Posts Tagged ‘Telling Stories’

If These Walls Could Talk 7-3-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, I explore the story of Jesus sending out the 70 to proclaim the good news in the places where he intended to go. We share in this mission, and though the time and place has changed, the message hasn’t.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As we begin today, a brief survey…just to gather a bit of history about those of us gathered. How many of you were married here in this sanctuary? (pause for answer) Okay…now how many of you were confirmed here in this sanctuary? (pause for answer) Alright, lets go back to the beginning. How many of you were baptized in this sanctuary? (pause for answer) On the flip side, how many of you have been coming here for less than 5 years? (pause for answer) And on the opposite end of the spectrum, anyone here today that was around when this building was dedicated and the congregation moved in all the way back in the 50’s? (pause for answer)

Okay, well between everyone here today, there are a lot of stories…a lot of experiences here within the sanctuary of Underwood Lutheran…and as I think about that multitude of stories…it reminds me of the old saying “If these walls could talk.” (pause) These walls have witnessed every one of those stories…and prior to Underwood Lutheran calling this building home, those of you familiar with our history know that this sanctuary was a military chapel out in Nebraska…and so there’s another section of history that we are all oblivious to…but boy, if these walls could talk. (pause)

But they can’t talk can they? So we have to find other ways to tell the stories…to remember the events of the past…and of course there are a lot of ways to do that as well…memories can be recorded in journals and diaries…pictures or videos can be taken to offer a snippet of things that have occurred…but perhaps the most effective way that these events live on, is when we tell the story…when we remember and pass on what has occurred. (pause)
Earlier this week, I was in conversation…talking about the old days…and how things have changed over the years…but that there are times or places that offer us a little snippet into the ways things used to be…as we sat there jabbering about different places like this…we also started talking about the old stories that go along with them…and how those stories serve to keep the memories alive…even if time and retelling tends to create various embellishments to what actually happened…its still wonderful to hear them…and to be able to fill in some of the blanks of what life was like in days gone by.

Its funny…how connected we humans are to the past…the way that we try to hold onto things even as time marches on…and things change…even in our modern fast paced lives that we lead today, we see evidence of this…for instance, log onto Facebook, and you’ll be greeted with a picture that you posted on this particular date a few years ago. It seems like every time that happens, we stop and relive the memory…and often we retell the story to those who aren’t familiar with it.

Without a doubt…humanity is a species of story tellers…and we have been for as long as we’ve been walking the earth…which is a pretty good thing when you think about it…because without the desire to tell stories of our history…the need to pass them along from one generation to the next, well we wouldn’t have this amazing book known as the Bible.

The entire narrative of the Bible consists of stories that were passed down…New Testament, Old Testament…all of it…including the gospels…which of course includes today’s gospel lesson…handed down from person to person…stories told over and over again…sharing the message of what has happened…until finally, in the case of Luke’s gospel…roughly 70 years after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus…someone wrote it down so that these stories…these events that surround God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ would not be lost.

And these events…these things that Jesus said and did…these things that were witnessed by a tiny group of people…they’ve changed the world…and over the course of 2000 years, these stories have been told and retold…and translated into different languages…and they’ve been read, and reread…and they’ve revealed new things to new people…and they’ve confirmed things in people who have read them before…this is the Gospel…the good news of what God is up to in the world.

Now our story for today, it highlights this very thing. For as Jesus was walking around Judea for 3 years…he attracted a following…great crowds surrounded him…amazed at his miracles and his teachings…but most of them came and went…and only a small group of people stuck with him…he had 12 dudes…a batch of ladies that came along as well…and eventually…by the time of his resurrection and return to heaven…the total number was about 120…

But at this point…its 70…not a huge number…honestly, about the size of our normal worship service here in the summer time…70 people who have heard the call of Jesus to “follow me” and did just that. But at this point, Jesus is no longer content to let them follow…for he has made a change…and he is intentionally on his way to the cross. But there’s a lot of ground to cover…and a lot of ministry to do…and a lot of towns to visit before he finally makes it to Jerusalem…and so, he empowers these 70 people to go out in pairs…never alone mind you…and to enter these places where Jesus intended to go…and they were to proclaim the gospel.

