We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Pentecost 4, Proper 9, July 3, 2022

Native American Prayers

We’re going to start off this time together with a little mind exercise. 

Here’s a statement from today’s gospel to think over. 

“The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 

(Time to think)

In your time of reflection, what came to mind? 

(Answers from congregation)

Now, turn to your neighbor and offer this greeting. 

“The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 

(People greet one another)

How did you feel as you offered that greeting? 

How did you feel as you received that greeting? 

I’m thinking that this greeting is revolutionary! 

In today’s gospel, Jesus sent seventy people out ahead of him in pairs to prepare the way for his coming.  And Jesus told them to greet the people with this greeting, “The Kingdom of God has drawn near you.” In the towns that received them, the disciples brought about miracles and the kingdom of God did indeed draw near.     

Now what if at the end of each day, I had to report in to Jesus about how my mission of bringing God’s kingdom near had gone that day?  Would I have anything to report? 

Some days, I’d have to confess a complete fail! 

Thank God that even when we do fail (think Peter and all his failures) Jesus will send us out yet again. 

So what CAN we do to bring the kingdom of God near to the places and to the people that Jesus sends us to each day? 

The first thing is to remember that we carry God’s peace out with us.  In fact, God’s peace is the most important thing that Jesus asks us to carry out into the world.   

And God’s peace is a treasure.    

Today’s first hymn, “Peace before us,” written by David Haas, is based on a Navaho prayer.   In Native American spirituality, as well as Celtic spirituality, God’s presence “permeates everything—blending and shading into all of life like the iridescent colours of the rainbow.”   (Hymn notes on WLP 791 in Wonder, Love and Praise.)

So to carry God’s peace into the world, we can pray that all around each one of us will be God’s peace, that all around  each one of us will be God’s love, that all around each one of  us will be that iridescence of God’s light, that all around each one of us will be the presence of Jesus.

Then we pray again  that all around us will be peace—for that peace that we long for and that peace that we want to carry out  is made up of God’s love, light, and the presence of Jesus himself with us, around us and dwelling in us constantly. 

This peace is a gift from God.

Jesus points out in today’s gospel that we must be willing to accept the gift of God’s peace.    

God’s peace is a living thing—if we decide to accept God’s peace and to share in it, then God’s peace will rest in us, take root in us, and grow in us.    

But if we decline it, and there are so many ways to decline God’s peace, that peace will simply return to God.    

God’s peace won’t be wasted, so when we don’t want it, God sends it elsewhere, until at last if finds a resting place in another’s heart, where it can take root and grow. 

So  let’s be people who accept God’s peace and let that peace grow up in us. 

Then, Jesus can send us out into the world bearing that peace to those who need it so desperately. 

And when we truly bear that peace out into the world, people will know that the kingdom of God has indeed drawn near. 

So –we have God’s peace to carry into the world but we need the energy to deliver it.   

One of the reasons we come to church each Sunday is to get rejuvenated for the week ahead, sort of like going to the gas station when our gas tanks are on  empty.  We get refueled so that we can go out and do God’s work. 

Each week we come to God’s table ready to receive the body and blood of Christ, literally taking God’s presence into us.  And when we come to the table, we receive comfort. 

Isaiah describes God as comforting us as a mother comforts her child, and so we are comforted at God’s table. 

Jesus directs the disciples to go out and to graciously receive hospitality from those who welcome them, to receive the comfort that others offer to them.  “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide,” a lovely give and take, a back and forth reminiscent of the dance of shared love among the Trinity. 

That constant exchange of love produces its own holy energy in which we share when we come together to the Lord’s table with humble and open hearts,  ready to receive whatever it is that God intends to provide to each one of us this day. 

Our temptation though, is to prefer giving to receiving.  After all, Paul told the Ephesian elders in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus himself said that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

And yet, being willing to receive has its own benefits that help us grow into the disciples who can give God’s gifts to others by carrying God’s peace and healing into the world. 

In her blog on leadership, Jesse Lee Stoner lists several reasons why receiving can be a good thing.  I think Jesus would agree with her reasons. 

Receiving reminds you that you’re not in charge, and helps you to develop a more realistic self-image.  

Receiving keeps you humble. 

When you receive, you allow others the opportunity to feel the pleasure of giving, and you create a space for others to shine. 

Receiving lets us experience gratitude. 

Receiving helps us to begin to understand what strength really is. 

Receiving makes us more well-rounded and helps  our relationships  with one another to become richer.  (https://leadershipfreak.blog/2011/12/19/its-better-to-give-than-receive-and-other-lies/ )

So now, let’s go back to where we started. 

Imagine yourself surrounded by and filled with God’s peace. 

Imagine yourself with an open heart, open hands,  humbly ready to receive the gifts that God wants you to receive.  For the moment, just lay aside what you have to offer. 

Now imagine going out now in peace, your hearts and hands open. 

