Door to Door

Could you willingly commit to an evangelism outreach program such as that described by for the 70 disciples in the Gospel text Luke 10:1-11, 16-20?  Listen again to the criteria:

First, you’re assigned to travel with another person, a partner, but not necessarily someone of your choosing.  Second, know that you will be vulnerable to whatever evil might be lurking out there. Like Jesus said, “lambs being sent out into the wolves.”  You won’t be carrying any defensive equipment, such as a can of mace to protect yourself or even a cell phone to call for help.  Third, there’s a lot more harvest to be gathered than there are laborers, in other words, you’ll be working short-handed trying to cover the entire population area.  Fourth, you won’t carry  any supplies—no purse, no bag, no sandals.   Basically, whatever you’re wearing now—that’s it, come rain or shine.  Fifth, for those of you who have outgoing, gregarious personalities, forget about socializing or talking to anyone along the road—you’re not to be distracted with small talk. You’re to stay on task, focused on completing your mission–without any of the usual chit-chat some of you socializers thrive on.  Sixth, when you arrive at the first house on your route, offer the host God’s peace.  Here you have two choices.  If the person welcomes you, even if there’s a nicer house around the corner, accept the hospitality where you are right now.  Also, eat whatever they put in front of you.  Don’t complain or think you can stroll next door to enjoy the steaks you smell broiling in the backyard grill.

On the other hand, if the person at that home or people in the next town reject you, do this:  Take the sandals off your feet, shake off the dust in protest, and as you leave them, say that the kingdom of God has come near. For as Jesus said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

In our context today, this six step approach that Jesus offered not just the 12, but a much larger group of followers, wouldn’t fly.  And why not?  What are some of the reasons that make us uncomfortable or upset with this approach to welcoming in and inviting those who have not heard the Good News?

Well for starters, perhaps we wouldn’t like the person assigned to travel and work with us.  It might be a real struggle if so-and-so you didn’t care for was the person assigned to work with you, right?  Maybe the idea of traveling defenseless, without at least your purse, credit cards or cellphone makes you uneasy.  For after all, don’t we need the ability for instantaneous communication, the ability to reach out and touch someone like the old commercial used to say—don’t we need that to survive in the world today? On top of that, doesn’t the thought of only 35 pair of people to cover much of this area’s zip code intimidate you?  Why not recruit other people, might be your thought.

Or perhaps you’re dismayed that so many of the rank and file members here are invited to help.   Some of you probably can’t imagine wandering around a town without socializing with people you meet on the street.  This next one, the last instruction, might be the most difficult.  We all want nice accommodations, right?  When we stay somewhere away from home, we want an excellent room to sleep in, comfortable bed, remote TV, Internet access – all thehe usual stuff.  And how about meals?  After hiking around all day, don’t we at least deserve the certainty and choice for a good meal, something we enjoy eating, not whatever the host puts in front of us? We don’t want to forego that self-serving behavior, to sacrifice.

So how did Jesus’ approach in the context of his day turn out?

In the final few verses of Luke, we hear that the disciples returned to Jesus filled with joy.  The disciples’ acts of healing, of driving out that which separate people from God—all of that was a surprising and huge success to them.  For the people who heard what they had to say, the people who were open and offered hospitality, these people were drawn to what the disciples offered them.  The disciples went in pairs to support one another.  They weren’t out there alone, by themselves, without companionship or support from a fellow believer.  They realized the urgency with which Jesus told them they should go and act to bring in the harvest, even though the work far-exceeded what they could bring in.  They trusted in God to provide for their needs and were not encumbered or sidetracked by their earthly possessions.  Neither were they told to expect or demand all the niceties of home or meal preferences.  Take what’s offered and enjoy it was the message from Jesus.

Jesus’ instruction reminds me of one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey wrote that synergy means “two heads are better than one.” To synergize is to put into action the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems.  It also means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Take a look at our world today.  Look at the things that make us and our neighbor feel vulnerable:  events like illness, death, tragedy, and disappointment.  Don’t all of those leave us out there feeling isolated, forsaken, and sad?

What can we do for our community? What might it look like if we dreamed together of a more vibrant witness to our faith?  How could that happen?  What might make the neighborhood around this church sit up and take notice about where the time, talents, and treasures of this church were focused in service to God and neighbor?  What might those efforts produce, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to inspire those living around this church to be welcomed in to become part of the life of this congregation?  May God grant this church the courage to remember and plan to fulfill its mission.