By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
July 8, 2007
Read: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
“The Lord appointed 70 others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.” In preparation for today’s message, it struck me that Jesus appointed “70 others”. This was after he had appointed the 12 apostles that remained close to him. He appointed 70 others…but remember that numbers were significant in biblical times. 12 signified the number of tribes in Israel and the 12 apostles represent those 12 tribes. The number 70 or 72 (depending on which original documents are translated) recalls the number of nations in the world in the list of the descendants of Noah in Genesis. But the point isn’t the numbers, the point is that the 70 spoken of today represents Jesus’ desire for the good news to be shared with the whole world.
And so, we are all called to share Christ’s love with others. We have been appointed, we have been commissioned. The Great Commission. And knowing that, I hear how the 70 were sent out “like lambs in the midst of wolves”; carrying “no purse, no bag, no sandals”.
And I wonder, could I do that? Set out with no money, no food, no shoes and trust that when I arrived at the town someone, who did not know me at all, would take me in? And I’d be safe? Wow.
In some recent discussions about Natural Church Development and passionate spirituality and in bible study, I heard from some members of this congregation who lived in households where their parents provided food for Hobos. I share with you the definition of a hobo…because they don’t quite exist in the same way today. Hobo is a term that refers to a subculture of wandering homeless people, particularly those who make a habit of hopping freight trains. Hobos themselves, seem to differentiate themselves as travelers who are willing to do work, whereas a “tramp” will travel but will not work and a “bum” will do neither. (Wikipedia)
The offering of hospitality to those hobos years ago helped shape the lives of those who offered. It was a Christian thing to do. And I wondered about today. Today, it can be downright dangerous to bring a stranger into the home. But, the term hobo originated when people were moving West in the US and it was applied to the many, who, failing in their first hopes, were forced to the necessity of tramping from community to community in quest of employment. Many hobos were merely men out of work, who were forced to the road by circumstances which they could not control.
And I immediately thought about today and all of those people who have come through the doors of Trinity during the week often seeking financial assistance. It is a rare occurrence that the person telling me a story is telling me the truth. Often he or she is seeking money to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol. And I have come to realize that giving money to an addict only serves to enable them to continue in the pattern of addiction. The opportunity to share the gospel in that circumstance comes only after the development of some kind of relationship. And perhaps that is what Jesus is getting at when he tells the 70 to remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide. And, he says, whenever you enter a town and it’s people welcome you, eat what is set before you. It is often in sharing a meal together we begin to get to know one another.
In this model of mission we heard about this morning, we as Christians, are called to live out the good news of God’s realm by first admitting our own neediness, we all need food, shelter, affection and support. And then, identifying with the people with whom we hope to share the good news, bringing Christ to them as guest first: The one who accepts and eats their food in thanksgiving. Being open to others may then create an opportunity for healing and finally proclaiming. What the 70 accomplish is dictated by the people whom they approach and their needs. This mission is not one-size-fits-all mission applied to people like jam to a piece of toast. From our own vulnerability, we come to know the humanity of others and to build the trust that invites others to reveal that which needs healing and to create the space for profound conversation about the Ultimate, about God.
Now let me share with you what happened on Tuesday afternoon. A man dropped in to my office about 3:30 with a story…not an unusual occurrence. Apparently his car broke down by the Wawa across from Jack’s Pizza. And, he had just moved to Parkesburg and had a 14 year old son who would be home at 4 and would get upset if his father wasn’t there when he was supposed to be. He had asked the Caln police for a ride and their policy is not to drive outside of the township line. So he began to walk along Lincoln Highway toward Parkesburg. Tired and hot when entering downtown Coatesville, he went to the police here and they said the same thing…they could drive him as far as the city limits and drop him off there. He continued walking and saw the Verizon workers outside Trinity and asked them if anyone was here. They indicated yes. So sitting in my office he explained that he simply wanted a ride home so he could get there before 4. No request for money. I couldn’t believe it. So, I gave him a ride. As we were driving I wondered if I was doing something really stupid by getting into a car alone with a strange man and silently prayed prayers for protection. But then I was blessed….he explained that his wife had died in a car accident two years ago, and he and his son had just moved into this house in Parkesburg and that is why his son would be upset if he wasn’t home. He shared with me how the Lord has been an important part of his life. How, when his wife died, he went to his pastor and asked, why me? And the pastor said, why not you? And by way of explanation for that response he was read the book of Job. And this man was so grateful for the ride home…knowing how difficult it would be to find someone willing to give him that ride home.
And, so I feel as if this man and I said “peace” to each other and created the space for me to feel somewhat less afraid in offering him a ride home. And I know just a little bit more about this stranger than I did before. The kingdom of God did indeed come near on Tuesday afternoon….for both of us. Amen.
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