Imagine this. 

And now, turn to your neighbor once more, and greet that person in peace, with your hands open, 

saying, “The kingdom of God has drawn near.” 

May God’s kingdom draw near to us this day, and may we receive God’s strength to  carry God’s  love and light and peace out into the world. 

Religion in the Declaration

“Declaration of Independence” – John Trumbull (1817)

Unlike the United States Constitution, the Declaration makes reference to God. However, that’s about it. The Declaration never mentions Jesus Christ, does not quote the New Testament, and fails to move beyond vague descriptions of God. It is more indicative of a 18th century world view.  

There are four references to God either directly or indirectly. A close examination of these references tell us something about the religious world view of its writers. 

1. ” When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws and Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind required that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

So what is “Nature’s God? David Voelker wrote the following in 1993 before he became a history professor 

“Nature’s God” was clearly the God of deism in all important ways. That Jefferson included God in the “Declaration of Independence” is very significant because it helped lay the foundation for a civil religion in America. Paul Johnson addressed the civil religion begun by the founders in his article, “The Almost-Chosen People,” saying that the United States was unique because all religious beliefs were respected. People were more concerned with “moral conduct rather than dogma.” So Jefferson helped create a society in which different religions could coexist peacefully because of the emphasis on morality over specific belief.”  

The Deists saw God as a great geometer who created and set the world in motion. God was distant. Jefferson was a believer in God whose existence could be proved but his nature not known as well.  He remained a Deist in also rejecting the rituals and sacraments of modern religion 

Voelker further identifies the deists – “Deists were characterized by a belief in God as a creator and “believed only those Christian doctrines that could meet the test of reason.” Deists did not believe in miracles, revealed religion, the authority of the clergy, or the divinity of Jesus. Like Jefferson they “regarded ethics, not faith, as the essence of religion.” All in all religion was private for Jefferson. Religion was practical, a source of moral values derived from God.  

Deism was popular since oppressive European states were associated with faiths whether Catholicism in France or Anglicanism in England.  If you  question the government’s policies then you should question those of religion. They criticized organized religion for fostering divisive sectarianism, for encouraging persecution, and for stifling freedom of thought and speech throughout history.

It is probably safe to say, however, that the Founding Fathers did not hold all Deist thought as sacrosanct. Several Deists like Franklin believed that God could intervene in the affairs of human beings. Gregg Fraser in Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders, characterizes Jefferson as not a Deist but a “theistic rationalist”, because Jefferson believed in God’s continuing activity in human affairs. 

2. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

Actually, the reference to the idea that self-evident truths are “endowed by their Creator” was not part of Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration. It was added later by Benjamin Franklin, a member of the writing committee. Jefferson’s original wording was: “that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable.” Franklin’s change to the text makes it clear that he and the Continental Congress wanted to affirm the belief that the unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” came from God.  

It recognizes that unalienable rights are defined by God, not by the civil government.  Jefferson believed that no government had the authority to mandate religious conformity, and his Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786) helped guarantee the right to freedom of conscience.  

By replacing derived with endowed by their Creator, the Declaration rested upon rights as God had given them, not as man understood them to be. Thus, America’s founders chose to establish the new nation upon the laws of nature and of nature’s God, not upon natural law or man or government 

Civil recognition of the idea that unalienable rights come from God is a fundamental element of the laws of nature. 

3. “We…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name and Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”  

Once again, these words were not included in Jefferson’s original draft, but added during the discussion of the document on the floor of the Second Continental Congress. Unlike the references to “Nature’s God” and the “Creator,” the phrase “Supreme Judge of the World” is a bit more specific. Unlike the vague God of the first two paragraphs, the use of the words “Supreme Judge of the World” suggests that the God to whom the Congress appealed will one day judge humankind.  

One could reject some of the other central tenets of orthodox Christianity (such as the deity of Christ or his resurrection from the dead) and still believe that God would judge humans in the next life based upon their behavior in this one. Indeed, nearly all of the signers of the Declaration believed in a God who judges humankind, either in this world or the next. 

4. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The God of the Declaration of Independence is not only the author of natural rights and the judge of the world, but He also governs the world by His “Providence.” The term “providence,” as it was used in the eighteenth-century, was usually used to describe an active God who sustains the world through His sovereign power. It refers to God’s hand in history, working His will through man’s interaction with God, his fellow man, and with nature in conjunction with man’s free will.  

He performs miracles and answers prayers. By referencing “Providence,” the members of Congress were affirming their belief that God would watch over them and protect them in this time of uncertainty, trial, and war. Whether they embraced all of the tenets of orthodox Christianity or not, most of the signers could affirm a belief in the providence of God.

