Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

Philippians 4:1-9 (CEB)   Stand firm in the Lord

4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.

Loved ones, I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to come to an agreement in the Lord. Yes, and I’m also asking you, loyal friend, to help these women who have struggled together with me in the ministry of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the scroll of life.

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

Luke 10:1-11 (CEB)

Seventy-two sent out

10 After these things, the Lord commissioned seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every city and place he was about to go. He said to them, “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest. Go! Be warned, though, that I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves. Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals. Don’t even greet anyone along the way. Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house.’ If anyone there shares God’s peace, then your peace will rest on that person. If not, your blessing will return to you. Remain in this house, eating and drinking whatever they set before you, for workers deserve their pay. Don’t move from house to house. Whenever you enter a city and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘God’s kingdom has come upon you.’ 10 Whenever you enter a city and the people don’t welcome you, go out into the streets and say, 11 ‘As a complaint against you, we brush off the dust of your city that has collected on our feet. But know this: God’s kingdom has come to you.’

This is the word of God for us the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

Habits of Hospitality – Offering Peace

As the church, “we may think of ourselves primarily as the hosts for newcomers.  We think of others as wanting or needing to come to us, as if our primary identity is that we have what they come looking for when they come to us.  That is exactly backward of what Jesus says and does in the [text from Luke, and indeed it is the opposite] of the posture of Jesus toward the world.  When Jesus went, he welcomed the people, blessed their children and brought the hope of justice and healing.  Then he invited them to come to him.”

For the next three weeks, I’m going to share a sermon series called Hospitality Habits.  So my hope is that we might develop some habits that would help us to welcome others.  And that really sounds pretty ordinary — but I hope that some of the ideas might help you to think differently about hospitality and actually give you some new ways, some habits of hospitality, that will help us to live as disciples of Jesus who make disciples.

So today – we will talk about going out and offering the peace of God to others.  And I love this quote that I printed in your bulletin.  Because isn’t it true?  Don’t we think that hospitality is about welcoming people when they come into our church?  But Jesus calls us to go out into the world – the place where we go every day, right?  And in our ordinary walking around lives, we are called to be hospitable — to share God’s peace and hope, and to demonstrate what God’s kingdom on earth can be.

So, keep your Bible out.  We are going to walk through the text.  Now the first thing – my translation says is: “after these things.”  It’s important to know that just a few verses earlier in chapter 9 verses 51-56 Jesus had already sent some of the disciples out to the Samaritans who had refused to listen to the disciples.  Verse 53 says, “the Samaritan villagers refused to welcome him.”  You see Jesus was on the journey to Jerusalem where he would be crucified, and he sent some of his followers out to announce ahead of his arrival along his route that he was coming.  You can read that his strategy failed – the townspeople did not put out their welcome mats for Jesus or his followers.

But Jesus did not give up; he did not get discouraged.  He did not quit teaching about the kingdom of God just because the disciples had experienced rejection.  When we look ahead in the Gospel, we see that Jesus still had a long and important ministry – a ministry that was full of teaching and healing.  So imagine if he had given up with this failure!  And it is with this attitude of hope and expectation of success that Jesus commissions his followers to go out to every city and place that he was about to go.  He commissions them even knowing that in the past things have not worked out that well – knowing that the disciples might be turned away.  He was still determined that his mission to proclaim the good news about the love of God would not fail.

As followers of Jesus today, guess what?  We, too, are commissioned to go to every city and place to pave the way for Jesus.  Even when it is hard.  Even when we have failed before.  We only have to pave the way, though, because God is the one who draws people near.  We just pave the way.  We have a mission, but it is always Jesus’s presence with us that accomplishes things.

