Luke 9:1-17 “Mission on a Mission”
Have you ever noticed how much more fun it is to do things together with other people? In fact, the more the merrier! We all love coming together to have a good time in each other’s company. We here in the church even gather on Tuesday nights just to play games, eat, and chat. We do it just to be with one another. There is no Bible study or worship involved. So, why do we have it at the church? Isn’t the church just for that one purpose of doing Godly things? Yes, but just coming together is also a godly thing. Likewise when people separate and stay home alone, that can be an ungodly thing.
Oh, I recall some months back having to replace a leaking pipe in the cemetery. Many times I have made such a repair by myself without any help. This time, however, James was aware of the needed repair and asked if I would not mind some company to make the repair go faster. So, on one Saturday morning we met and started digging. Just then David Somers called me on my cell. He said he had nothing to do and wondered if there was anything at the church that he could attend. I told him that we were just digging out an old pipe to be replaced. He was SO excited. He threw some shovels in his truck and was there in under five minutes! With so many eager hands the work was done in under an hour. We all looked at each other wondering why the fine fellowship had to end already!
Now, all of this comes back to the very first word of our scripture for today. Do you see it there? What is it? “Then.” That is not the first word in the Greek at all! The first word is “call-together” in the Greek. It is one word in that language. That is what Jesus first did; he called everyone together. Well, not everyone. It seems he called just the twelve disciples together. So, whatever was going to happen, would happen with “togetherness” and a sense of “call.”
This is important because we sometimes get a little lazy in our understanding of mission. We think sometimes that “mission” is what missionaries alone do. The missionary is supposed to go out alone into the far corners of creation to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. No, we are supposed to always be doing God’s mission in this world together.
When Helen and I were sent to Thailand as missionaries, we were “commissioned” at my original home church in Los Angeles. What should it mean to be “co-missioned” other than to be in mission with other “co-others.” We were coordinated with mission with all of the others in that church. Indeed, through the One Great Hour of Sharing, the offering that we take today, we were coordinated with thousands of churches throughout America. It is a wonder to feel that kind of support of being with one another while sharing the gospel!
The next thing we read after Jesus called the 12 together is that he gave them all power to cast our demons and heal people. What I find intriguing in this is that Luke purposefully mentions that 12 were given these powers for their mission together. ALL twelve! Judas Iscariot, too? He was given power to cast out demons? Let us look at Luke 22:3, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve. . . .”
What happened? Judas had the power to cast out Satan, given to him by Jesus, but in the end he did not use that power and made a deal with the devil instead. Never give into the devil. You have the power to cast that guy out!
We have also been given the power that Jesus gave his disciples. This is explained in Acts 6:6 in which the original disciples laid hands on seven more men and gave them that power to do miracles as well. In other words, that same power that Jesus gave to the original twelve disciples is still being passed down to our generation of believers and beyond.
The missionaries are ready to go. They have been called together and empowered by Jesus. The next commandment will send them on their way: “Leave everything behind; take nothing with you!” Jesus commands. Why?
Again, when my wife and I were missionaries in Thailand, we came to know another missionary: Let’s just call him “Tex” because that is where he was from. He told us about his plan along with others from his church to reach out to a small tribal village up in the hills close to the border with Burma.
Now, so that you here today can understand some of my misgivings, Tex was in language school with us. He started with us, that is, but he did not finish the course. He became frustrated with Thai and decided he did not have to speak the local tongue in order to share the Gospel. Nor did he think it at all necessary to learn the language of tribe he was going to visit in the hills either.
He explained to us that he would be going with a large screen television, DVD player, and of course a high-powered electrical generator to serve the power needs of the mission. He was also going to bring in cookies and other sweets because this tribe apparently had never had sugar available to them. Wow! Electricity, videos, and a sugar high! All of this was to be carried by elephant into the village since there really were no roads even so far up in the hills. We had to ask if at least the video they were going to show was in the language of the village. Nope. Was it at least in Thai, assuming that someone in the village could translate it. Nope.
They did it. They brought the gospel to that village. Revved up the generator and passed out the eats. Everybody sat there watching television under the stars. I wish I could have been there! Not for when they did this particular outreach, but for that time right after when they packed up those elephants and took the electricity and video equipment back out of the village. Sometimes we just end up sharing the wrong message!
Jesus told his disciples to go out WITH ONLY the message of the coming Kingdom of God. Leave everything else behind. Don’t bring the Double-Stuffed Oreo cookies! Don’t bring the digital media equipment! It will confuse the message. People will think that being a Christian means being tech-savvy and always eating dessert for three meals a day. We have to speak in humility and show such in favor of Jesus.
This last week there was an article in an online paper that discussed a church on the mainland that gives away a car every Sunday. The church is doing quite well apparently. Many newcomers come every Sunday. Donations are through the roof as well. Is this a lottery system in the guise of a church? Jesus never gave a car away.
And yet, we see something in our reading for this morning that might make us a bit uncomfortable perhaps. Jesus feeds five thousand people through the miracle of the fish and loaves. What should we think about that? Would people perhaps come back to hear more from Jesus in order to be fed again? After all, in the gospel of Mark (Chapter 6) we see Jesus feeding five thousand on one page, turn the page over, and he is feeding another four thousand.
Yet in both these cases, the people did not come to eat. They came to hear Jesus. In Mark 8 we read that they had been with Jesus for three days with nothing to eat! If they had come there for the food, they would have long been out of there.
I remember three years ago being told by the administration of the schools that the Bible Clubs on campus could not serve any food to the kids who came to the club. The pastors involved with Bible Club always have maintained that it was not fair to the students that they should miss their lunch because of the meeting every week. We provided snacks rather than see the kids go hungry to their next class.
Some parents got the idea that we were bribing the kids with sugary sweets and pizza lunches. They thought that we were not genuine in our desire to minister to the children and that the children themselves were being “seduced” into attendance. What do you think happened when we stopped serving anything to eat all together? Guess what? Bible Club continued with kids coming in, but then they had to go to their next class hungry. Yet, still they did come in! And, they have never left without being fed—at least spiritually!
So, it seems that we have two different forms of mission work being lifted up by example here. We see that the first kind is when we come together to be called out together to bring people together in the name of Christ. The second form of mission work is when people come together to hear the call to bring people together in the name of Christ. Oh, these are actually the same. Going out to be missionaries in the world and bringing the world together to hear Christ are really the same idea. We just see it from a different perspective.
This church here is a mission church. It was built by the original missionaries on this island who came here to give the Word of God to the local population. And, by the definition I just gave, we are most definitely still that same mission church. Nothing has really changed. WE are called together, empowered, and sent just as the original twelve disciples were.
My favorite verse in today’s scripture is verse 10. That is where we read how the disciples all came back together after being sent all over the countryside. That is a great but understated miracle. Surely the Spirit was protecting them all.
That is also our understated miracle that every Sunday we get sent back out into the world but are then called back here to be in Jesus’ presence once more, to be fed, to be healed, and to hear His Word once more. Then, the mission continues. And, yes, most of what happens in our mission in spreading the Good News happens outside of the one hour on Sunday morning! You are not going to just leave worship today. Today you will be called, empowered and sent.