Steven Waldman in his seminal work Founding Faith wrote this about the delegates view of Divine Providence

“John Hancock, the first to sign, had served as president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress when it declared that “it becomes us, as Men and Christians,” to rely on “that GOD who rules in the Armies of Heaven.”‘ George Read, one of Delaware’s delegates, had written the Delaware constitution, which required legislators to take an oath to “God the Father, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost.” New Jersey’s delegate was the Reverend John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton, which trained young men to become evangelical ministers. It was Witherspoon who had authored a resolution the year before, on July 20,1775,calling for a continentwide day of fasting and prayer, and he was hardly a Deist: “I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12],” he had written. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, who offered the resolution on independence, would a year later propose one creating a national day of prayer in which the people “may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.”

The Real Purpose of the Declaration

Read the Declaration

The grievances annotated

The Declaration of Independence which we will hear, reflect and celebrate on July 4 in Port Royal has been reinterpreted in successive generations. It was first and foremost a document to indicate failure – the petition process of earlier years by the colonists had failed. The King dismissed the colonists well-reasoned arguments attributing them to a few troublemakers. He was convinced in 1775 that the the purpose of the “American rebellion” was  for independence right from the beginning. He raised forces, hired foreign troops and had burned American cities (Norfolk) in early 1776 to try to force them back by making them submit.

Garry Wills emphasizes in his book Inventing America that the purpose of the Declaration was not to make the colonies self-governing – they were already acting that way.  Congress’ action in 1776 was to acknowledge what had happened, particularly in the debating of independence in key towns of America and the creation of state and local declarations of independence. Many of these particularly in Virginia were stepping stones toward what became state constitutions. 

The events of early 1776 led people to see that England had already separated from them.   The real motive of Congress and the declaration was a necessary step to secure foreign aid. In that they had to provide a unified stand, difficult with 13 separate colonies.  They had to make their cause seem justifiable. In the end they needed that.  They wanted to move away from the concept of “rebellion”.  England would be dealing with a country not a group of rebellious colonies.

Much of the meaning we celebrate in the Declaration is close to Lincoln’s concept of the document – that the statements on equality and rights set a standard of the future – that it was a statement of ideals and goals to be established for the future. The values he emphasized were part of the Revolution generation – equality, human rights, government by consent. He needed to restate those values in a new way to broaden its appeal and to apply it to his time in the midst of the Civil War.

This was best stated in the Gettysburg Address. The Union triumph became the result of the idea that “all men are created equal” and what he called for was the Union complete the “unfinished work” and bring to “this nation, under God, a new birth of freedom.”

Collecting Markers for the school year

Sunday, July 17th is the deadline for St Peter’s to collect 250 boxes of markers for Caroline County school children, to be distributed by Caroline’s Promise on Saturday, July 23rd. Our goal is to collect 250 boxes of markers, eight in a box. The illustration will give you an idea of the sort of markers needed, although your donation does not have to be a particular brand.

Bring your donation to church and place in the back pew in the marked box. If you’d like to make a monetary donation toward this project, write a check to St Peter’s and put Markers/Outreach on the memo line.

Commentary, Pentecost 4C, July 3, 2022

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

I. Theme – God’s Call and Response to us, being sent out on mission

First Reading – Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm – Psalm 66:1-8
Epistle – Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Gospel – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 

Today’s readings focus on the Christian experience of being sent by Jesus to continue his mission. This Sunday’s lectionary readings reflect on God’s call and our response, and how this affects the shape of grace and healing in our lives.

Isaiah speaks words of peace and hope for God’s people because God’s love never fails. Paul closes his letter to the Galatians with some final counsel on behavior within the Christian community. Luke tells of the mission of the 70 disciples and their success in defeating Satan.

How do we live out God’s faithfulness in our lives? How do we witness to others? When we read of the message to the seventy, Jesus is not calling them out to condemn and cause fear but instead to heal and proclaim Good News. God has brought Good News through Jesus Christ, but it is human beings who have drawn the dividing lines. It is human beings who will not receive the message of peace, who turn away from God’s love, who restrict and condemn others. God desires restoration, healing, and forgiveness, and offers us new life, if we choose to accept

Transformation emerges through a dynamic process of divine-human call and response. Our openness and efforts make a difference to the quality and extent of God’s presence in our lives. As scripture says, Christ is always standing at the door, knocking and seeking our attention and partnership in the quest for planetary and personal wholeness. Whether and how we the open the door to God’s graceful, intimate, and visionary energy can make all the difference in the world.

The central message this week is simple but significant – do not despise the saving power of small things. God’s commitment to justice, restoration and healing is proclaimed strongly through the Psalms and Isaiah’s song, but the way God’s saving work comes into being is often through small, ordinary people and actions

The picture of God’s care and comfort in Isaiah is that of an ordinary, familiar domestic scene – a child being nursed by its mother. Galatians speaks about the work of following Christ in the every day terms of our relationships with one another (correcting each other and sharing burdens), taking responsibility and doing good for all. And Jesus sends his disciples out to share the message of God’s reign, while accepting hospitality along the way – a very ordinary practice for travelers. Even when they celebrate overcoming demons, Jesus downplays it.

