Archive for May, 2008

The peace that passes all understanding

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Who has a place a place of peace; a safe place; an area set aside, for you to be still and to refocus your life?  And where is it; what is your place of peace?

An artist was commissioned by a wealthy man to paint something that would depict peace. After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful country scene. There were green fields with cows standing in them, birds were flying in the blue sky and a lovely little village lay in a distant valley. The artist gave the picture to the man, but there was a look of disappointment on his face. The man said to the artist, “This isn’t a picture of true peace. It isn’t right. Go back and try again. 

The artist went back to his studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to his canvas and began to paint. When he was finished, there on the canvas was a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child.

He thought, surely, this is true peace, and hurried to give the picture to the wealthy man. But again, the wealthy man refused the painting and asked the painter to try again.

The artist returned again to his studio. He was discouraged, he was tired and he was disappointed. Anger swelled inside him, he felt the rejection of this wealthy man. Again, he thought, he even prayed for inspiration to paint a picture of true peace. Then, all of a sudden an idea came, he rushed to the canvas and began to paint as he had never painted before. When he finished, he hurried to the wealthy man.

He gave the painting to the man. He studied it carefully for several minutes. The artist held his breath. Then the wealthy man said, “Now this is a picture of true peace.” He accepted the painting, paid the artist and everyone was happy. 

And what was this picture of true peace?? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds which were laced with streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm. 

And in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace midst the storm that raged about her. (1)

Peace is not about stopping the storm, its about finding peace in the midst of a our storms; being at peace, or having inner peace, even while all around us, troubles and despair reign down.  To find peace we often run for cover to a physical place; a geographical point away from life’s storms.  However, a physical place can never give true peace.  Jesus’ disciples had just endured a very severe personal storm.  They just witness the crucifixion of their dear friend and teacher, and now they were gathered together behind closed doors, in a place of refuge; a place they had run to, in the hope it would give them some peace from the ongoing turmoil.
Yet even here they found little refuge.  Despite removing themselves physically from the storm ravaging outside, inside their hearts fear deprived them of the peace they so desperately needed; fear they would be found by the Jews; fear of what were the Jewish leaders were going to do; fear they would be arrested; fear of life without hope, stripped them of any peace.

This same search for peace is going on in each and every one of us.  You and I are not exempt from life’s storms, and neither is anyone else.  Every one in this town has their own storm to endure; personal hardship which causes restlessness and despair.  We, like the disciples, are very good at hiding from our storm; our personal problems, by going to a place we hope for peace; we hide our emotions, our true feelings, our worst fears, behind the closed doors of our private homes, or behind the empty bottle of whisky in the pub; or the gambling rooms; or behind the magazine in the porn shops.

Yet, as we all know too well, our personal storms still rage within our hearts.  There is no peace to be found in a geographical place; even with in the walls of a church building.  Peace, true peace which passes all understanding, is only found in the one who can bring peace in the midst of a storm; only found in the one who comes to us, into our hiding places, into our hearts and to say ‘peace be with you.’  And that person is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
In the midst of the disciple’s storm, Jesus came and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus imparts the peace the disciples so desperately needed. He tells them that they can feel peace in their hearts. In the midst of the storm, He is with them, and they had nothing to worry about. He has endured and overcome sin, suffering and even death. He is the nest in which we can rest in the midst of our storms. He showed them his hands and side to prove to them that he wasn’t a ghost, but that he was the same Jesus they had known, the same Jesus they had seen crucified just three days earlier.  The same Jesus who said he is the way and the truth, and the resurrection and the life.
Jesus breathes/imparts/anoints the disciples with the Spirit who brings Peace, the peace which passes all understanding; the peace we now have between God and us, through the forgiveness of sins. We, as members the churches of Gilgandra also have this peace.  The Spirit of God breathed upon us, anointed over us through the word and water of our baptism.  We have the peace in the midst of the storm that only Jesus can give, yet have we inturn imparted this peace upon the people of this town?

Peace is what they so desperately need.  We may not be united in doctrine, we may not worship in the same buildings, but we are united by the same peace of Jesus.  And this peace, which you and I treasure, has no denominational boundaries, no cultural barriers or age restrictions.  Our challenge as Christ’s disciple’s, is to be Jesus in the midst of the people of Gilgandra; in the midst of their storms.
Jesus comes to you in an invisible way, through his Word, not to stop our storms, but to bring peace in the midst of the storm. Every time you hear the Word of God, Jesus steps into your life and says, “Peace be with you.” Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is right there, through his body and blood, and he fills you with faith and hope and peace. Through the Word, through the Sacraments, that’s how Jesus appears to you and speaks to you, just as he did to the disciples.  But it is you and I, the disciples of Jesus, who then go out into the storms of others with the peace of Jesus.

