“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me”
We see the harvest. We see the need for laborers. So pray. God will send. Hey. I’m the new guy. The sent guy. Except, when I look at this, for the life of me, all I can think about is what the 72 didn’t have. No money. No clothes. No shoes.
Maybe it’s because I have a lot of junk. Really, it’s because it’s hard to imagine life that close to the brink. Church that close to the brink. I want extra. Because I see the wolves. The pitfalls. The problems. I see all the challenges and I know myself and my sin well enough to be worried. So anything that helps stand against them? I should have a couple of those.
The thing is, it’s that worry that injects something toxic in this little word we use called missions. Somewhere it stopped being about getting other people help and started being about making sure we survive. Making sure the institution survives. Making sure the building survives and the voters meetings are staffed. Because we’re very worried about our institutions. We fear, love, and trust our institutions. We have the same problem with them as I have with my junk. As much as I have, all I can see is what I don’t.
And missions becomes the measurement of health in a church. So count people. Volunteers. Money. Programs. Technology. Kids. And usually we’re convinced we need more. It leads to a kind of desperation that’s hard to be anything but selfish. It’s hard to think about my neighbor’s daily bread when I’m starving. It’s hard to think about the wellbeing of the so-called lost when you think the so-called found are about to go under. We paint a picture of a church on the brink of extinction, complain about it, then act shocked nobody else wants to join us.
I see the wolves too. Inside and out. I see sinners who devour what gets in their way. Who snap at each other and build grudges like castles to live in. I see sinners so worried that they don’t have enough they lose sight of what they’ve become: they became the wolves who only care about having more. More to devour.
This is who Christ sends the 72 out to. It wasn’t different then. Same fears. Same selfishness. Same idolatry. Same sin. He’s still sending. And we’re still more focused on what we don’t have than what we do. Jesus sent 72 sinners to give His gifts to other sinners so that we would be more than an institution. Say peace be to this house…and it is. Say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you. And it does. He who hears you hears me. And you do. We spend so much time with the trappings we miss the point. The kingdom of God has come near. The voice of Jesus is speaking through clergy. Forget the trappings we want to measure. Those matter so little you can even go without them. They’re not bad, but God doesn’t need them as much as you think He does. So stop looking at those. God would have you hear something today.
Your sins are forgiven you. Your God is not far from you. Your institutions don’t have to save you because your God already has. He set aside money and possessions. He set aside glory and honor. He took up want and sin and bore it on the cross for you. He won for you your salvation there. He delivers it here.
Jesus didn’t send the 72 because He was too busy. It wasn’t because He wanted to be farther from the people, but closer to them. Look. Listen. See. Taste. Your God is not far away. In word, in sacrament, He brings that gift to you. He that went to the cross for you sends His servants to bring You to Him. Gives them simple words to speak that do the very things they say. It’s the sign of a healthy church.
God speaks to you here. Through sinners. So hard to stomach the thought we dress them up. But the words are what matter. In the stead and by the command of my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, I forgive you this and all your sins. I have no power to do that, but God does, and sends me to tell you with His own voice. All the authority of my little sister telling me to come in for dinner. That’s not her voice. It’s the voice of mom. Disregard it at your own peril. But its a gift. It’s dinner o’clock. Hear the invitation. There is peace here for you. The kingdom of God has come to this place for you. Jesus is here. For you.
The church was never called to growth. Just faithfulness. God handles the rest. He’s pretty good at it. Doesn’t even need money sacks or clothing or sandals. Doesn’t need programs or money or volunteers or kids. It’s not that they’re bad, in fact they can all be used for good. If you saw my feet you’d agree. If you tried San Antonio without air conditioning you’d know. The thing is, the measurement of the church is simpler. Is God here or not? Because if He isn’t, the institution doesn’t matter. Burn it. If He is, then it doesn’t stand on us, but on Him. So relax. He’ll make sure there’s enough. He’ll work good. It will never look like enough to us, but then again it wasn’t for the 72, but they tread on scorpions and serpents all the same, and we walk across the failed plots of the evil one on our way to the altar where God feeds us with what matters. It’s easy to miss for the fear and the want. So what we do here, we do to make it evident. The music. The vestments. The decor. The giant dead Jesus we hang on the wall. We point to what matters. Because it’s too easy to miss.
Christ sends the 72 as sheep among wolves. To bring the Kingdom of God. To give the peace not measured in stuff, but in the blood of the lamb of God who takes away sin of the world. Christ, who gave Himself in body and blood to be devoured by sinners to actually bring peace.
So stop talking about missions, because they always turn into a conversation about what this church doesn’t have. Look at what it does. There’s Jesus here. His kingdom has come near you. His peace is with you. Really here. Really for you when everything else falls apart. For when everything else is devoured. Christ will feed you too. Missions is more than trying to invite people to a restaurant with no food so they can hear about what a cheeseburger sounds like. We’re here to eat. There’s food for you.
And this is real healing. We’ll abide in a land of not enough. Because Christ speaks peace to us here. And that’s enough.