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  • The Revd Camellia Flanagan

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

Pentecost 4C 2 Kings 5:1-14 Ps 30 Galatians 6.7-18 Luke 10.1-12, 17-24

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

Many more people than just the 12 disciples had been following Jesus. In this part of Luke’s gospel read this morning, we hear about some of the others. We are not sure how many, but it is said that Jesus designated a group of 72 people to prepare a number of towns for Jesus to visit them later. This number probably symbolises the universal reach of Jesus’ mission to every town and place. Jesus had proclaimed that the harvest is great, so great that as many people as possible are needed to do the work. It is the same in the church today. The harvest is great, and the workers are few. And according to the latest statistics fewer than even previous years which were few.

These disciples were not unique in their qualifications. They were not better educated, more capable, or of higher status than other followers of Jesus. What equipped them for this mission was their awareness of Jesus’ power and their vision and desire to reach all the people. In this story Jesus was sending 36 teams of two to reach the multitudes. These teams were not to try to do the job without help, rather, they were to ask God for more workers. They were to pray to God for help, rather than try to take charge of God’s work themselves. Some people as soon as they think they understand the gospel want to go to work immediately. This story suggests a different approach. The suggestion is - to begin by mobilizing the people to pray; and pray that other disciples will join you in reaching out to people.

In our own parish we are looking for a person to be Dean of Grafton Cathedral. And you are all reminded again with a bookmark to take home to continue to pray earnestly that a person will be found.

In Christian service there is no unemployment. God has work enough for everyone. We can all look for ways to help with the harvest of spreading the good news of salvation. Jesus said he was sending his disciples out “like lambs among wolves” They would have to be careful because they would surely meet with opposition. What protection would they have? Sounds dangerous, but they would have two things as protection: a word of peace and a power to heal from sickness.

We too are sent into the world like lambs among wolves. This might not seem like much help in the territory of wolves, but the Disciples were to transform the wolves into lambs by behaving peacefully towards them, and not behaving like a wolf themselves. Can we remember to face people, not with aggression, but with love and gentleness. We realise that a dangerous mission requires sincere commitment. It is also important as we see from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that our personal integrity is beyond reproach. It is a natural law that we reap what we sow. If we gossip about our friends, we will lose their friendship. If we profess to be following Jesus and want to bring others to know his love, our lives must be sincere and honest, and we need to show his love in all its depth and integrity to others. Jesus ‘ direction to his evangelistic team to stay in one house avoided certain problems. Shifting from house to house could offend the families who first took them in. Some families might begin to compete for the disciples’ presence, and some might think they were not good enough to hear their message. If the disciples appeared not to appreciate the hospitality offered them, the town might not accept Jesus when he followed them there later. By staying in one place the disciples did not have to worry continually about finding accommodation. They could settle down and do their appointed task. Jesus told his disciples to accept hospitality graciously because their work entitled them to it. There were two rules to follow.

They were to eat what was set before them – that is, they were to accept hospitality without being picky – and they were to heal the sick. Because of the healings, people would be willing to listen to the gospel. In our time we may not be given the gift of healing, but we can care for those who are sick, be a faithful listening ear to their woe, fervently pray for them, and let God to the rest of the work. Is this how things are done now? Often pastoral outreach involves drawing up a detailed plan of action beforehand, right down to accommodation and meals including dietary preferences. Have we lost the simplicity of approach, and the way to travel light? The town’s people had something to share by offering hospitality and the disciples had something to share by offering the good news about the kingdom of God. By travelling light and not looking for better, was a good way to keep to the importance of the job in hand. Jesus points out another element. The kingdom of God is near and far greater than a disciples’ mission. Greater than the mission of any number of disciples. People may reject the messengers, but the kingdom of God is very near and that was the key message. It is as close to us as our heart.

The disciples had a fantastic opportunity – they were eyewitnesses of the ways of how Christ worked, Eye witnesses of the Son of God on earth.

But for many months they took Jesus for granted, not really listening to him or obeying him. We also have a privileged position, with knowledge of over 2000 years of church history, availability of the bible in hundreds of languages. Yet we often take this for granted. We are called to discipleship, and we can begin with our own family. How many of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren really know Jesus? How many of your family are baptised with Godparents making promises on behalf of the children in the presence of God and doing nothing about those promises? It is not too late. Get your family together and make a commitment to honour baptism promises, be confirmed and find reliable godparents for your little ones. For any who have not been confirmed and would like to do so, have a look at the Cathedral web page under Families and Children for Going to the Supper of the Lord. This is the preparation for confirmation and can be used by adults and children. Then come and speak with me or our acting Dean. It is important to recognise that we have a purpose in life and to dedicate our skills to God’s kingdom, but we need also be equipped with his power and have a clear vision of what he wants us to do. We do this, by learning more about God, through reading and prayer. We do this by being transformed by the Holy Spirit of Jesus into a new Creation according to God’s Grace. If we find the Cathedral almost empty, we are reaping what we have sown.

As individuals baptised into Christ, and as a Cathedral community we can travel light, bring the peace, hospitality and healing grace of the Kingdom of God to people near to us. With courage, we can be confident in giving them an invitation to join us in saying thanks to God, for the many blessings received, here in this place.

Amen..

The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF


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