It is you and I, the churches of Gilgandra who can make a difference.  We don’t need to be the stiller of the storm, but we are called to bring Jesus’ Spirit of peace in the midst of people’s storms.  Like this picture depicts.  (look at it, meditate on it, what is it saying to you?) Jesus, with his hand upon your shoulder, will guide you and provide for you a path into and through someone’s storm; a path to reach them; a path to enable you to place you hand on their shoulder and say ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding, all storms, keep you always in Christ Jesus’.  Amen

2nd Sunday after Pentecost – Matthew 6:24-34

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

For those of us with a credit card, how prophetic is the name ‘Mastercard’; rather that our slave, it has become our master and we are its slave as we work to pay it off!  ‘I have a mountain of credit card dept’, one man told the other.  I’ve lost my job, my car is being repossessed, and our house is in foreclosure, but I’m not worried about it.’
‘Not worried about it!’ exclaimed his friend.
‘No.  I’ve hired a professional worrier.  He does all my worrying for me, and that way I don’t have to think about it.’
‘That’s fantastic.  How much does your professional worrier charge for his services?’
‘Fifty thousand dollars a year’ replied the first man.
Fifty thousand dollars a year? Where are you going to get that kind of money?’
‘I don’t know’, came the reply.  ‘That’s his worry’.

For a country that rides on the back of the saying ‘now worries mate’, surprisingly, we are a bunch of worriers. Anxiety and stress in Australia is at an all time high.  Stress management experts say that only two percent of our “worrying
time” is spent on things that might actually be helped by worrying.
The figures below illustrate how the other 98 percent of this time is
spent:
40% on things that never happen
35% on things that can’t be changed
15% on things that turn out better than expected
8% on useless, petty worries
98% of the time our worrying doesn’t accomplish anything, yet we
continually worry. We worry about our treasures, our homes, our
possessions. We worry about finances, about children, about parents.
We worry about our health, our futures, and Jesus names some more things we worry about ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

Why is it we worry so much?  Is it the things that happen in our lives that are the cause of our worry?  Or is it deeper?  Is there something other the ‘things’ which cause us to worry, what is at the root of our anxiety?  Surely God did not create us to be worry warts. In John 16:24 Jesus says us saying ‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’

Jesus, when confronted with so many people without joy, worrying about things, and I am not talking about non-believers, but those who believe in God, he was frustrated with their internal suffering; he was hurt that their worry robbed them of the joy he wanted for them.  He said to them ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.’  Jesus tells the believers, and he is telling us, God knows what you need, so trust in him to provide everything; stop worrying.  But he doesn’t just say that, Jesus goes to the core of our worry; the reason we worry ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’

Worry, anxiety, angst; the 98% factor, Jesus says, is a sign that we have not put the kingdom of God and his righteousness first; that we in fact have an idol in place of God; that what we are worrying about, has in fact replaced God and it has become our worship, our hope of joy…our idol; it consumes all our thoughts, desires and hopes.

As Luther says ‘a god is whatever you look to for fulfilment, for good things and what you run to for help in trouble.’  If indeed God is put first and his righteousness, then we would not be so worried, because we would trust that God would give us what we need;  We would place all our worries onto him as Peter says ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’.  Let me say it again ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’

A doctor once said ‘you don’t get stomach ulcers from what you eat, you get ulcers from what is eating you’.  In other words, worry and anxiety reveals we have become enslaved to an idea, a vision, a hope or dream which we desire at all costs, even if it hurts us or other to get it. And this happens surprisingly easy.  There is a progression, a slippery slope which leads to something becoming idol in our life and replacing God and causing us to worry. I would like to list for you four steps which lead to worry. (modified from the book ‘Peace maker’ by Ken Sande pgs 102-109)

Idols and worry begin with;
1)  Desire:
Some desires are inherently wrong –like vengeance, lust or greed.  But many desires are not.  There is nothing wrong with desiring peace and quiet, respectful children, a loving spouse, a new computer or even a growing church.  It’s the choices we make when our good desire is not met, that can cause us to make an idol of our desire.