We are called to go!  And if we accept the mission, and we are willing to go, we have to think about where we are going to go?  The text from Luke says the 72 were sent to every town and place that Jesus was going to go.  So let’s make this easy – although some of us may feel called to go across the world to share the peace of God, let’s think locally.  Where is it that you go every day?  Where will you go when you leave church today?  Think about where you will go tomorrow or Tuesday or Wednesday.  Do you think these are places that Jesus wants to go, too?  So get a specific place in mind – maybe you are going to a restaurant after church.  Maybe you are going to spend some time with your family.  Maybe you are going to the grocery store or to school or to work or to the post office.

And keeping all those places in mind that you go, let’s think about the attitude that we are to take with us as we go.  Jesus tells his followers that the harvest is really big – bigger than they can imagine, but there aren’t very many workers willing to do the work.  I don’t know much about farming, but my sister is married to a rice farmer.  And I do know that when it’s harvest time, it is all hands-on deck – the whole family, and really the whole community is involved in the harvest.  Everyone helps to bring in the crop – there is an urgency because the crop has to be harvested at just the right time or all is lost – it can’t be harvested too early or the crop is not fully ripe.  It can’t be harvested too late or the crop is dried up or rotted and useless.  My sister’s family works the whole year to prepare the soil and plant the seed and tend the plants, get rid of the weeds, just for this time – all the work of the year culminates at harvesttime.  It is intense and it is urgent.  All could be lost if it’s not accomplished now!

And that is how Jesus feels about his mission for God – he has work to do and very little time to accomplish his mission – because remember he is on the way to Jerusalem, and he knows his days are numbered.  Friends, that is the attitude we must have toward our mission in the world.  Our days are numbered, too.  And we don’t have time to play church!  We have serious business to take care of – there is no time to waste with things that don’t help us accomplish our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

So not only are we commissioned to go into all the places, we are called to do it with the urgency of the harvest – so know the importance of our role in bringing in this huge harvest that Jesus talks about.  As followers of Jesus – it is up to us – we are the ones Jesus has left it to.

Next in verse 3 Jesus offers a warning that the disciples are going out as lambs among wolves.  There are people out there who won’t accept what his followers have to say about God’s kingdom, and there are people who will even try to devour them.  But nonetheless, he commissions them to go without any provisions in verse 4 – no wallet, no bag, no sandals and not to greet anyone along the way.  And the mission is too important for small talk – no stopping along the way, no time to waste.

So, we know where we are going.  We have an attitude of urgency and perseverance in mind.  What in the world are we supposed to do now?  Is Jesus calling us to go door to door randomly telling people about the kingdom of God?  My own personal reaction when people do that is to hide inside.  I think Jesus had something else in mind.  I think Jesus had in mind that we develop relationships with people first.

In the Luke text, Jesus says first to share peace with the people we meet.  Share peace!  We start by sharing God’s peace!  It sounds so simple.  So think about this…. Do you think there are some people you know who need some of God’s peace in their lives?  Is there anyone here who could use some more of God’s peace in your life?  Would you like to feel deeply at peace instead of anxious and worried about all the things that are going on in your life?  Do you think there is someone at the restaurant you’re going to after lunch that would like a little peace?  Do you think there is someone at home that could benefit from some peace?  How about at work?  How about at the grocery store?  I don’t want to belabor my point, but everyone could use some more of God’s peace.

So what if our mission in telling people about God’s love for them starts out as simple as sharing peace with someone?  I heard someone telling a story about how she was getting a new pair of glasses, and the optometrist really messed the lenses up.  And the office admitted they had ruined them, and said they would redo them at no cost to her.  And she was very kind and said, “No problem.  Just call me when they are ready.”  And the man thanked her for being so kind and nice and said that people could be really hateful about things sometimes, and that her attitude was unusual.  Unfortunately, it is uncommon to share peace with another human being – it is uncommon to show compassion and kindness.

