22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

On the Road Again

03 July, 2016 Luke 10:1-11 Pentecost 7 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

On the Road again

 

Introduction

I had a short and illustrious career as an under 18 football player in Queensland.  And we are talking Australian Rules football, not Rugby league or union.  I played for the Mt Gravatt Vultures who were the same colours as Carlton…. Hence my long and lately suffering support for that team.  I had a try-out game to play for Queensland under 18 on a Saturday a long long time ago.  Well, either the selectors were blind to my potential, or I just didn’t cut the mustard, but I didn’t make the grade and went back to the Vultures, lasting another season before retiring from potential professional football.

It was an interesting couple of years.  I knew then and know now that I just didn’t have the aggression that is needed to play a team sport at a high level.  Nevertheless, I did learn some valuable lessons and just one I want to share this morning because it fits into our reading on Luke’s story.  The lesson was this, and I think it came from the coach, but I can’t really remember; he said, “Football is a game of movement.  Never stand still on the field.  It does matter where you move, provided you keep moving.”  You see that more today in professional football than at any other time in its history.  The players are always advancing and the person with the ball doesn’t kick to where the player is, he kicks to where they will be…. On the move, not static or standing fixed in one place.

 

On the move again…

It only takes a brief reading of the gospel stories to see that Jesus was continuously on the move.  While most of his ministry was in Capernaum, around the Sea of Galilee, he travelled from the north to the south of Palestine and in between with journeys to Jerusalem.  But being on the move wasn’t about just seeing some of the country.  His movement was to spread his message and encounter as many people as possible; but Jesus was on the move in other ways and this may be most relevant for us today.  The Gospel writers are clear that Jesus’ message was not static or conformist.  It was a radical reinterpretation of the message of Israel’s ancient prophets.  I have said before that there is little in the teachings of Jesus that you won’t find in the Hebrew scripture; “love your enemies” is one example that you could say is unique to the teachings of Jesus.

But most significantly, Jesus reinterpreted the well-worn rituals and religion of his day. In his short three years of preaching and teaching he placed love over duty; justice over law; compassion over ritual; humility over opinion and prejudice.  Just to name a few. He moved the goal posts of established religion and even changed some of the rules of the game.  He was on the move.

 

His followers were on the move

While there are many advantages in being an itinerant preacher and evangelist, in most situations in the New Testament, particularly in the writings of Paul, the first followers were encouraged to develop a community around a space or a place.  Sometimes that was a synagogue, if they didn’t run afoul of the local rabbis.  Or in homes. And very quickly, as they were welcomed into society, they built places of worship.  Some will see that as slowing down the movement of the message, while others will see it as providing an important meeting place where communities can gather to support and encourage each other while learning and practising the teachings of both Jesus and the early disciples.  I think it is just inevitable.  It is part of the human psyche to build “sacred” and significant places in which to gather.

But what we are reading in the Lucan passage is the first movement out from the centre.  Remember the centre is Jerusalem, and in 70AD it was razed to the ground by the Romans.  So the early church was on the move.  There certainly seemed to be an excitement and vitality about this message, and it was a new message and a very radical one at that.  It challenged the Roman view of violence and subjugation and put the Hebrew legalists on notice.  So if there were two groups in society you didn’t want to upset, these were the ones.

So the message and the practice of that message needed to be short, sharp and to the point.  Perhaps I don’t know my world history that well, but I suspect that there are very few radical movements in history that have started from the top and moved down.  Most, I believe, begin at the bottom among the alienated and move up until a few with power grasp the significance of what is happening.

 

Moving from place to place

I suppose the disciples followed the mantra “Don’t expect them to come to you; go to them.”

Jesus appointed seventy and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.  He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

This passage has been the cry of the 19th and 20th Century missionary movements.  But in Jesus’ time it was a simple metaphor of reality.  “We are beginning this project, so find a way to share with others what you have experienced yourself.” And that is the crux of it.  It really isn’t an intuitional movement.  Although in the modern era we do use intuitions to garner support.  But it comes back to the simple point that you cannot authentically share with another what you aren’t yourself passionate about. You need to have experienced it yourself.

 And I am not talking about reciting Bible verses to a stranger.  I think it has more to do with honestly being who you are and knowing that the Jesus story is important to who you are.  It has shaped and formed who you are and what you do.  Now common sense tells us that not everyone will be excited about that, so:

Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!'  And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person…

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe it off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' 

It sounds a bit harsh, but the point is not to be discouraged, or to harass or harangue others.  The best form of communication is the conversation.  So if there is little conversation, then move on.

After the fall of the Romans there were dangerous times, so the spirit of Jesus says to his followers,

“Go on your way. For I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.  Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.” 

 No weapons for protection just a life- and love-filled message.  But neither do they have the protection of an institution.  In some ways we in the 21stcentury are more like these early disciples.  The institution is still present, but it is very shaky and in need of a major overhaul.  And there are plenty of voices that would tell us what that overhaul should look like.

Hugh McKay, who some of us heard last week, made many interesting points about the church in contemporary Australian society. I suppose his overarching conclusion was that for the church to thrive today (and it may not look the same tomorrow), it must practise compassion and loving kindness.

I remember a story of sheep in outback Australia.  The farmer said that with sheep you don’t need a fence, you just need a waterhole.  The sheep will continually return to the waterhole and won’t move too far away.  Perhaps we should stop fencing off the church to keep people in or out and focus on being a watering hole for thirsty people.  Like those of the seventy who went out and took with them a message that was the water of life.  It could nourish and nurture a thirsty soul and a religiously worn-out populace.

And we don’t need to completely shut up shop and move out; we can see our building as a hospice or refreshing well where we and others come and go.  But the truth is found in George Macleod, the founder of the new Iona community, who said:

I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek … at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died for. And that is what He died about. That is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen ought to be about.

 That’s being on the road again.

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