many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the
events that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were
handed on to us by those who from the beginning were
eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3I too decided, after
investigating everything carefully from the very first, to
write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4so that you may know the truth concerning the things about
which you have been instructed.
These are the
opening lines of Luke. The book of Luke, and the book of Acts,
originally together but now in our New Testament separated by
the book of John. Dedicated to a Theophilus. This name would
have been recognized by both Jews and Greeks in the 1st and 2nd
century communities of the Roman Empire. How many know Greek?
Not many today are students of Greek, but today we will learn
one thing in Greek - Theophilus - means “lover of God” and so
this morning I take heart in knowing that Theophilus may be some
Greek dude from back in the day, but today, the lovers of God –
are you and I. We are lovers of God and delighted to hear its
message. And what is that message?
with you. The kingdom of God is near.
simple and yet so far, 2000 years and counting, has proven to be
quite complicated and somehow intended to unite still continues
in Luke 10, is one of a kind. Not found in Matthew, Mark, or
John. Considered by many scholars to be from an earlier source
than even Mark’s gospel.
is a guide for the god lovers – a piece of the puzzle that if
only heard means hardly anything, could even be unsettling –
commissioning a force of 70 for a mission to heal & teach. But
once this message of Luke 10 is experienced in a believer, by
someone on the outside, anyone who has always been the outcast,
the broken, the seeker, the wanderer - the message means
everything, can change anyone. The kingdom of God is near (or
if you read the footnotes, it is at your hand).
I read and
reread Chapters 8-11 in Luke this week, over and over and upon
the 10th reading it began to appear to me like a great movie
preview. All the words, allusions, images, that left me wanting
more – like that new Harry Potter preview, who’s with me? Who
has seen it? It’s like, yes. I’ll be there. Except here we
have parables, conversations, miracles and experiences that are
developed to give us a feel for the way that Jesus lived, the
way he mentored the disciples, how the disciples lived, and how
we too can pick up where they left off. It’s not a movie b/c it
happened to real people. And if we’re thinking about it to us
too. The message lives.
And what is
that message for us today? How does the preview end?
kingdom of God is near.
was the only message Jesus sends them with then and it is the
message we carry with us today and that, if we are called to
preach and teach anything, it is this. The kingdom of God is
near. I ask you, why do I feel the need sometimes, the desire
to get clever, to make some message more – it doesn’t get any
better than this. The kingdom of God is near.
Not just near
(to me) it is you. It is in you.
I mean, What
did we experience today already? In this park, on this grass,
at this table, in this public time of prayer?
Have to tell
you this too, I stumbled upon, thanks to a friend, a way to do
this online - Other6.com – functions like a twitter account for
prayer. It asks you two questions: how did you experience God
today? How do you need to experience God today?
of God, as a phrase/story/idea goes back a long time, before
these gospels, back deep into the Israelite heritage of the
Exodus – where God is the king who will return to rescue, set
right, accomplish the promises of the people. Not a roman king,
or an Egyptian king but God. Developed so long ago this story,
this hope grew and continued to live in the hearts of the lovers
of God – imagery we recognize in the psalms – this kingdom with
potential to be a great uniter of people, but in the long run,
still proves to be difficult to achieve its purpose. This time
to come – a future where all is made right – and for Luke –
50-100 years past Jesus – where is it??? We thought it was
right around the corner…it is. It’s even closer than that.
used this story, this language of the kingdom of God to bring
everyone together – Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, everyone. This
Ancient Jewish tradition where God is king – provocative. It
implies a political vision where all are equal – the peace of
God is not handed out by some political power but distributed to
all. Each time the kingdom language is used in a gospel story
it is to be in contrast with the political present. And for
Luke, this vision, becomes personal in the story of Pentecost,
where all in their own language, own religious expression, own
culture understand the nearness of God – and their own culture
is not destroyed. This kingdom is a definite contrast to the
one imposed by Rome – one language, one religion, one way.
of god is near – it is the nearness of God that changes people –
– not in some future place, though it may have meant that too –
but the anticipation, the hope, the awareness of God in this
moment is a power that can create justice now, in the hour when
men and women HEAR the word of the nearness of God.
Do you ever
get the feeling, upon meeting someone new, whether they are
something special? Someone who, after talking with them or
observing them or listening to a speech of theirs you say, that
is a good person, I feel goodness coming from that person and I
too feel good or want to share that goodness with another? That
is the power that Jesus gave to disciples, the power the
disciples are asked to use when meeting others.
It is said
that those who detected the nearness of God stood up and held
their heads high. Those that were healed. The nearness of
god changes people.
brief chapters of Luke you can see the nearness of God is
measured in the strength of the hope which is spreading among
people, not measured in intervals of time, but in the hope that
grows, the peace that grows.
Check it out
– first in Chapter 8, Jesus sends out the 12 –in their response,
they bring back 5000.
And so now,
in Chapter 10, Jesus then sends 70/or 72 - 70 may reflect the
seventy nations in Genesis 10, the descendants of Noah and his
sons, or 72 signifies the 72 who decided upon the Hebrew to
Greek translation we call the Septuagint. Just like the sending
out 12 is linked to the 12 tribes of Israel in the OT.
instructions are brief, specific.
purse, no sandals, greet no one on the way – this means “stay on
task people, you are on the clock here. Don’t get distracted.
It would be a weird mission if you weren’t to be nice to anyone
or never say hello.
Go humbly but
not unprepared. Go in peace but don’t expect peace to return to
you. That’s what “shaking the dust from your feet” means to
me. It means don’t pick up the inhospitality of others, you
stay on message.
comes to you. Implicit in this command is the removal of all
social barriers – eat meat, don’t eat meat, manners, norms and
that are there.
I know it is
difficult in this day and this time to consider ourselves to be
healers, for lots of reasons we ask ourselves how will we ever
live up to that legacy? Is that really what Jesus is asking me
people who hoped for healing from Jesus also relied on his
capacity to hand on God’s power. He was knows to pass it on
through word and contact with others. “He made the sick his
partners in the fight for the life of the children of God.”
Being healed meant becoming a child of God. You’ve got no tools
per se – but you have the tools within, the gifts of the spirit
to help you. You carry the heart of Christ in you.
matter where you are, but if you go with that vision you will
swiftly, amazingly, spread the kingdom to others. on not much
more than a smile.
God is near.
God is here.
All that has
previously divided, Jesus wants to bring together. All the hope
built, Luke does not want to disappear, he takes his role as
disciple seriously. Today we have been handed a guidebook that
shows us all the wrong and right ways to be in this world.
kingdom, there are no divisions of class, gender, race, sexual
orientation. Jesus sends we disciples out with a simple
are – whatever unique circumstances you find…
In the park
or at the bus station or In Ecuador
In your house
or at work
country or city.
In the jails
or the hospitals or in the poorest villages of China, India,
Thailand, Zimbabwe, the United States.
of God is there. Is here. Is here (with heart). Lived from
the inside OUT. Lived here this morning. Doesn’t even require
shoes. Shoes would be a bonus.
as we celebrate our freedom to think, to pray in our own
language, to work, to play, as we celebrate America – we can be
thankful. We are hopeful for the future because God is near and
will meet us wherever we go.
of God is here. May it be so.