There are two choices we can make.
o    We can choose to place our trust in God and seek our fulfilment in him.  And ask that God would grow and mature us in faith so that if things don’t work out, we will graciously accept it.  And in doing so we become more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29 ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son’  -JOY-

The slippery slope begins: .-THE SEEDS OF WORRY-
o    Or we can keep fighting to achieve our desire, dwelling on our disappointment and allowing our desire and disappointment to control our lives.  This leads to self-pity and bitterness towards those who stand in our way, including God

2)  Demand: -THE CULTIVATION OF THE SEED
Unmet desires can work themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts.  Especially true when we see our desire as something we need or deserve and therefore must have in order to be happy or fulfilled.
o    When we see our desire as being essential to our fulfilment and well-being, it moves from desire to demand.  It evolves from ‘I wish I could have this’ to ‘I must have this’
o    When a desire becomes a ‘must have’, it has grown so strong that it begins to control our thoughts and behaviour.  In biblical terms, it has become an idol.
o    An Idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure.  A demand de-thrones God from our lives.
o    It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much.

3)  Worry THE SPROUTING OF THE PLANT
A demand that is unfulfilled, that has become an idol, usually leads us to worry and anxiety; about the unresolved desire; about God and others.
o    We worry about what is going to happen; we worry how we can be happy; we worry over why God does not fulfil our desire.
o    We begin to play God, by worrying and making judgements about ourselves and others.
o    We have set our desire up as a mini-god and place all trust in it eg; ‘once I have a loving relationship I desire, then I will be happy and fulfilled.

4)  Punish BEARING FRUIT
Idols always demand sacrifices.  When our idolatrous desire is not met, someone suffers; someone must be sacrificed.
o    Others are sacrificed- we react in anger, lashing out with hurtful words, our actions to inflict pain.  We reject and hurt God
o    We sacrifice ourselves by withdrawal from relationships and from the ones we love and who can help us; from God himself.  We fall into to bitterness and become miserable and lose our joy.

If this is you, if your desire has brought you to the point of constant worry, or to the point of punishing others or yourself in order to fulfil the desire, then Jesus words are for you: ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’  Redirect your desire onto the Lord, onto God our Father who knows what you need.  Confess to him, Lord Jesus I need you right now; Ask God to deal with the self-made idol and to replace it and to fulfil you with his righteousness, his presence, with his goodness and love, which surpasses any human desire.

This is the good news we have; Jesus has come to release us from whatever holds us captive; whatever makes us a slave. He is our professional worrier.  How are we to pay for such a service…well, thanks be to God, that’s his worry.

Trinity Sunday 2008 – Matthew 28:16-20

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

As with many blokes, I love things with power.  Blokes, and many women of course, enjoy the benefits of power.  Take for instance, the humble family car.  We could be driving around in a small 3cyl Suzuki, but no, we have to buy a V8 Holden or, dare I say it, a Ford, to feel the excitement of unleashing all 250 kilowatts of power.

We love power and we love to use it, ever faster, ever higher should be our motto.  Drag racers strive to go faster with their super powerful cars; cars that can now go down the ¼ mile in under 5 seconds.  From a standing start, they can reach speeds in excess of 450km per hour.  Wow!  That’s power.  Or, what about the space shuttle?  Its powerful engines propel the shuttle into orbit in 8 ½ minutes during which it will reach a speed of 24,500km/h.  Now that’s power.

Or is it?  Our first reading this morning was about how God created the heavens and the earth.  God, our Father, spoke creation into being.  By the power of the word, the world as we know it came into existence.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have seen anything as powerful as God’s word; would you agree?

I have a DVD by Louie Giglio, who examines this sort of power better than I can; let’s take a look.

When we understand the power of God’s word in scientific terms, termes we can understand, we begin to realise the immense power of God’s word.  What God says happens!  Creation is a living example of God’s powerful word, still being sustained by his word as he speaks new life into existence.