The power of the church to bring wholeness to society is in the grace, kindness and mutual encouragement that comes form living as the letter to the Galatians instructs. And, in every individual, the willingness to receive God’s grace and healing through ordinary means frees us to become channels. Our impact is often less about how we structure our services or what kind of music we use or how “prominent” we are in our community. Often it is in the quiet work of nurturing care and service within our community, and in doing the slow, transformative work of growing into caring, serving Christ-followers in our homes, workplaces and sports clubs (as Galatians calls us) that ultimately determines how effective our ministry is.

When, instead of pointing fingers at “the world” we are willing to accept its “hospitality” speaking blessing, and offering grace and mercy and justice in every situation and with every person (as the disciples were called to do), then people begin coming to us to learn more about our faith and the One we follow. But, if we fail to do this, then no amount of words or programs will be enough to compensate for our lack of grace and goodness. It’s significant that, even when the disciples were told to “shake the dust off their feet” when they were not received in a village, they were, nevertheless instructed to tell the people that God’s Reign had come to them. It was not that they were “judging” the people, so much as using a graphic and powerful image to challenge them about what they had rejected. God’s love and grace remained available to the people. In the same way, we can confront the small injustices in our communities, while still offering grace. And, in the end, what is important is not the dramatic confrontations, but the people whose names are “written in heaven” – who have discovered life in the dream of God.

In practical terms, this move toward “ordinary justice” has very significant implications. If we are to reverse the impact of climate change, it will take small but significant shifts in the habits of many ordinary people. If our world is to become more peaceful, it will mean ordinary people must learn to understand and respect one another, recognizing our common humanity. If wealth is to be equitably distributed, it will mean changing the values by which ordinary individuals live from consumerism to simplicity and from accumulating to giving. If these shifts were just taken seriously by Christ-followers alone, the impact would be nothing short of miraculous. As Christians around the world join together in peace-making, hospitality, taking responsibility for the change we can bring and doing small acts of goodness, the Gospel message is preached clearly and powerfully, with very few words necessary.

The one reading that appears to be out of place is the alternative Psalm (66) – but here the focus is on the Exodus, which, although proclaimed through retelling the miraculous story, is about the very ordinary human longing for liberation and salvation – which is, of course, the essence of the message that Jesus’ disciples would have preached.

II. Summary

First Reading – Isaiah 66:10-14

Background – It’s hard to pin down the context and author of this passage, from the third great division of the book of Isaiah, chapters 56-66. It would make sense to assume that some godly person spoke this to exiles returning from the Babylonian Captivity. (That was the period, also called the Exile, when many, but not all, residents were taken away from Judea and held in Babylon for a couple of generations in the sixth century B.C.E. We know from the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, that the rebuilding of their hometown Jerusalem was disappointingly slow.)

Apparently the people were losing faith that God would restore things for them, for the prophet is almost defensive in his assertion “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” And the imagery is quite extravagant. It’s as if the prophet himself is whistling in the dark, to stave off doubt and despair.

Today’s reading develops the image of Jerusalem as the once desolate mother who in the end-time will be the source of all joy and nurture. Its structure is like that of a psalm where an initial idea (joy) is contrasted in the next strophe with opposite idea (mourning

Isaiah 66 explicitly uses feminine imagery to refer to God. As Isaiah often does, Yahweh’s tender care for the people is compared to that of a comforting mother (42:14, 49:15, 66:9). This image of God as a mother carrying her child, comforting a child who is sad or hurt is extremely nurturing and needed for a community that was coming out of exile. Yahweh’s covenant bond is rooted in a love that never fails. The desolate and discouraged people will be comforted and their sadness will turn to joy.

Jerusalem is also seen as a nursing mother caring for her children. The people who have been in exile are like lost children, who have been searching for their mother, but their mother, God, has also been searching and waiting for them. God has not forgotten them, and God will rejoice with them.

Verses 15 and 16 are an oracle of judgment upon the lord’s enemies, who are the idolatrous in Israel (v. 17) rather than the Gentiles, who will come to worship God (66:18-23). God’s judgment will be carried out by fire and sword.

Psalm – Psalm 66:1-8

Psalm 66:1-9 recalls God’s deliverance of the people from Egypt, and they recall this deliverance in song and praise. This is the God of the living, the God of life, who restores life when it is taken, who renews all things. The people remember God’s acts of deliverance in history and find hope in the stories of old. It is a psalm that centers on God, and the foundational acts of Israel as a people.

This psalm of praise and thanksgiving is divided into several parts, which may have been composed or used at different times. The first part (vv. 1-4) is a hymn to God. All of the earth is invited to sing praise to God Verses 5-12 give thanks for the deliverance of people through God’s saving power, as shown in the crossing of the Red Sea and/or the Jordan (v. 6). The acts of God were not just past history but were made present through recollection and reenactment in the liturgy. So the exodus events became a way to understand the return from exile in Babylon (vv. 10, 12). Likewise for Christians, this psalm speaks of participation, through baptism, in Christ’s resurrection.

