Picture it: You are standing in a large crowd surrounded by hundreds even thousands of people who, like you, have travelled far to hear this rabble-rouser Jesus preach and teach. You’ve travelled long hours in the hot desert sun from the east to a hilly knoll where you take your place among people from all over the region. Suddenly the crowd gets a bit quieter as this Rabbi begins to teach. His message is like none other you’ve ever heard. He speaks about loving those who hate you, about making peace with those you are angry with, and about proclaiming a radical new vision of the kingdom of God. A way of living that no matter who you are, the wrongs you have committed, or the amount of money in your purse you are loved and accepted by God. There’s just something about his message that intrigues you, it’s so counter to what you have heard previously. It encourages peacefully speaking out against the wrongs of the Roman occupation, it encourages a new look at sacrificial atonement, and on top of all of this, Jesus himself is claiming to be the divine son of God Almighty.
As you listen Jesus gets to a point where he’s calling out to the crowd, inviting anyone that feels so called to proclaim the gospel to step forward, to commit to going forth from the comforts of their homes and proclaim the good news to a world ripe with war, violence, poverty, and disease. Before you can stop yourself you jump up, after all you had comfortably seated yourself in a place where there was some hope of shade from the afternoon sun. You make your way forward. Before you realize what is happening Jesus has his hands on your head commissioning you to spread this new way of doing things. Suddenly your life went from a comfortable peaceful existence to something totally different. Suddenly you have been asked to give up your shoes! In favor of walking barefoot from town to town. Which also means that you’ll be asked to give up other comforts. There goes that favorite tunic, the comfortable tent, the lucrative sheep herd. Suddenly, your life just got a whole lot more simple and as a result, a lot more complicated.
W. Somerset Maugham, English author and playwright most famous for novels Of Human Bondage and Cakes and Ale, wrote, “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.” Friends, our lives are on the cusp of dramatically changing. We have lead very separate lives in the same direction. One image that often comes to mind in thinking about this is Camp Mechuwana, where I have spent the past 10 years working as part of the seasonal staff. As you drive along the dusty dirt road past the welcome Garden, Basketball courts, Soccer field, several camping areas, winding past the dining commons and down the hill toward the lodge you inevitably have to, at some point turn around, at least to head back up the hill for Supper. There are various pathways, and 2 roads that lead back to the dining commons. The most popular are the main camp road that we just drove down and the Owl trail which follows the same route as the road to the top of the hill, but through the woods--giving ample opportunity to see wildlife and for kids to complain about having to walk up the hill. We all began at the top of the road and we will all eventually have to drive on to our next stop but on the way we get to spend time together, we get to share a meal together, like we will do in a moment. Our Sunday meal that starts off our week, that begins our time together. In our time together we will disagree, we may argue, we may flip a few canoes in the middle of the lake but we do it with the knowledge that as a quote in a welcome email I received this week says, “God [has] led us to this, God will see us through this.”
The change in the seventy that Jesus called, commissioned, and sent on their way was inevitable. They were no longer who they were previously. Their time for awakening had come. All they could do was answer Christ’s call on their lives.
I love to go for walks. When I was a freshman in college, at the University of Maine at Presque Isle I would walk Main Street almost every night. Generally it was time for me to be with God. It was a time that I could get angry with God, or challenge the existence of God and somehow I was reassured. One particular evening in November or December I think it was, I was on my usual walk and finally got it. Instead of an Abercrombie and Fitch model I was being called into ministry. Now I know what you’re thinking: why not Ambercrombie and Fitch. Well when the Holy Spirit is moving, the Holy Spirit is moving as I began to explore this pull with my pastor and the District Superintendent there were times I was anxious, scared, ready to run the other way. God kept pulling though. I had already picked up the phone and no matter how many times I tried to hang up God had my number on redial. As a result a change has taken place. I am no longer the person I was those 8 years ago, nor will I be the same person in another 8 years.
Friends, we are embarking on a journey that has never been tried in this part of the country ever before. 3 churches, 2 co-pastors, one common mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Just as that person who answered Christ’s call and was sent out as one of the seventy was scared, anxious, went out on a limb, so we do as well. Just as that person had God on his or her side, so we do, too. Friends the journey will bring a few pot holes and rocks in our shoes from walking the dusty road to dinner, but we make the journey together, carrying the knowledge and love of Christ Jesus everywhere we go.