Yet, God creating the universe by the power of his word is not his most powerful act.   The power of his word has achieved something far greater; the word of God, the same powerful word which brought the universe into existence, became flesh and lived among us in the man Jesus Christ, as St John writes ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

Yet, this powerful fete is still not the word’s most powerful act.  No, we need to go to the end of the gospels to find that; Matthew writes ‘The angel said to the women (at the tomb) “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’

The word of God has the power to raise the dead to life!  And for us, who are dying, this is the most powerful act of God because his word raises you and me to life.  We were once dead in our sins, separated from God, but now, by the power of Jesus Christ, we live a new life in him.  This is real power, life changing, creating power spoken to us from the word of God himself.  Remember earlier, God spoke ‘let their by light’ and it came into being?  Jesus spoke to you saying ‘whoever is baptised and believes will be saved’; you are baptised, you believe –you are saved’.  Now that’s the power of God’s word.  What God says happens.

This is the good news we have, the incredible power of the word in us; we are raised to new life in Christ to live with him eternally, even though we die.  This is the power given to us in our baptism as Luther says ‘Stated most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of baptism is to save.  No one is baptized for the purpose of making him a prince, but as the words say, that he may be ‘saved’.  To become saved is, as we know, nothing else than to be delivered from sins, from death, and from the devil, and to come into Christ’s kingdom and live with him forever.’

And this powerful word of God, the word which raises people from the dead, is precisely what Jesus passes on to his disciples and on to us when he says ‘All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you’.  Jesus, the word of God, the power of God, passes on to you and me, the power of his word to raise the dead; to bring to life people who are still dead in their sins; sin which separates them from God.

Its like when your parents pass you the keys to the family car; you now have the power to get around and the freedom to use it.  However, you also know, that the power does not belong to you, it has only been passed onto you for you to use; hopefully for your benefit and the benefit of others.

Jesus’ passing on of the powerful word works the same way.  We don’t own it, all authority has been given to Jesus, not us.  However, as we speak God’s word to people in their need, their suffering, or in their desire just to know about the hope we have, the power of the word given to us, the good news of Jesus, changes lives and raises the dead.  Just as written in Hebrews ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’

Of course, the power of God’s word is always a hidden power; not dramatic or spectacular, but hidden in the soul, like a seed underground.  We plant the word as we speak it and only in the future will we see the fruits of God’s word, only in the future will we witness the life changing power.  For now, all we may see is small and insignificant things or perhaps nothing at all.  However, the power of God’s word is indeed at work in those we speak the good news to around us.  In the coming months, we as a church will be looking at how best we can enact Jesus mission command in our community and how we can best equip you to go unleash the power of God’s word in the lives of the people you know personally.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” and it was so, will make the light of his Son Jesus Christ shine in our hearts and in the heart our community as the gospel is proclaimed, because – what he says happens.  Amen

Sermon: John 20:19-23 The peace that passes all understanding

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Who has a place a place of peace; a safe place; an area set aside, for you to be still and to refocus your life? And where is it; what is your place of peace?

An artist was commissioned by a wealthy man to paint something that would depict peace. After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful country scene. There were green fields with cows standing in them, birds were flying in the blue sky and a lovely little village lay in a distant valley. The artist gave the picture to the man, but there was a look of disappointment on his face. The man said to the artist, “This isn’t a picture of true peace. It isn’t right. Go back and try again.

The artist went back to his studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to his canvas and began to paint. When he was finished, there on the canvas was a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child.

He thought, surely, this is true peace, and hurried to give the picture to the wealthy man. But again, the wealthy man refused the painting and asked the painter to try again.

The artist returned again to his studio. He was discouraged, he was tired and he was disappointed. Anger swelled inside him, he felt the rejection of this wealthy man. Again, he thought, he even prayed for inspiration to paint a picture of true peace. Then, all of a sudden an idea came, he rushed to the canvas and began to paint as he had never painted before. When he finished, he hurried to the wealthy man.

He gave the painting to the man. He studied it carefully for several minutes. The artist held his breath. Then the wealthy man said, “Now this is a picture of true peace.” He accepted the painting, paid the artist and everyone was happy.

And what was this picture of true peace?? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds which were laced with streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm.

And in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace midst the storm that raged about her. (1)

Peace is not about stopping the storm, its about finding peace in the midst of a our storms; being at peace, or having inner peace, even while all around us, troubles and despair reign down. To find peace we often run for cover to a physical place; a geographical point away from life’s storms. However, a physical place can never give true peace. Jesus’ disciples had just endured a very severe personal storm. They just witness the crucifixion of their dear friend and teacher, and now they were gathered together behind closed doors, in a place of refuge; a place they had run to, in the hope it would give them some peace from the ongoing turmoil.

