7th Sunday after Pentecost July 3, 2016 The Home Depot? Wawa? Or someplace else?
The harvest is plentiful , but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
The church talks a lot about hospitality; and rightfully so. We want to make sure we are a welcome place. We want to be a good host for the stranger. We see this as our mission.
But the gospel this morning reverses this emphasis on the church being a good host, to the church being a good guest.
Of course, if you are a guest, you’ve been sent away from home. If the church is a good guest, we’ve be sent away from our home, our building.
God doesn’t reap the harvest at home, he reaps it out in the fields.
Maybe we emphasize hospitality at the expense of apostleship. An apostle, is one who is sent out.
St. John’s Lutheran Church in Passaic sought to be more inviting to the immigrant community surrounding their church. On Easter Sunday they made a concentrated effort to welcome this community with an Easter breakfast.
They put all their eggs into one basket. They posted invitations on Facebook. They posted flyers all around the neighborhood. They placed a big sign on their front yard. They invited neighbors, friends, and family.
They prepared a feast, working hard to be good hosts.
But guess how many neighbors showed up? One
Obviously the congregation was dejected.
They also had a problem. What to do with all the food?
But then someone said, why don’t we take it to the Home Depot parking lot, there’s all these day laborers hanging around.
So a group from St. John’s left their church, and took all the food to where the people were. They were welcomed. There was no food left. A relationship was formed.
I don’t know if anyone took bread and wine to the Home Depot parking lot on that Easter Sunday, but they do now. In fact every Sunday St. John’s holds a worship service in the Home Depot parking lot for the day laborers. St. John’s Lutheran Church in Passaic has learned what it means to be sent out, and to be a guest.
This is a hard lesson to learn. The pattern for the church has always been, build a building and wait for people to come.
But this certainly is not the instruction we hear in our gospel this morning. The Christian faith is about being sent out.
It begins in chapter 9 of Luke. Jesus starts with his disciples.
The Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.
Jesus and the disciples didn’t hang around the temple waiting for people to come.
Now in our gospel the mission is expanding. It’s not the 12 sent out but the 70!
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town he intended to go.
As important as it is to be a gracious host, the gospel this morning is more about being a faithful guest.
Christians are sent out. We’re sent out to speak a word of peace. We’re sent out to cure the sick. We’re sent out ahead of Jesus to witness to his presence.
And take note, it’s not easy.
I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
And it gets harder. When we travel we prepare. We all complain about the baggage fees the airlines charge.
But Jesus says, with this mission take nothing with you.
Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.
To be a guest means to be totally dependent on your host.
St. John’s does take breakfast to the Home Depot parking lot, still they catch the spirit of this lesson, as they learn to become vulnerable on another’s turf.
And for them it’s worked. We’re all inspired by this story.
But as our gospel continues, we see it’s not always this easy.
Jesus prepares the 70 for rejection. Some hosts are not so kind.
It happened to the 12 in chapter 9.
As Jesus and the disciples go on their way to Jerusalem they enter a Samaritan village, and we are told that the Samaritans did not receive them.
This was our gospel last Sunday. Do you remember James and John’s reaction?
Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?
This is not an example on how to be a good guest.
What does Jesus tell the 70 this morning about rejection?
Shake the dust off your shoes, a symbolic action that says, “we can see we’re not welcome here.”
It’s okay. Apostleship is not all success. Often there is failure. Not everyone is receptive to the gospel.
But Jesus says, don’t seek to destroy the ungracious host. Just shake the dust off your feet and move on.
And so we go, but where?
It’s hard to plan mission, but it’s important to be ready.
Across the street from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia is a Wawa. Some of my colleagues who are graduates of the seminary, bemoan the fact that it seems the Wawa is better known in the neighborhood than the seminary, despite the fact that the seminary has been there since 1864. As they describe the location on Germantown Avenue in Mount Airy, people often say, “Oh, it’s by the Wawa.”
The seminary could resent this, or they could be sent out as apostles, even if it is only across the street.
Recently the Wawa experienced a robbery. Thankfully no one was hurt, but understandably the staff was disturbed. In response students from the seminary who frequent the store, offered a prayer service.
The people at Wawa said “please.” So the students and faculty crossed the street, they took nothing with them, they entered as guests, witnessed to Jesus and prayed for peace.
We’re not asked to go very far, or to do anything heroic. We’re just asked to be willing to go. To be who we are. To do what we do. To pray, to worship, to feed, to witness.
We still need the church. We need a place for the community to gather; to hear God’s word and to share in God’s sacraments.
But the call of the faith is to go, to be sent, to be a guest who offers Jesus in places that might not know him.
I don’t know exactly where we’re being sent; the Home Depot? Wawa? But I do know that our gospel this morning equips us to be ready.