Results are up to God
So, as usual, I have some questions for you today.
Have you ever gotten a REALLY COOL PRESENT? What was the BEST PRESENT you ever got?
Did you tell anybody about your present? Maybe your friends?
Why’d you tell them? [Maybe, a little bit of showing off: “Look what I got.”/Maybe, hey this is a great present, and I hope you get one, too./Maybe just, I love to share good news.]
So, what has God done for you? [Creation/life/joy/abundance/food/family/home/ church/friends/etc.] [Saved us from our sins/given us life forever here and in heaven.]
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus told 70 of his friends to go tell others the Good News that God loves us. Jesus told his friends to tell others about God and the gifts that God has given us. You see, just knowing and loving Jesus isn’t good enough, if we never tell anyone else about Jesus.
A few weeks ago, Father Daniel and I and about 500 other priests in our diocese attended the Bishop’s Spring Conference. Has Father Daniel told you about this?
Michael Harvey was the keynote speaker. Mr. Harvey’s claim to fame is that he invented the worldwide Back-to-Church movement. As a result, Mr. Harvey knows a lot about how to invite other people to attend church.
At the conference Mr. Harvey told us a startling statistic: Over 90% of ALL Christians will never tell anyone they know—anyone at all—about Jesus. Think about this! The vast majority of Christians are not willing to share Jesus with anyone, not willing to share the very thing that has fundamentally changed their lives. (Jesus HAS changed your life, hasn’t he?)
I know that I can safely tell you this statistic. My very first time here someone—the Senior Warden, I think—mentioned that Father Daniel has been talking to you about the need to knock on doors near your property. So I expect that you are all witnessing professionals by now. Have you gone door-knocking yet?
The fundamental truth of sharing the Good News of Jesus is that results are NOT up to us. This is so important, I am going to say this sentence again: The fundamental truth of sharing the Good News of Jesus is that results are NOT up to us. Sharing is our responsibility. After that, the ball’s in God’s court, so to speak.
Mr. Harvey’s instructions to us were these:
- First, pray about who to talk to.
- Second, practice what you will say. This practicing won’t take long, because we only need to use these nine words, “Would you like to come to church with me?”
- If they say “yes,” bring them to church with you.
If they say “no,” plan when to ask them again.
- Continue praying for them.
In our gospel lesson today, Jesus is instructing his followers how to tell others his message. Unlike Mr. Harvey’s nine-word message, Jesus’ is 22% shorter. Jesus instructed his followers to say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I think this message is a bit cryptic. Can you picture yourself going up to strangers and telling them, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” and then expecting them invite you to lunch to explain what this message is all about? This message does illustrate this point, though, RESULTS ARE UP TO GOD.
We’ll get back to the message in a minute. Right now, though, I want to talk about the people delivering this message. Luke tells us that Jesus sent 70 of his disciples out, two-by-two, to tell others the Good News, that the “Kingdom of God is at hand.” Until I went to seminary, I thought that Jesus only had twelve disciples while he was alive here on earth. However, Luke makes clear that a large number of people—a crowd of people—always followed Jesus. And Jesus was always urging people to step out of the crowd and become his disciples, to step forward and follow him, to step forward and tell others.
As I said, Luke tells us that Jesus sent 70 of his disciples out to share the Good News. Now this is one of those instances when we have to wonder if there were literally, actually, 70 people sent, or whether Luke meant “a large number.” This is because there is a story in the Old Testament book of Numbers, when Moses asked the Lord for helpers, God had him assemble seventy elders and then God put some of the Spirit that God had given to Moses and shared it with the 70 elders. So Luke is telling us more here than just what the words say. Luke is telling us that God took some of the Spirit that God had given to Jesus and gave that Spirit to these 70 followers of Jesus. From this we can infer that one of the tasks that Jesus left with us which is crucial for the continuation of the Jesus-message, for the continuation of the Good News, is the requirement to tell others what God has done for us. And we know from this passage that the Holy Spirit will help us tell others about God.
Next Jesus told the 70 disciples who were to be his original witnessing labor force, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” This is still true today, even though we Christians sometimes get confused in our counting. We look around us in our increasingly more empty churches today and lament that the harvest is no longer plentiful—as if the mission field were right here in church. NO! The mission field is outside our walls, and the harvest is plentiful, indeed, there.
Let’s compare Mr. Harvey’s instructions and Jesus’ instructions. The instructions that Jesus gave to HIS original disciples were these:
- First, take nothing with you. (In other words: “God will provide.”)
- Second, Jesus says that God will provide people to be hospitable to you, and you should accept whatever hospitality they offer. (In other words: “Everyone you meet is equally precious in God’s sight. Whoever accepts the message, accepts God.)
- Third, share the Good news to all you meet. Say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” (In other words, if they accept you, tell them God’s message. If they don’t accept you, tell them God’s message anyway. In yet other words: “Return kindness whether you get a yes or a no. Results are ???? GOD’S RESPONSIBILITY.)
Now, if I were preaching today in my own church, this would be a very difficult message. My church is $100,000 short on its budget this year, and is spending the year Re-Visioning its future. (In other words: “Does God still want us to exist, and—if so—what does God wish us to be and to do?) Do you know, the very process of giving up, of our stopping in our efforts to do everything the same old way that isn’t working, has greatly re-energized this parish? We’ve been broken open to consider new life. We’ve been broken open to learn, all over again, that “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
In other words, a few people have tried telling others about Jesus and why they are Jesus followers. And, guess what? God is bringing those people to us.
Who will you tell about Jesus? Will you tell them at God’s Kingdom is very, very near? Will you go in ones or twos? If so, this is how you will KNOW that God’s Spirit is upon you. But remember: The results are up to God.