What do You Carry?
4th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from His only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen
A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Mobile, Alabama for the LWML national convention. I would be gone four days. I packed four pairs of socks, and undergarments for those 4 days. I took two pairs of pants, one clerical shirt, one dress shirt and two polo shirts. I took two pairs of shoes. I took a belt, wallet, cell phone, business cards, a good pen, and a handkerchief.
All of this I brought for four days and three nights. This is quite a contrast to what the 72 took on their mission journey. In [Luke 10:4] it says, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Now this was not to mean they were barefoot, it just meant they were to take only what they were wearing. They were not to be discourteous and ignore people; they were to focus on their mission.
You see, in the time of Jesus and even today, the custom when strangers or friends met on the road or in the town, the host was to give the visitors food or at least something to drink. While they rested, they would exchange recent news they had heard or stories or songs.
I don’t know if I would be very trusting in the charity of strangers especially in this day and age, but Jesus commanded them and they followed Him. One commentator of the Gospel looked upon this command as a way for the disciples to concentrate on their mission. He wrote, “The thought of earthly possessions were a distraction. When we worry about our belongings, we lose focus on our mission.” It reminds me of when my mother told me never to go grocery shopping when you are hungry. Your mind focuses on your own growling belly instead of what you need to do. In the end, you find yourself with some things you did not need and having forgotten some of the things you did need.
One biblical commentator, R.C.H. Lenski, said this:
“This does not involve special hardship but the dismissal of all care about bodily needs. He who sends them out will provide for them in all respects. They are to learn complete trust and are thus to experience the happiness and the contentment that go with such trust.”
As we see later in Luke 22:35 [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, Not a thing.”
More often than not, people today are concerned more with their own property and well-being than that of their neighbor. Am I wearing the right clothes? Am I driving the right car? Do I belong to the right social groups? Should I be seen talking to this person or that? What will that say of my reputation? How are we to spread the good news of Christ our savior when we are preoccupied with whom we are seen and how we fit in to our wanted social class?
We sometimes forget that all people are children of God. We sometimes forget that God wants every person in His creation to be reconciled to Him. Jesus said, “… the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”[Luke 9:56] We may even wrongly decide who should hear the life saving message of Christ’s redemption based on what a person looks like. This is sinful selfishness that gets in the way of our trust in Jesus.
When we think of ourselves, and not of the power of Christ’s saving grace, we allow fear to creep into our minds and poison our faith. One of a Christian’s biggest fears of proclaiming the salvation of Jesus’ sacrifice, death and resurrection is that it will not be heard, or that the words will come out wrong and we will look foolish or be criticized. When we are treated with contempt, we fear the message is lost, but this is nonsense.
Firstly, it is not us but the work of the Holy Spirit that brings people to Christ. Secondly, Christ gave us the authority to speak His name and His words of salvation. In verse 5, he commands the 72 to greet each household with the peace of the Lord and if a son of peace is there, your peace will be upon him; if not, your peace will return to you.
This peace is the peace the Lord gives to us. It is not our peace; it is not of our making. This is the peace we have through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He bore our sin unto death on the cross and into the pit of Hell so that we could have everlasting life. His resurrection gives us the peace of a promised life in his kingdom as his children. This is a permanent gift that Satan and all his minions can never take from us.
Yet some people do not want this peace that passes all understanding. We must remember that when people reject what they hear, they are not rejecting us, but they are rejecting Christ. Jesus says this in verse 16: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
We are not the center of the message. It is the message of Christ given to us by His authority. It is like when I was a young child and my older siblings would tell me to do a chore; I would reject them outright. However, when my brother or sister presented the command backed with the authority of my parents, for example, “Dad said, ‘Chop the wood’”, or “Mom said, ‘take out the trash’”, I obeyed as if it came from their own lips.
You see? The word of God cannot be ignored; but you do need to say it. Now what does this look like in ‘real’ life? I have often heard people ask, “How do I witness? How do I talk to people about my faith in Jesus Christ and share the wonderful news about salvation?” First of all, do not be fooled into thinking that you must put on your best Sunday clothes and officially visit your neighbors from door to door. I’m not saying that one could not do that, I’m saying that is not the only way and not necessarily the best way.
The best beginning to be a witness to Christ is to be a Christian in everything you do. Begin each day with prayer and live your day in prayer. One of my favorite passages is in Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 4 through 7:
[Deut. 6:4-7] Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
When you are at work, be a Christian. When you are at play, be a Christian. Do not be afraid to serve your fellow worker with a joyful heart. Do not be afraid to say, “When you use my Lord’s name in vain, it offends me. Please stop.” Also, do not use the Lord’s name in vain yourself.
Do not participate in lewd behavior or gossip. As instructed by Dr. Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment, do not slander your neighbor or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way. Trust in the Lord and you will be surprised that people will come to you. They will ask you what you believe with the desire to hear the Gospel.
In 2010 a great earthquake hit the country of Haiti. Much of the infrastructure of Haiti was demolished. One of our church’s missionaries told a story of what the love for our neighbor through Christ looks like.
Haiti has a large population who follow the Vodou religion. One Lutheran church had a next-door neighbor which was a Vodou temple with a Vodou priestess. This priestess was very outspoken against the Lutheran church and would often stir up the people against them and publicly curse them.
After the earthquake, Lutheran disaster relief came bringing food, water and other items. One of these items were sandals and shoes. You see, most of the population, especially the children, were bare-footed. This caused problems of infection through cuts and abrasions in the feet as many people were scavenging for food in the broken rubble.
Hundreds of pairs of sandals and shoes came to the church and were distributed among the people. After a few weeks, the neighboring Vodou priestess came to the pastor and asked if she could have some shoes to pass out among her followers. The pastor gave her the shoes freely. She was shocked that her enemy would help her and her people.
Living in the Word of God with the Holy Spirit guiding you in everything you do, is being seen by those around you! Do not squander the gift of the Spirit with your own inaction. You do not need a special place, a special tie or special shoes to do what the Lord our God has already given you the authority to do.
What was true when Jesus was incarnate man is true today. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Thanks be to God that there are workers. Praise the Lord for bearing up our sins unto death on the cross. Bless His holy name for Christ’s resurrection from the grave and therefore the death of death itself. We have been made righteous before God by the blood of the Lamb. We are His people, His possession. Let us rejoice by following His command to love our neighbor by telling them the Good News of Christ’s salvation from sin, death and the devil.
We all share in this salvation with the promise of life eternal in the kingdom of God. With joy, let us share this promise with everyone we meet and remember the words of our Savior:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [John 14:27] Amen.