Grace, mercy, and peace from the God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you have a lot of baggage?
Dave and I have been planning our vacation and we discussed whether the suitcases we already have will hold every thing we need. We both pack efficiently and we can do laundry when we are there so we decided we would be OK with just one suitcase each, plus what the airline calls a “personal item” which is their name for purse, briefcase, or backpack. I have my quilted purse and he has a laptop bag.
I am not one of those people who has a lot of bags or purses, but I do have a couple of purses that I use because they will hold my iPad. I have quite a few very pretty bags that I got at Global Mission Events. I used them frequently if I am carrying around books or my laptop or the home communion kit.
Maybe that is a lot of baggage, I don’t know what others have. I do know where you can buy luggage tags that say, “All Lutherans have baggage.”
We all know what it’s like. We need our stuff. It’s convenient to have someplace to put our wallets with our ID and credit cards, our checkbooks, our cell phones, and our keys. We keep things like this close to us because we feel insecure without them.
Identity theft is a concern for many people these days. You can’t travel anywhere without ID cards. We pay for everything we need with debit or credit cards. We need our stuff and we need our baggage to carry it around.
In today’s gospel, Luke tells us a story about Jesus sending seventy people out on a mission.
Imagine with me today, that we are among those people being sent out.
It is quite an honor. In the story just before this one in the gospel, Jesus turns down some would-be followers. They told Jesus they really wanted to follow him, but they had some other stuff to do first, and they would have to catch him later.
We have been chosen to go out on this mission. But Jesus has some instructions, including a list of things we aren’t supposed to bring with us. It almost reads like the list the kids get before going to confirmation camp. Their list says no electronics or make-up or hair dryers.
Jesus is even stricter than camp. He is sending us out without any bags. Just like some airlines, he’s not even allowing one free bag a piece. Not even one of my pretty bags from the global mission events.
It seems all of our old identities and all of our old baggage interfere with the mission he is giving us.
Additionally, we don’t get to follow our own itinerary. We don’t get to pick where we go.
Jesus makes the plans and he has chosen the places for the seventy of us to go.
Seventy is a special number in the Hebrew Bible and biblical numbers are usually symbolic.
Seventy is the number of nations descended from Noah.
Seventy is the number of elders Moses chose to lead the people.
At the time of Jesus, seventy is the number of nations in the whole world.
Sixty-five is the number of synods in the ELCA, so the mission of Jesus is definitely larger than just our own church.
This is not one of those vacation type mission trips either. We aren’t allowed to make any side trips to visit with friends, or get distracted by a bunch of social activities, or waste time with idle conversations along the side of the road.
Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. This is going to be a working trip. Maybe it will feel like too much work sometimes, but we will always have a job.
Jesus has good reason for all his instructions. The mission is important and He wants us to be safe. He reminds us that there will be wolves in the places where we are going.
Wolves are the bad guys in both fairy tales and Bible stories. They are the ones who get the sheep, especially the weaker young ones. Jesus said we will be like lambs in the midst of these wolves.
This could be very scary, if we had to go alone, but we don’t. Jesus is sending us out together. There is a large group of us and we will travel in pairs. We will have each other. We will help each other out. We will support each other. We can depend on each other.
We will be gathering this harvest together. The way we do that is by sharing the peace of Christ everywhere we go, and by telling everyone that the Reign of God is near.
The reign of God is near. Isn’t this what we pray for when we say, “Thy Kingdom come,” in the prayer that Jesus taught us?
What does the Reign of God look like? Imagine it – a world where God is supreme ruler. The harvest is plentiful. Many, many people are waiting to hear the good news that we have to share.
In God’s reign, whenever people greet each other they share the peace of Christ.
Everyone shows hospitality to strangers no matter where they come from.
The harvest is plentiful. Food is shared and no one goes hungry. Everyone has a place to stay and shelter for the night. Everyone has meaningful work and is paid a fair wage. Everyone has access to health care, and the sick are made well.
In this world where God reigns, we don’t need our baggage anymore. Once it gave us our individual identity. Now, God has given us new identities. Together, we are the baptized children of God, all sent by Jesus, as missionaries to the world.
We have been marked by the cross of Christ forever. God gives us real power and authority in the name of Jesus.
In the name of Jesus, we can even cast out the demons in our world.
We no longer need to fear the wolves because together we have the power and authority of Jesus. He has promised that nothing will hurt us.
Jesus calls us to leave our baggage behind and proclaim that the reign of God is near.
He sends us as lambs in the midst of wolves, yet we are never sent alone.
He gives us each other. He gives us the power of his name.
He promises to be with us whenever we are together.
We proclaim that the reign of God is near every time we sing hymns together.
We proclaim that the reign of God is near every time we pray together.
We proclaim that the reign of God is near every time we share the peace of Christ with our neighbors.
We proclaim that the reign of God is near when we leave our own baggage behind and remember our real identity as baptized children of God.
The reign of God is near. Let us rejoice that our names are written in heaven.