Engagement (Offering H.O.P.E.)

These thoughts were offered at Franklin United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 4, 2018. This message was based upon a reading from Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.  This  message is part of a stewardship/discipleship series entitled “Offering H.O.P.E.”
     I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here.

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Jesus was set on getting to Jerusalem.  After a failed attempt to setup camp in a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56); and, after several disciples turn back (Luke 9:57-62); Jesus commissions seventy people to go out ahead of him.

He sends them out “to every city and place he was about to go” (Luke 10:1b).  The first thing you are to say when you arrive in a new place, says Jesus, is “Peace!”  If you are welcomed, Jesus continued, then eat with the people, drink with the people, cure the sick, and tell them that the kingdom of God has come near.  If people do not welcome you, if they do not desire peace, then brush off the dust from your shoes, tell them that regardless, the kingdom of God has come near (they were just too blind to see it) and keep on keepin’ on.  Go to the next town and do it all again.  Offer peace and proclaim that the kingdom of God has drawn near.

The sending of the seventy is a foreshadowing of the sending out of the disciples in the second part of this saga (Acts of the Apostles) where Jesus tells the disciples that they “will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Disciples of Jesus are always sent forth.  They go to bear witness to the love of God found in Jesus Christ by offering peace and proclaiming, that the kingdom of God is dawning.  Disciples are constantly reaching out.  Indeed, as the Discipline reminds us, “The heart of Christian ministry is Christ’s ministry of outreaching love.”[1]  Our Resolutions (the social and faith-in-practice teaching of the church) state that “we believe God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty.  We cannot just be observers.  So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex.”[2]  Disciples are always on the move, daring to reach out and love the world God so loves.  Disciples of Jesus offer—they reach out, they go forth to give–H.O.P.E. to the world.

Discipleship, what it means to follow Jesus, is to be constantly on the move, giving, offering, reaching out to others with a love that does not end and a peace that defies all understanding.  Becoming a disciple is not about achieving some new title or status, but entering into a perpetual process, a cycle of becoming.

We tend to think of processes and cycles as circles; in fact, that’s how it is depicted in the brochure (that was mailed and is in the pew-back in front of you).  But, the process isn’t that static.  It does not go around in circles bringing us back to where we were.  The process of becoming and making disciples propels us forward, sends us out like the 70 Jesus sent in our reading for today, to extend hospitality, offer Christ, help people find their purpose, and engage them in the process.

The process is more like a coil, or a rolling circle.  We receive hospitality—someone shows us, bears witness to the love of God found in Jesus Christ.  We receive Christ and take advantage of opportunities to grow in faith and love.  We discover our purpose by growing in love and engaging in ministry.  And, then we, having received and made a commitment, invite others to do the same.  We engage people outside the church by using our talents, gifts, and skills to share God’s love through word and action.  We extend hospitality, offer Christ, help people grow in their faith and love of God and neighbor, and send them forth, so that they can do the same.  It is in this way that faith spreads, the kingdom grows and draws near.

This is what disciples do:

Disciples, those who are faithful and those who transform the world, commit to the process of becoming and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Disciples of Jesus are sent out.  They give everything—their talents, gifts, their very livelihood—in the pursuit of faith and sharing it with others.

Faithful disciples—saints—are made as we dare to proclaim the gospel in word and deed to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.  That proclamation changes the person proclaiming and the person hearing and seeing.  To be faithful, to be a saint, one does not have to work miracles, one must simply engage the process of becoming and making disciples.

On this All Saints’ Sunday may we not only remember and recall the names of those who have inspired us to faith, but may we also commit to being one too.

 


[1] from para. 126, “The Heart of Christian Ministry” in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: 2016 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2018).

[2] from page 27, The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church: 2012 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012), emphasis added.

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