Sometimes, I think it is uncommon to even notice our fellow human beings.  Last week I was in the Cash Saver and the young man who was checking me out acted like he was feeling bad, and I saw him put his hand up to his forehead.  And I just said, “Do you feel bad?”  And he said he had a migraine and wasn’t feeling well.  We had a short conversation, and I told him I hoped he got to feeling better.  Now I may have just annoyed him, but I hope that it brought some peace to his life.  I hope he at least realized someone recognized he existed enough to ask if he was ok.  I’m no hero- and this is no great act, but maybe kind words and acts are a beginning of going out into the world in hospitality to share peace.

I’m not saying our mission is simply being nice and kind to people.  Because our mission for God is so much more than that.  And because the peace that Jesus talks about in verse 6 is a substantive peace – a deep peace – the peace that you experience when you are sure of your salvation – the peace of knowing God.  I’m wondering if maybe God will show us ways we can give others a small glimpse of God’s peace wherever we go – just as an ordinary part of our lives – maybe we can begin to exhibit peace, hope and compassion.  And with God’s power that might begin to grow into a great harvest.

Jesus says once you’ve shared peace, then start to build a relationship in other ways.  Share meals.  Don’t move from house to house.  Take your time – get to know people – minster to the needs that are before you in whatever way you can.  Keep the main thing the main thing – pay attention to people.  Slow down and see people the way I see them.

In verse 9, Jesus says once we have shared meals and built relationships, we are to heal the sick and say, “God’s kingdom has come upon you.” (Luke 10:9).   Once we have a relationship with someone, once we have made a friend, then it’s a natural thing to talk about the kingdom of God – and healing is bound to take place in all kinds of ways.  Because when God draws near, lives, communities, and even the world are transformed!

And then at the end, in verse 10, Jesus says we don’t even have to worry how people will respond to our sharing the kingdom of God– because we already know that some won’t hear our words.  We don’t have to evaluate who is worthy to hear or ready to receive the words about the kingdom of God because God wants them all to hear, and judging is God’s job any way.  We are simply the conduit, and maybe hospitality through sharing peace wherever we go is the beginning.

Jesus tells his followers that the harvest is plentiful.  There are lots of people out there who need to know about Jesus.  So do we believe Jesus?  Do we believe that there are people out there, many people, right here in our cities and towns, who not only need Jesus, but who want to hear his message of peace and goodwill?  Do we believe we have neighbors whose ears ache to hear words of hope and hospitality?  When we go out to proclaim the kingdom of God to people we encounter is it with the expectation that the response will be positive?  Or have we given upon proclaiming the kingdom of God to people here because we think that in our day and time the harvest is no longer plentiful?  Are we worried that there might be a wolf out there in our path? Or are we just so busy that we don’t take the time it takes to build relationships with people and notice the needful ones?

I promise you that even in the Bible belt where “most everyone” claims to be Christian, “most everyone” doesn’t truly know the good news of Jesus Christ.  Most don’t truly know the power of God that grants us peace and heals the worst hurts!  When the kingdom of God comes on earth, there will be no more pain or suffering.  There will be no more addiction, there will be no more greed, no more child abuse, no hunger or poverty….my imagination can run wild with how the kingdom of God will look.  And that day has not yet come.  And so, we still have work to do.  There is still a harvest waiting on us.  There are still people who need to know the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are called to go!  We are called to show hospitality out there!  Not just in here!  The world is where God calls us to be.  So where are you going when you leave here?  How is God urging you to show peace and bring healing to a world in desperate need?

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There is one really important thing in this text that I haven’t mentioned.  Look at verse 2:  Jesus said to his followers, “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.”  Before Jesus even tells his followers to go, he tells them to pray.  So let us pray.

Mighty God, Lord of the Harvest, creator of the world, we do plead with you to send workers for the harvest.  And God we plead not just that others would go to proclaim the kingdom of God, but that we would go and tell others.  Lord we plead that you would open our eyes to

where we need to go,

and who needs a little peace today,

and show us how to do it.

Mighty God give us a holy urgency to do your work simply as a part of our walking around lives.  Give us your peace, your healing power, your hope, your love and your grace – that we might become workers of the harvest.