Epistle –  Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16

Galatians 6:1-16 ends our series of readings from Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul has been arguing against those that have received the false Gospel, that requires Gentile converts to keep to the Jewish law first, and Paul has been angry with leaders such as Peter who have been hypocrites about what they practice and how they are seen.

Leaving behind the discussion and arguments concerning freedom and the law, Paul turns to issues of practicality within the Christian life: a) dealing with those who have transgressed (Paul argues for “gentleness” and taking up another’s burdens.

This means to restore one another with a spirit of gentleness (in other words, to forgive) understanding and the sharing of difficulties, to work together for the good of all. b) “Sowing good – in the Spirit”, arguing that we should in our works of righteousness do that which is right, working for the good of all, and c) Knowing that in which to take pride. He warns that it is not born of the traditional pride of circumcision, but rather the cross of Christ.

Paul’s blessing to them is that they remain strong in Christ, and that all are a new creation in Christ, where the law, where the divisions of Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free do not exist any longer. Christians are submitted to “the law of Christ,” not a legal code but a Persno

Paul urges the community to provide for its teachers and to persevere in doing good. He summarizes the theme of the letter, declaring that it is participation, not in circumcision, but in crucifixion with Christ (2:19, 5:24) and thus in the new creation, which is the Christian’s only glory. This is the true continuity with the past. Those, both Jew and Gentile, who follow Christ, are the true chosen people, “the Israel of God.”

Paul himself bears the evidence of this commitment to Christ; the word translated “marks” is in Greek stigmata, meaning a scar (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) or a slave’s brand of ownership. The use of stigmata to refer to the marks of the crucifixion came much later. He closes the letter, which began so harshly, with a blessing upon the recipients.

Gospel –  Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 

The larger reading is made up of five smaller units: a) Instruction for “the Seventy” (verses 1-12), b) The Impenitent (not in our reading, excepting verse 16) (verses 13-16), c) The Seventy return (verses 17-20), d) a Thanksgiving (not in our reading) (verse 21), and e) Blessings (verses 22-24 also not in our reading). Our reading focuses in on the mission of the seventy and what the learned in their service.

The first part, the mission of the 70 disciples, is recorded only by Luke. This reading recalls a similar mission of the “Twelve” in the previous chapter ( Luke 9:1-5). What is the meaning of the numbers? The twelve are the disciples, of course, their number symbolic of Israel. The number seventy (“seven” denoting perfection, and the multiplication by ten indicating a great number) was a term used to describe “the Nations”. Thus these couples are sent out to all the world.

Luke understands their mission as foreshadowing the later mission of the Christian community to the world. They are to go out two by two as witnesses into the harvest, the final gathering of God’s people. They are to rely upon God to protect and provide for them.

Jesus sent 70 disciples out to towns he was about to visit, warning them he was sending them out “like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Jesus was able to survey that sorry landscape, the dusty roads, abject poverty and skeptical people and see a golden field, glowing richly with harvest. He tries to convey his vision to his followers, makes them his forerunners, and instructs them in actions he himself would be likely to take.

There are practicalities to be observed: simplicity, focus, observation, and thankfulness . They are to travel light and bring peace to each household they visit. They come bringing no goods with them, nor an agenda, but simply to say, “Peace to this house! If they are not received, they are to wipe the dust off of their sandals, which Jesus already told the twelve to do in their previous mission in 9:1-6.

They should be adaptable, following local eating and drinking customs, not demanding special treatment. Curing the sick, they should encourage people that God’s reign was close enough to touch, even in their midst. Their primary message, then is one of healing and encouragement.

This passage today contains also when the seventy have returned. They are called to go and share the Good News and to do deeds in the name of Jesus that proclaim that Good News. They are not called to condemn, or to preach hellfire and brimstone like John but rather leave the worrying about who receives the message of God’s love up to God. That’s not their concern. Their concern is to do the Good News: to preach, heal, bless, and bring the message of peace.

Rejection, it appears, was not to change the focus of the journey – namely the message that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Jesus counsels persistence and non-attachment. Your work is not about your success or achievement but faithfulness to God and the well-being of those whom you serve. If people treat you well, be faithful, and let the power of God flow, enriching and deepening their lives and possibly even transforming their bodies and social standing. If people turn their back on you, scorning your message, continue on your journey, letting go of any sense of failure or desire for revenge. We are responsible for the fidelity of our message and our spiritual well-being; the rest is up to the gentle providence of God and the decisions of those to whom we minister.

