Jeremy Heuslein, Outreach Worker at Holy Trinity Brussels who is completing his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Leuven reflects on this Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Luke 10.1-11, 16-20.
My initial reaction to this reading is usually something along the lines of a sarcastic, ‘Well, thanks for that, Jesus.’ This is probably because it is hard not to read this as analogous to ministry, especially in the Diocese of Europe. Two by two? If only. More workers? Yes, please. As sheep among wolves? Definitely feels that way sometimes, and those are the members of our congregations. Let alone hostile people that often seem to find our chaplaincies.
And yet, I can also find this passage to be immensely encouraging. Jesus delegates the ministry of the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t keep it for himself; he doesn’t mark it off as a sacrosanct activity only exercised by a holy few. He sends out 72 of his followers. The twelve would have been included in that, but 60 others as well. These aren’t the disciples that we know and love or hate. These would have been the average people following Jesus, growing in their discipleship and knowledge of the Kingdom of God.
They were sent out to do the work of the Kingdom of God: proclaim peace, heal the sick, speak on the Kingdom and call it into existence wherever they went, and also accept the hospitality offered to them. They imitate the life and ministry of Jesus, and in doing so, Jesus knows that they will not be accepted everywhere. Jesus comforts them with the truth that they are rejected not in themselves, but that a rejection of them is a rejection of Jesus. The disciples, in this work and ministry, are aligned with the coming of the Kingdom of God, which they are to proclaim is ‘near’ or ‘at hand.’ It is not yet arrived, but it is on its way. There is something deeply disruptive about this.
As we are called to be workers in the fields that God has sent us, we are called to this ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom, of being like lambs among wolves, dependent on God and the miraculous provision of those He brings us across. We are to proclaim peace, healing, and the coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is still at hand, promised and on its way but not yet here in full. Every disciple, every follower of Jesus, is called into this work. And at times, it is lonely. At times, it is hard. At times, you do have to shake the dust from your sandals and leave. There can be grace in leaving. And we may see the miracles; we may see powers overturned. But Jesus reminds us that our true rejoicing is with our connection, our belonging to him. As we are held by the hands of the Good Shepherd, nothing can truly harm us for nothing can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890. Harvest in Provence, from ‘Art in the Christian Tradition’, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
So, let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest. Let us pray for fellow-workers to be sent out, for those who would welcome us and the peace that will be offered to them, for those that will not welcome the Kingdom that its slow-moving grace would work in their lives, for ourselves that we may be sustained on the journey by the provisions God brings, for the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom when every power, principality, and person will kneel and the Lamb’s Kingdom of life will reign. Amen, come Lord Jesus.