Yet even here they found little refuge. Despite removing themselves physically from the storm ravaging outside, inside their hearts fear deprived them of the peace they so desperately needed; fear they would be found by the Jews; fear of what were the Jewish leaders were going to do; fear they would be arrested; fear of life without hope, stripped them of any peace.

This same search for peace is going on in each and every one of us. You and I are not exempt from life’s storms, and neither is anyone else. Every one in this town has their own storm to endure; personal hardship which causes restlessness and despair. We, like the disciples, are very good at hiding from our storm; our personal problems, by going to a place we hope for peace; we hide our emotions, our true feelings, our worst fears, behind the closed doors of our private homes, or behind the empty bottle of whisky in the pub; or the gambling rooms; or behind the magazine in the porn shops.

Yet, as we all know too well, our personal storms still rage within our hearts. There is no peace to be found in a geographical place; even with in the walls of a church building. Peace, true peace which passes all understanding, is only found in the one who can bring peace in the midst of a storm; only found in the one who comes to us, into our hiding places, into our hearts and to say ‘peace be with you.’ And that person is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

In the midst of the disciple’s storm, Jesus came and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus imparts the peace the disciples so desperately needed. He tells them that they can feel peace in their hearts. In the midst of the storm, He is with them, and they had nothing to worry about. He has endured and overcome sin, suffering and even death. He is the nest in which we can rest in the midst of our storms. He showed them his hands and side to prove to them that he wasn’t a ghost, but that he was the same Jesus they had known, the same Jesus they had seen crucified just three days earlier. The same Jesus who said he is the way and the truth, and the resurrection and the life.

Jesus breathes/imparts/anoints the disciples with the Spirit who brings Peace, the peace which passes all understanding; the peace we now have between God and us, through the forgiveness of sins. We, as members the churches of Gilgandra also have this peace. The Spirit of God breathed upon us, anointed over us through the word and water of our baptism. We have the peace in the midst of the storm that only Jesus can give, yet have we inturn imparted this peace upon the people of this town?

Peace is what they so desperately need. We may not be united in doctrine, we may not worship in the same buildings, but we are united by the same peace of Jesus. And this peace, which you and I treasure, has no denominational boundaries, no cultural barriers or age restrictions. Our challenge as Christ’s disciple’s, is to be Jesus in the midst of the people of Gilgandra; in the midst of their storms.

Jesus comes to you in an invisible way, through his Word, not to stop our storms, but to bring peace in the midst of the storm. Every time you hear the Word of God, Jesus steps into your life and says, “Peace be with you.” Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is right there, through his body and blood, and he fills you with faith and hope and peace. Through the Word, through the Sacraments, that’s how Jesus appears to you and speaks to you, just as he did to the disciples. But it is you and I, the disciples of Jesus, who then go out into the storms of others with the peace of Jesus.

It is you and I, the churches of Gilgandra who can make a difference. We don’t need to be the stiller of the storm, but we are called to bring Jesus’ Spirit of peace in the midst of people’s storms. Like this picture depicts. (look at it, meditate on it, what is it saying to you?) Jesus, with his hand upon your shoulder, will guide you and provide for you a path into and through someone’s storm; a path to reach them; a path to enable you to place you hand on their shoulder and say ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding, all storms, keep you always in Christ Jesus’. Amen

Get Real – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Get real is what David thought when he tried on Saul’s armour to fight Goliath; it was too cumbersome, too heavy to fight with. Get Real is what David did when he took off the ill fitting armour, picked up five smooth stones from the brook, and went out to battle Goliath; David got real, and when he did, he was freed to fight with God’s armour, and not human armour.

Get Real was the name and focus for the two day conference Bill, Karen and I went to in Sydney last week.  Rev Dr Michael Foss was the key note speaker.  He is the senior pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran church in Burnsville, Minnesota.  His passion and ministry focus is to redesign the Lutheran church for a new age of mission and ministry.

Get Real is what the Lutheran church needs to do if it is to stop the out flux of members; if we are to stop losing all our young people; if we are to be faithful Jesus’ calling to make disciples of all nations.

To Get Real, Foss argues, means to take off the old armour, the old ideas and ways of doing things, which served us well in the past, but are no longer effective any more.  Everyone here would feel the same as he does, we hurt when we see our dear children, previous members, and people in the community rejecting faith in Jesus, no longer coming to church and we are confused and stumped as to what we can do: who is to blame? Us? Is God’s word not effective any more?