We can reasonably assume from this scripture that the disciples also had some bad experiences, although Luke reports only the disciples’ immediate success, from which they returned in joy. Jesus told them their joy was misplaced. The divine protection and power they experienced was only a fringe benefit. True joy comes from knowing “that your names are written in heaven.” Furthermore, he gives them a steely strength from which to draw. They are empowered to do great deeds, to confront evil and remain unharmed.

Their urgency calls attention to the belief in the nearness of the promised end times, and their poverty and peaceableness echoes that urged by Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:29-49). For Luke, “peace” is particularly associated with the salvation Jesus brings (1:79, 2:14, 29, 7:50, 8:48, 19:38). There is to be no quibbling over dietary rules (such was an issue in the Gentile mission, for example in Acts 11:1-18, Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 10:25).

The disciples proclaim Jesus’ own message, “the kingdom of God is at hand for you” (10:9, 11, 11:20), rather than the Christian post-Easter proclamation about Jesus. The final defeat of Satan that will characterize the end times is foreshadowed by their mission and begins to occur because of it. 

Luke- Sending out the Seventy (Gospel July 3)

This story speaks of the seventy whom Jesus sent out. Working Preacher calls it a kind of “internship,” a training time while Jesus was still with them. This story is a series of instructions by Jesus . Jesus sends out the twelve earlier in the story and gives them instructions about what they are to do (Luke 9:1-6). The mission of the seventy is an extension of the mission of the twelve. One major difference is that this is a mission in Samaria. This is a peace mission among Samaritans who were often hostile to Jews in Galilee and Judea.

Our passage today, unique to Luke, is intimately related both to Jesus’ words in 9:1-6, when he sends out the 12, and 9:51-62 (last week), where he rather harshly dismisses potential followers who have to “take care of things” before they follow Jesus. He possibly was sending out all of his followers in this lesson.

The number seventy is reminiscent of the seventy elders of Moses in Numbers 11:16-17. Just as these seventy men were destined to become the leaders of the Old Testament community, the seventy missionaries/disciples in Luke were destined to become the leaders of the New Testament community. In the Old Testament, the Lord God said that he would “take some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on them/the seventy that they could also bear the burden of the people.” In the New Testament, the implication is that the Spirit of Jesus would be transferred to these seventy missionaries/disciples, and that they would be equipped for leadership in the new movement of faith. It is representative of the number of nations in the world.

The urgency of the mission is emphasized. Jesus begins by using an agricultural metaphor. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” The Day of Judgment (harvest) is close at hand so there is a need to look to the Lord to supply a full complement of missioners. In Jesus’ day, people intuitively understood when the fields were ripe for harvesting. Plowing, planting, watering, caring for, weeding are all different activities before harvesting. Harvesting means that the plants are ready to be gathered in or picked off the tree or from the field. Jesus was saying that people were ready to be harvested.

This was certainly true in Jesus’ day: a myriad of people were ready to belong to the kingdom but what was needed were more workers.

The mission was the same as Jesus’ own ministry: “cure the sick” and “say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

In any case, Verses 1-11 give us a snap-shot into the life of an itinerant preacher-teacher-healer at the time of Jesus.

Jesus sends them “ahead of him … to every town and place where he himself intended to go.” He “set his face to Jerusalem” in last week’s lectionary and will probably travel through villages where he has not been before. Rumors of what Jesus is doing have undoubtedly spread into Samaria so the seventy emissaries will announce his coming by giving people a preview of his own work. They were vulnerable in this land.

But when we look at the material in 10:1-12, it is not really about preparing people for the visit of Jesus, but rather about the mission of the disciples. It is also a preview of the ministry Jesus gives us today. We go “ahead of him,” bringing his message where we go. They are to travel “in pairs.” We think of groups doing mission work door-to-door, always with two people. We can assume that Jesus’ directive is for safety and for mutual encouragement. It’s also a sign that “we’re in this together” as followers of Jesus. When the disciples go out they will be vulnerable to rejection and persecution

Jesus’ advice on the mission was to “go light.” They were to come only with who they were and await local response In our terms the equivalent advice would be, “Don’t let stuff get in the way or conflict with your ministry of the gospel.” Travelling without personal possessions was an indicator of one’s humility and possible holiness. It also made one wholly dependent on the hospitality of strangers.

They have not expectations of how they are to be received. Once you find like-minded people, work with them. So don’t get distracted by “success.” The credit for that all belongs to God anyways. Instead, stay focused on your relationship with God who has written your name on the palm of His hand

There are two basic tasks 1. Bring the message, “God’s kingdom has come close to you!” All this is in the present tense and not the future. 2. Show by action. Bring deeds of the kingdom. (Namely, heal the sick.) Tell them the good news that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9): it’s partly already here! The teams went out with an urgent message. “Turn around people – and seek peace – God’s reign has come close to you!” The message is timeless.

The early Christians saw themselves participating in this great climax of hope. Paul appears to have developed his strategy of visiting the cities of the world (of his time) and bringing an offering from the Gentiles to Jerusalem against this expectation. His apostleship was playing a role in the divine plan of bringing in the Gentiles.

