdom".

A young man I'll call "Bob" was a patient in a drug and alcohol treatment center. He was a bitter, broken young man. He held the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous in disdain because it spoke of a "Higher Power". "God," he affirmed without shame, "Is a joke!"

Bob's assigned counselor was a middle aged man named Murray who had been around the block a few times. He was a battle scarred recovering alcoholic who had managed to gain a college degree in his 50's and certification as a drug and alcohol counselor a few years later. The degree and the certification were simple, "necessary frills" Murray said. The hard part and the key to his life was what he called "an encounter with God." Murray never pushed his experience with God on others. He didn't have to. Just to sit and eat lunch with Murray gave people a sense of refreshment. Although he didn't say very much about God, people said they had a sense that Murray was very close to God.

The long and short of this story is that Bob was discharged from the program as "unavailable for treatment". His personal agenda prevented him from really participating. But he was back within a few weeks after another drunk driving arrest and another job loss. He asked if Murray could be his counselor. The reason? In Bob's own words, "I don't know if it can work for me or not, but I know that if there is a God -- it is the God I sometimes think I see in Murray."

That's what Jesus is looking for. Murrays who will be so full of God that when people come close to them, they "come near" to the kingdom of God!

4. Inheritors of the Kingdom vv.17-20

Have you ever noticed it? There is a certain power in some people's lives who are transparent to God and his love. It is those people who have a simple, but profound faith. It is not a complicated faith, but it is rooted in the heart of God. The deep spiritual sensitivity of these folk is wrapped up in humility -- they are generally not aware of their transparency to God. These are faithful folk who are not impressed with themselves and seek no honor beyond that of being genuine followers of Christ. They have a powerful impact on those around them.

Jesus warned against spiritual pride. It is the antithesis of "bearers" of the kingdom. Jesus' words point to this... "Pride can take you down. Don't get impressed by spiritual power -- instead rejoice that your faith makes you a part of something that will last forever!" We are not only "bearers" of the kingdom, we are also "inheritors" of the kingdom!

As a Christian person, you have received the greatest appointment any human being could ever receive. It is not only an appointment to serve -- it is an appointment with your God-given destiny!

"Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!"

[Apply It]

1. Have you ever given conscious thought to the fact that God needs you to represent him in your personal world?

2. Have you ever known a "Murray?"

3. Is there one person who comes to mind when you think of the question... "Who needs me to be a Murray" to them?

4. Are you open to an "appointment" to become God's agent to reach this person?


Notes on The Text

V. 1 "The Lord" (ó kurios) - This phrase is used only here in all of the commissioning texts. It highlights the fact of the Dominical origin of the command to take the message of the kingdom to the world.

"Seventy" ("seventy two" as in some mss is likely not original) Seventy was the number of elders chosen to assist Moses in the wilderness, the number of the Sanhedrin and thus, a general reference to all who are called to "assist" Jesus with the message of the Kingdom. OR... this may be a reference to the Genesis 10 number of nations and therefore a symbolic impetus to take the message to all nations.

V.3 "Go on your way. See, I am sending you..." The NRSV does not do justice to the sense of urgency in the present/active/imperative use of "hypagete" - "GO!" -- combined with use of the exclamation "idou" - "behold!" (As in "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!") Thus better for contemporary folk would be, "Get going! Listen up! I am sending you...."

V.6 "...If anyone is there who shares in peace..." Literally -- "And if a son of peace is there.." [son of peace = huios eirenes] An idiomatic way of describing the character of a person who is reflective of God's "Shalom" -- a worthy person -- one who would be open to the message of God's Kingdom. If such a person is present they will be receptive to the message of the peace of God's Kingdom and if no such person is present the peace will not be received.

V.8 "Eat what is set before you" -- In other words, we are dependent upon the provisions of God... Mana in the desert -- "Give us this day our daily bread."

V.9 Sign of the kingdom's presence are preaching, teaching and healing. See Luke 4:18-19.

V.18 Read this verse in light of Isaiah 14:4-11 and Revelation 12:9 Most commentators propose an either-or for this statement about Satan's fall as 1) a warning against pride -- or 2) a statement of the certain victory of God's Kingdom. From my perspective it is both... A Warning to remain humble in light of God's ultimate victory against the powers of darkness.