No, Foss says, it is the system that is letting us down; its the way we do ministry that needs to change.  Its like David trying to fight for God’s people in Saul’s armour; our church is trying to fight for God’s people wearing cumbersome, out of touch and impractical ways of doing ministry.  A ministry that no longer connects with the changing world and no longer even connects with those in the pews; that’s why they are leaving.  It is a mode of ministry based on membership instead of discipleship.

For the Lutheran church to Get Real in today’s post-modern, post-Christian world, Foss says it needs to move from membership to a discipleship way of thinking; from making ‘members’ who receive ministry, to making disciples who give ministry; to Get Real means to listen to the preacher duck, and learn to fly.

I will close this talk posing some of Pastor Michael’s challenging questions; questions we as a congregation need to face.

The text for this morning’s address is:
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’
16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

o    Jesus has just sent out 72 disciples to go and tell the good news to the surrounding towns, that the kingdom of God is near.  Can you tell me what they were told to bring?  Nothing!  Even money was not needed.  Nothing was taken along to assist with the mission task, Jesus had already given them everything they would need; they were to just go out without a plan, with out and map, without an itinerary.
o    mission is not about what we have and what we don’t have.
o    I don’t have…our church doesn’t have…its not about what we are to carry…its not about the preparations and the plans; its not about how well we create and run mission programs.

Mission is first of all about who we are.  Jesus sends out the 72 with nothing, yet when the disciples come back they say ‘”Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”  With nothing but the word and command of Jesus, not even any money, great things were achieved.  So great, that Jesus even sees the devil fall like lightning from the sky.

o    Jesus is not concerned about what they did; he is not concerned about the route they took, the type of people they saw; the mission strategies and procedures they undertook.  Jesus is not interested in programs.  Jesus is first and foremost interested in reminding his disciples of who they are.
o     ‘do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
o    They are children of God.  They are forgiven, they are loved by Jesus and they are his disciples; that is who they are.  And flowing out of this knowledge is joy.  A joy that gave them the courage to go out and tell others.
o    We are children of God.  We already have every gift. Everything we need.  We have forgiveness, grace and eternal life; we have the spirit.  In baptism we become a child of God. We are loved by Jesus and we are his disciples; his followers.

o    And as a child of God, are we not already fully equipped from the work he has assigned for us?  Just as he prepared the 72, Jesus has already prepared us for what ever he calls us to do.  He has given us his spirit, his words, his presence as he has promised ‘do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’

o    Yet as Lutherans, we still need to have everything planned out and be fully prepared before we attempt any sort of mission.  We are afraid to step out on to the mission road without a road map!  We are afraid to lose what we have in order to go with nothing.  We need to know precisely what to expect and have contingency programs in place, ready for every possible scenario.

o    Jesus sends out the 72 without any of this, yet look what happened.  Jesus knew they would learn as they go, learn to trust in God; trust his word and his faithfulness.

o    Pastor Michael Foss posed this question to us ‘are we in the LCA more worried about what we have, than who we are?  As disciples of Jesus, are we prepared to let go of what we have and learn as we go, and learn to trust in God, and develop an authentic Australian expression of Lutheranism?  And are we ready once again to rely on the faithfulness of God, as our forefathers did and become disciples of the church and not just members’?

o    Put your hand up if know of a time when God was faithful to you?  Is God’s faithfulness a once off deal, only valid for that point in your life?  Of course not; God is always faithful.  Fix your eyes on God’s faithfulness.  (how do you row a boat? Turn around and try to look over our shoulder?  What happens?  When we row a boat, we don’t concentrate on where we are heading we focus our vision on a fixed point on the shore and row away from it)

o    We go backwards into the future.  As Christians, we fix their eyes on the previous faithfulness of God to go out backwards into the future.  We fix our eyes on the cross, and on the open grave; we fix our eyes on the font from which we received new birth and became disciples of Jesus.  As long as we fix our eyes on the faithfulness of God, we can go back into the future as disciples with faith that changes lives, that serves beyond the church, that risks everything for the sake of others.
o    Think about this:

o    We have faith because we stand on the shoulders of those who taught us the faith…do we have broad enough shoulders to carry the next generation?

o    Are we able to dream big enough that only the NEXT generation can fulfil it?

o    As disciples of Jesus, do we see ourselves as just bricklayers or kingdom builders?  Same calling, different vision!