The action plan of the disciples and doubtless of Jesus, himself, made hospitality central, especially the shared meal. The response of faith was about willingness to share food, to be together in mutual acceptance and fellowship at a meal. This was also a central symbol of hope. In their radical way Jesus and his disciples after him were precipitating hope in meals in the here and now. These became celebrations of hope, but also of inclusion and healing.

When you find a receptive person, a person of peace, God’s peace will be on him or her (v. 6). Accept their hospitality (“the laborer deserves to be paid”, v. 7) and “eat what is set before you” (v. 8, i.e. ignore Jewish dietary laws)

Reception was closely linked to hospitality. The ancient world had strong customs about hospitality. Larger Palestinian houses were such that you could freely enter the front half of the house from outside – it was public space. These disciples would then face the owners with the choice of being part of the kingdom movement by offering hospitality and enjoying its benefits through healing and teaching or of turning away these uninvited would-be guests.

The owners had a dilemma. The visitors claimed to be envoys of peace and wholeness, including healing. They claimed to be announcing the reign of God and by their actions, bringing its reality into life in the here and now. To receive them was to receive the one who sent them and to receive him was to receive God, to be open to the kingdom. To reject someone who is not an enemy, to refuse to offer hospitality, was shameful. It brought disgrace and promised misfortune. That is the expectation here, too. Reject these messengers and you reject Jesus; reject Jesus and you reject God; reject God and you invite judgment. Shaking dust off the feet is probably symbolic of such judgment

Vv. 11-16 tell the seventy how to handle hostile situations: tell such people that they will be ignored; the kingdom has come anyway. If people don’t accept your message, he says, shake their dust off your feet and move on. At the end of the era, they will be judged harshly (v. 12). Then v. 16: in hearing the good news from a disciple, people hear Jesus; if they reject a disciple, they reject Jesus and the Father (“the one who sent me”).

Notice how Jesus only tells them what they should do and doesn’t say anything about measuring their success. The version 16 paragraph closes with another note about success. We are not to rejoice about our success in our various ministries, but to rejoice “that your names are written in heaven,” that is, that we are part of this kingdom of God which we are proclaiming. So, the essence of the mission is to live out the relationship with God that has been given to us through Jesus Christ. And this is what it looks like; don’t travel alone, do travel light, not worry about what is up ahead, just share peace and healing if you can.

It is not about selling a brand name (‘Christian’), but sharing a vision of change in such a way that means real participation in making it real in the here and now. People who really care recognize others who really care.

Historically the growth of a household churches was a result. Households (half public communities in themselves) committed to caring in the name of Jesus became church communities. The travelers became ‘apostles’ (envoys), the link people. Link people and locals were a loose movement for change, people for the poor, people convinced they were participating in God’s initiative to bring hope. It was all about being bearers of this hope. As the movement grew the link people spawned local leadership patterns, which evolved into structures for order, now reflected in formal orders of ministry.

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He/Jesus gave his disciples power and authority over the demons and unclean spirits. The disciples were more effective when they knew that they had been invested with authority. With authority, the disciples told about the power of God in their lives. Jesus had an inner spiritual authority which drew people to him. The opposite of having power and authority in one’s faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith. A doubting, half believing faith lacks credibility, power and authority

In our time the church is closely linked to mission and it’s difficult to avoid measuring success. We live with membership figures, giving levels, budgets, annual reports, and so on. It’s very easy to measure our work by these figures — and that’s how many people will measure our ministry — but that’s contrary to this text.

Success is not only difficult to measure but is difficult to achieve in any sense in our day with Sunday being “just another day”. The phenomenon of “spiritual but not religious” has captured many people who indicate their religious preference is “none.”

How does the church articulate its mission today? Can working with and through agencies and institutions substitute for talking with individuals about their response to the gospel? In what ways can the mission of the church be articulated and pursued by the church today?

Such questions do not permit easy answers, but the interpretation of these verses for the church is not complete until we grapple with these issues. The church can neither recreate the itinerancy of the earliest days of the Jesus movement in Galilee nor abandon the gospel call to announce the kingdom and devote oneself to kingdom tasks. The expression of the mission of the church in concrete forms and specific activities, however, has changed from generation to generation.

The development of a world economy and the oppression of Third World Countries require that we include in our awareness of the church’s mission concerns for the end of economic exploitation of other people, alleviation of disease and hunger, and assurance of basic human rights

So how do we define mission today. One possibility: “10 PRINCIPLES OF MISSION” (quoted from Brian P. Stoffregen )

1. It affirms the world’s need for the church’s mission: “The harvest is plentiful.” there is more work to do than laborers to do it.

2. Jesus’ commission affirms the importance of prayer in support of the church’s mission: “Ask the Lord of the harvest.”

3. It insists on the active participation of each disciple: “Go on your way.” The work of the church is not merely the calling of a select few. Believers can contribute to it in their own way and in the context of their spiritual journey.

