The Faith Sermon

Here it is folks. The big sermon I’ve been hinting that really made me think on Sunday morning “What the heck? This applies directly to me at this exact moment in time, TREMENDOUSLY!”

Background – the gospel my priest was preaching on was about “The Seventy” that Jesus sent out to work in fields and spread good teachings about love and Jesus and stuff…to people that weren’t expecting helpers on the farm, let alone preachers of a very controversial message. They were given NOTHING to help them, except the supposed confidence and protection of Jesus and God. Maybe it would just be easier for you to read the passage haha – Luke 10:1-12, 16-20.

So HERE is the audio of the sermon. The full text is below for you to read or follow along with!
[audio:RSLsermon070807.mp3]

The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean
Grace Cathedral
07/08/07
Luke 10:1-12, 16-20

It was the very first “Venture in Mission,” at least on a broad scale. The first commissioning was given to the inner circle of apostles, which Luke describes at the beginning of chapter nine. But then, according to Luke, a second commissioning, of a wider discipleship occurred. They are never mentioned by name, but referred to only as “the Seventy.”

There is no hint that they are particularly talented, nor especially gifted, nor notably educated, nor fervently pious, nor gleamingly moral. There is no evidence that they had exceptional IQ’s, or exhibited an aptitude for preaching, or had the capacity to influence others. Jesus didn’t call the “seventy best” but the Seventy.

And Jesus gives the Seventy–like the apostles before them–very little in the way of instruction; they are simply to fan out over the countryside, equipped with only two things: the authority of Jesus and the support of a partner.

Much to the horror of modern methodology and “careful-thinking” people, Jesus gives them no grand design, such as how to get on local talk shows or how to organize a crusade (No 800 number for fundraising). He simply sends them. And they go–in faith.

Why so reckless? Why without a surefire plan for success? Because the mission of the Seventy is not a campaign to be managed and controlled by human hands and human minds, but it is the inbreaking of the power of God to be announced and entered into by faithful, God-trusting people.

Look at these people–these believers. Their mission is laughably under-equipped. There’s no advertising campaign to precede their visits. There’s no seminar to indoctrinate them on how to “actively listen” or to “effectively engage” potential converts. Advice on how to evangelize–other than not moving from house to house and eating whatever is put before them–is not offered and not asked for. It’s a matter of trust.

Since the life-expectancy of unprotected sheep among wolves is about as long as it takes to cook a lamb chop, you would think that these “sheep,” who are Jesus’ heralds of the kingdom, would be provided with some kind of armament with which to protect themselves. They are not. They’re given nothing but a companion and Jesus’ promise that no harm will befall them. Any sharp lawyer at the time could have sued Jesus right out of his cloak for such negligence. But with the Seventy, Jesus’ word is enough, because it’s a matter of trust.

Even the small luxury of taking along personal amenities is denied these seventy sheep–no purse, no bag, no sandals. Because of the urgency and ultimacy of what they are proclaiming, the Seventy are not to chit-chat along the way, or to pause to say, “How do you do?” to fellow travelers.

If not listened to or rejected, they are not to try to cajole or convince the unreceptive, but to move along–keep right on going. They are not apologists; they are messengersand in an act that has to have set back Christian “niceness” for centuries, these commissioned ones are to “shake the dust off their feet” when given the cold shoulder–which seems to be a Jewish way of saying, “Take a hike!”

This seemingly unequipped, unsophisticated outreach of the Seventy had an unusual commonality with later Christian evangelism. Listen to what Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians: “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ Jesus, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (2:1-5)

The effectiveness of the Seventy lay in the fact that they applied the compassionate power of the kingdom of God to those afflicted by evil. Healing was a consequence of the proclamation, and proclamation was a consequence of healing. To do one, in effect, was to do both–to refuse one was to refuse bothand they shook the dust from their feet and moved on undeterred from their mission.

Like Paul, when he came to Corinth, the Seventy probably arrived in Galilean villages “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” But the grace of God was manifested through them, not only in their weakness, but because of it–since they had nothing else to rely on but Jesus.

Therefore those who came to faith through the Seventy, realized that this new reality which had taken hold of their lives “did not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.” and people saw that and were amazed!

Where is the greatest pain in our community? How can this place of most acute pain (and this is a painful place right now, in the midst of all our joy) be the place where the Kingdom of God is proclaimed and people are healed, and where, through the power and authority of Jesus, the Lord can witness the mission and ministry of the Church being carried forward despite resistance by the world, sometimes even in the midst of wolves?

It’s a matter of trust and faith–in God and in one another as the family of God–the community of faith. It can happen only if we, through trust and faith rely on God and depend on God, who sent us on our mission, to be there for us, and to protect us and to provide for us.

There’s nothing wrong with doing that with some fear and trembling. It’s human, and in the history of things, it puts us in some pretty good company. But at some point, if we want God to be involved in what we’re doing, we have to let go–take our hands off the controls, and let God do the steering.

That shouldn’t be a problem in this parish. After all that God has done for us, it doesn’t take a lot of faith and it would be a very dense person indeed who couldn’t see, who couldn’t understand and trust, that God is with us and working through us and for us and wants only the best for us and will be there and won’t let us down–if we’re willing to risk faith, to move forward and move around those who say “no.” Our vocation doesn’t lie in being safe and in control, but if we are truly in service to God, it lies in risk, in being out of control. And in trusting that God is in control.

If our mission and ministry as Grace Cathedral is to be safe, to never go further than others are comfortable with us going, to never try to do more than others say we can do or should do, to never go further than what we feel we can do on our own and don’t make a place for God to work among us and through us, then we’ll have it ourselves, and we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever accomplishing anything of significance.

But if we are a Church of trust and faith. If we’re not afraid to take risks, if we’ll make a place for God, and expect God to work with us and in us and through us, then God will be there. And amazing things will happen. Miracles will happen. You’ve seen it! Do you not believe it?

A safe church or a faith church? God help us to have faith. God help us to riskto step up and step out. God help us to witness as Christians who believe God’s promises.

Someone once asked the great preacher Philips Brooks why he was a Christian. He thought for a moment and then replied, “I think I’m a Christian because of my aunt who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Witness. You see, when we begin living out in our lives and in faith what we profess with our words, that becomes the greatest witness of all. It convinces people, it convicts them, it converts them. Because they see God at work in power and grace and love, and they want it. They’ve wanted all along. They just needed to see it to believe it.

It’s been said that a Christian is someone who knows one. If we have faith, it is because we have met faith. We’ve seen it in action. It’s been made real in a person of faith.

May we as Christians, as the body of Christ, as faithful people, be witnesses of faith to the world, and strong in the ministry of Christ to the world.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Let us go forth in the name of Christ.

And in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Yeah it was long. What do you think? I know what I think – it cleared things up for me, and still leaves me open for any belief or decision I choose to have or make…which I’m still working on! Comment here, or on my original “My Whole God Story” post.

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4 Responses to The Faith Sermon

  1. Katie says:

    Steve is sort of awesome

  2. Cole Mickens says:

    I am ever more impressed with the attitude of your church, but the sermon did nothing for me sadly. It was more nice-words but nothing compelling for me…

  3. Heather says:

    Awesome! If I had heard that about two or three years ago, it would’ve been very helpful. Now though I’ve learned a lot of those lessons the hard way (by trying to do things my way). But regardless, it’s always good to have encouragement! And the part about risking things and stepping out in faith is exactly what our camp speaker spoke about last week! I love when God tells me the same thing from several different places at the same time- it’s kind of like He’s saying “Heather, pay attention to what I’m telling you; this is very important”.

    Thanks for posting that David!

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