Now the way that Jesus sent them out is interesting…take no purse, no bag…no extra sandals…but go…and rely on the hospitality of the very people that you will proclaim the good news to. I’m sending you like sheep among wolves…with nothing of your own to depend on…powerless against the world…now go. (pause)

And here’s the interesting thing…Jesus warns them that they’re about to face mixed results…some will listen…some will welcome you…some will flat out reject you. Because the good news invites mixed results…that’s just the way it is.

But the instructions for these pairs of evangelists doesn’t change…enter a town and go into a house…and tell them “Peace to you.” That peace may be reciprocated…and you may be welcomed…and if you are, well, eat what they give you…and stay there until such time as you leave the town…heal the sick as I have give you power…cast out demons, for I give you that power too…and proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near. (pause)
Well Jesus, that sounds good…but what do we do when they won’t receive us? (Pause) Great question guys…if you enter a house and they refuse the peace you offer it will return to you…so walk out, and shake the dust of the town from your sandals, and head on to the next place…but tell them “The kingdom of God has come near.” (pause)
Did you catch that? Regardless of the response…the message DOES…NOT…CHANGE.

The kingdom of God has come near. (pause) Now often times, people will ask just what that means…what does that look like…that the kingdom of God is near to us? Even John the Baptist posed this question when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus “are you the one to come or do we wait for another.” Jesus response…the blind see, the deaf hear, the sick are healed, and the good news is proclaimed. (pause)

The kingdom of God comes near when the gospel is shared…that’s the good news…freedom from that which hinders us…that which isolates us…and that which creates separation…most importantly separation from God. The kingdom comes near when someone hears that freedom is offered to them…that God desires that they be set free…and that Christ has come in order to make that possible.

Now here’s the amazing thing about all this…remember that Jesus sent out the 70 into the places that he intended to go…and likewise we are also sent…but it raises the question of why? Because if Jesus was sending them to prepare for his arrival, and now he’s not in the world anymore…then what are we sent to prepare for?

Well…because Jesus has promised us that he will return…he will, once more enter into this world…and so we are called to go out and proclaim freedom from that which hinders…and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come near…and one day, Christ will follow where that message has gone. (pause)

And this story gives us an important reminder…and I think perhaps a critique…that over recent history, we’ve been doing it wrong. (pause) Think about how often you hear the phrase “we’re a welcoming church.” Or we want to be experienced as welcoming. Or, we want new people to come and feel welcome. (pause)
But think about it…to be welcoming…is passive, because you have to wait for people to come to you…and I fear this environment within the greater church conveys the message that “we want you to come be like us.”
But that’s not what Jesus instructed…he sent them out…totally dependent upon those that they were ministering to…to be shaped by those that they were ministering to…so that as the body of Christ grows…the body truly becomes more and more like Christ…we are shaped and changed by those we encounter…and together we become more like Christ.

We must be willing to be changed….and we must be willing to be rejected…and yet throughout the experiences that we have when we actively go out in the world…our message does not change…the Kingdom of God has come near…and freedom is offered to those who are hindered. (pause)

Now what does that look like for us? Well…we can still welcome the new person when they come…but we also need to consider how to be more active out there in the world…allowing ourselves to be shaped by those who receive the good news…and remember that we don’t have to go around the world…the mission field is right out there…because the world is right out there…and we are sent where Jesus intends to go.

We are sent to share the same message…the same story…the same good news of Jesus Christ, through our stories…knowing that we are shaped by what Christ has done…and in sharing this, other lives will be shaped as well.

If these walls could talk…the stories they could tell…but they can’t…so we remember them…and we tell them…passing them on to the next generation…likewise, the world cannot tell the story of what God has done through Jesus Christ…so we remember it…and we tell it…but even more importantly…we are invited to follow along…and become part of it. Amen.