4. Jesus’ commission warns of the dangers will face and provides guidelines: “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” By means of this metaphor, Jesus seems to be counseling innocence and sincerity, vulnerability and non-resistance as means of turning aside anger and danger.

5. Jesus calls for singularity of purpose: “Greet no one on the road.”

6. The commission specifies the purpose of the mission: “Say, ‘Peace to this house’ and ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.'” Disciples declare what God is doing and bring God’s peace to whomever receives them. Share table fellowship with whomever receives you.

7. The host, not the guest, sets the context for the disciple’s witness: “Eat what is set before you.” The disciples do not seek to dictate the menu or impose their own cultural background on others.

8. Jesus’ commission recognizes that the disciples will not always succeed: “[When] they do not welcome you….” Jesus knew that the disciples would meet resistance and rejection some of the time.

9. Jesus admonishes the disciples to persevere: “Shake the dust from your feet.

10. Jesus gives the disciples a word of assurance about the fulfillment of God’s redemptive mission: “Know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

By principles such as these the church can be guided in every generation. The context, means, and forms of the message continually, but its basis in God’s redemptive love remains constant.

One hope for mission may be generational. Thee millennials (born 1982-2002) those 22-30 are struggling to find themselves within community. Their world is different from many of us. They have been plugged into technology since they were babies, are a safe generation, are the first generation for which Hispanics/Latinos will be the largest minority group instead of African Americans and have the most educated mothers of any generation before them. 

They are a challenge. Joe Carter writes in the Gospel Coalition (thegospelcoaltion.org) of the Millennial Value Survey survey done in March, 2012. About 25 percent of younger Millennials are unaffiliated with a religion, up from 11 percent who were affiliated with a religion in childhood. About 76 percent of Millennials feel that modern-day Christianity “has good values and principles,” but object to certain perceptions of churches as being “anti-gay.”

For the seventy two missioners the writing consisted of miraculous healings, while for us today, the writing consists of such things as the love of the brotherhood – “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples”. The message then was about a coming kingdom communicated by wandering prophets, while for us today, the word is a message about eternity communicated on a church banner, a pamphlet, a TV advert, a free Bible distribution, a web site…

The Signers – by the Numbers

  • Only 1 died due to the Revolutionary war ( and that was in a dual).  17 served in the military.
  • 8 others died of  causes other than war.
  • Tension – 5 captured by the British, 1 lost a son in the war.
  • Of the 56, 25 were lawyers, 15 merchants, 10 involved farming/land speculation, 4 physicians, 1 scientist, 1 minister.
  • The average number of children they had was 6.
  • The average age of the signers was 45 and average age at death 66
  • 2 lasted until the 50th anniversary in 1826 (Jefferson and Adams). The oldest signer at death was 95 (Charles Carroll of Md).

The signers in detail

Details on the signing of the Declaration

Sunday Links for July 3, 2022

July 3, 11:00am – Eucharist

We had a diverse crowd 26 in the service and 5 online. However, we had Brad Saylor’s family visiting from Africa (8 or so) and Peter from Wales. We also had Ken’s father from Tennessee. We had ample time for dialogue – the sermon featured it. It was also first Sunday coffee hour called “Cookies and Conversation”. It was a picturesque Sunday with not only the regular flowers but special flower for a parishioner’s mother born on July 4. The town had their July 4 flags out. We introduced our task to provide 250 markers for school children by the middle of the month.

We even had enough children for an impromptu children’s sermon.

It was one of the most important Gospel lessons from Luke 10 – in essence how to spread Jesus teaching with his sending out of the 70.

The mission was the same as Jesus’ own ministry: “cure the sick” and “say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

There are two basic tasks 1. Bring the message, “God’s kingdom has come close to you!” All this is in the present tense and not the future. 2. Show by action. Bring deeds of the kingdom. (Namely, heal the sick.) Tell them the good news that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9): it’s partly already here! The teams went out with an urgent message. “Turn around people – and seek peace – God’s reign has come close to you!” The message is timeless.

Notice how Jesus only tells them what they should do and doesn’t say anything about measuring their success. The version 16 paragraph closes with another note about success. We are not to rejoice about our success in our various ministries, but to rejoice “that your names are written in heaven,” that is, that we are part of this kingdom of God which we are proclaiming.

So, the essence of the mission is to live out the relationship with God that has been given to us through Jesus Christ. And this is what it looks like; don’t travel alone, do travel light, not worry about what is up ahead, just share peace and healing if you can.

Videos, July 3, 2022

1. Faith of our Fathers

2. Gospel from Luke – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

3. Children’s Sermon

4. Sermon

5. Prayers of the People – excerpt

6. Welcome!

7. Markers promotion during announcements

8 Praise the Lord Rise up rejoicing