V.19 Calls to mind Genesis 3:15 ["...and you shall crush his head..."] In other words, victory over all that would derail or deny the perfect design of God


Alternate Sermon Ideas

Guidelines for the Household of Faith - Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16 opt.)

Paul is coming to the end of his letter to a church in turmoil over what it really means to be a Christian. Do you have to become circumcised if you are a gentile who comes to faith in Christ? Do you have to follow Jewish rules and regulations? In other words, do you have to become a Jew to become a Christian? The whole discussion is heart wrenching to Paul whose passion is revealed in verses 14-15.

Here is a spiritual father agonizing over his children in faith. The guidelines he gives for the "family of faith" are all the more important because they are given in the midst of turmoil. Good stuff for contemporary Christians. There are three basic principles here with a brief exhortation to "support your teacher [pastor]" thrown in at the end.

1. What to do about people who are struggling with sin.
"You who have received the Spirit" [NSRV] is not such a good trans. of "humeis hoi pneumatikoi" -- better "You -- the ones who are spiritual" or in plain sense: "You who are spiritually mature" That is, the spiritually mature should "set straight" the one who is struggling with a transgression. This is to be done with a genuine spirit of humility "keeping an eye on yourself" -- That is we are all vulnerable and "wired" for transgression. There is no "holier than thou" here. There is a key question however... How do we deal with the issue of spiritual restoration / discipline in our fellowship? Or do we?

2. Help each other with your struggles.
The burdens we are called to help each other share here are "heavy burdens" [baré] = more than one person can bear. In doing this we keep the command of Christ to "love one another". If we keep this guideline... the first will come easier. In a community where mutual love and "burden bearing" are a reality ... it will be more natural to help each other stay on course spiritually.

3. Do your part to help out.
Each person should "carry their own load -- not a contradiction .. the word for "carry" is the same word used in verse 2 "bear". The word for "load", however is different. Here it is ["phortion"]... used to describe someone's personal pack. In other words... we all have a gift and a ministry to perform in the family of faith. We are to take satisfaction for doing our share to help the family of faith function.

4. Support your teacher [pastor]
Meaning "honor the Word of God" by supporting the one who brings it to you!


Rejoice With Jerusalem! - Isaiah 66:10-14

If you have never done a sermon on Jerusalem, then you must do this one sometime, somewhere! And if you have never stood across the Kidron Valley on the crest of the Mt. of Lives looking at Jerusalem's Eastern Gate and the Golden Dome -- try to do it at least once and keep Jesus' lament in mind, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem..."

To understand the core of Old Testament biblical faith is to know in your heart what it means to love Jerusalem, weep over Jerusalem and rejoice with Jerusalem.Jerusalem is kingdom of God, the presence of God and the joy of God all at once.

Clearer than almost any other place in the bible, there is a picture here of God as a nurturing mother. Who but a mother knows the heartbreak of a child gone astray? The heart of God at this juncture in biblical history is akin to the heart of Mary standing at the foot of the cross.

This portion of Isaiah relates very closely to the "fulfillment" text in Revelation 21:1-4


Prayers and Readings

A Call To Worship [Based on Psalm 66]

Leader: Make a joyful noise to God all the earth,
People: Sing out the praises of God.
Leader: Come all you people and know the joy of the Lord,
People: The love of God is greater than the tongue can tell!
Leader: Bless the Lord all you people, bless his Holy Name!
People: We praise, and worship, and honor, and glorify Your name O Lord!

A Prayer of Dedication

You have brought us to Yourself, O Lord. You have given us the gift of faith. Your mercies toward us are more than we could ever hope to deserve. We stand in awe before You today offering our gifts, our hearts our abilities and our worship. Come now, O Holy One and make us fully Your own through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

O Lord God Almighty, Ruler of heaven and earth; we dare not lift our eyes into the brilliance of Your holiness. Cover us, we pray, with the cloak of Your mercy and the grace of Jesus Your Son. Then may we heartily turn from all that would keep us from Your holy love and flee into Your waiting arms for refuge and strength. Amen.

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