Neighboring - Go!

From October 1, 2017
Rev. Shawn Coons

This morning we are continuing with our series on neighboring, which is God’s plan for taking care of each other.  We’ve heard about God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves, last week we talked about loving our actual neighbors, the people next door to us, by getting to know them by name and by their stories.  Next week, we will talk about what this looks like within our congregation- how we can all be responsible for loving and taking care of our neighbors in this room.

But first, this week, we will be talking about what it looks like for us as Fairview Presbyterian, for us as a congregation, to love our neighbors.  How can our church be a good neighbor?  How can we live this out so much, that when people pass our church they say, “That’s the church that loves their neighbors and shows that love all the time?”

The first step in being a church that loves its neighbors is an easy one.  It’s simply realizing how many neighbors we have. In the passage we are going to read in just a moment, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  This is Jesus’ way of saying, there are a lot of people out there who need what we have.

The same is true for Fairview. This church does a great job at offering God’s love, hope, good news, challenge, care, healing, transformation to all who come here.  But here’s a little not-so-secret. The majority of Indianapolis doesn’t go to Fairview. Shocking. I know.  Well, OK but other churches offer God’s love and hope too. Absolutely, they do. But here’s another not so secret, a lot of people don’t go to church.

So, if we are going to define a neighbor, like Jesus did in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that Bill read a moment ago. That is, we define our neighbor by someone in need of help, in need of God’s love and God’s care. Than we need to realize we have thousands of neighbors.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborer’s are few.  So what’s the plan then. For bringing the love of God that we experience here at Fairview to the thousands of our neighbors who need that same love.

Let’s see how Jesus goes about this in Luke 10:1-11:

10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He 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. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.

7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

What has Jesus’ ministry looked like up to this point.  Jesus and his followers were curing the sick, offering healing to people.  They were casting out demons and feeding the hungry.  They were sharing good news, bringing hope to the oppressed and downtrodden.  And Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful. There are so many more people who are sick, struggling with oppression or their own demons. So many more who need hope and healing.”

And Jesus comes up with a plan. I’m not going to share that plan with you this morning. I’m going to let Rev. Katie Hays of Galileo Church in Texas, share that plan by video. We’re going to hear from Rev. Hays a couple times this morning. Back in September, Elder Stephanie Bode and I had the chance to hear her speak on this morning’s passage at a conference we were attending. And Rev. Hays brought some powerful words about this passage. And rather than try to sum them up I will let her speak for herself.

So Jesus realizes the vast number of people in need of good news and God’s love and he has to come up with a plan. Here is one option that he could have chosen:

Hays Video #1 7:47-8:52

Jesus could have set up shop. Could have planted himself and his ministry in one place and said let everybody know I’m here and let them come to me. But he didn’t. Instead he realized that he and his followers needed to go to the people. They needed to spread out all over the area and find those who need healing where they were. They needed to reach those struggling with their own demons, wherever they were. The burden of travel should not be on those who needed help but on those who had already received God’s blessings.

So Jesus gathers seventy of his followers, and he gives them some two things. First, he gives them some specific instructions. Don’t take anything with you, and rely on the hospitality of those who will welcome you. Don’t take a bag to carry stuff in. Don’t take stuff. Don’t even wear shoes!

Why is this? Is Jesus being harsh? Cruel? No, I don’t think so.  What’s happening here is Jesus wants them to know that when they go out, they aren’t to rely on their own abilities, on their own power.  They are to rely on the second thing he gives them: power and authority.  Jesus tells them that wherever they go they are to cure the sick and let them know the Kingdom of God has come near.  They don’t have traveling provisions, but they don’t need them because they have the power and authority given to them by God.

And to make that clear, Jesus says that the seventy need to simply move on if they are rejected, because in reality, the people aren’t rejecting Jesus’ followers, they are rejecting God.

I think we, you and I, often miss this blessing.  Too often, we are intimidated when we think of going out offering God’s blessings, healings, message of love, to other people. We worry about how we will come across, what will people think of us, what if we offering a bit of our faith or a kind act out of God’s loves and it is rejected?  Or we worry that we don’t know how to talk about our faith or offer a compassionate act to someone in need of God’s blessing.

But Jesus promises the seventy, and Jesus promises us, that we don’t need to have exactly the right words, or know exactly what someone needs, we don’t need to rely on ourselves and our own ability. If we just go to the people, then God will do the rest.

Our biggest challenge, is not knowing what to do when we get in the midst of the harvest, but going out to join in the harvest in the first place. The biggest challenge we face is truly believing not in God, but that God is calling us to love and care for our neighbors as much as we care of ourselves.  If we truly believe that our thousands of neighbors out there, need God as much as we do, need God’s love, and healing, and wholeness, as much as we do, then like the seventy we must go find them.  Let’s here from Katie Hays again:

Katie Hays Video #2 17:37-19:25

Loving our neighbors as ourselves, means leaving our beautiful church building. Not expecting the man left for dead by robbers on the side of the road to pick himself up and come to us, but for us to be like that Samaritan and go to him in his need.  Loving our neighbors as a church means hearing the urgency in Jesus’ voice. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Jesus is saying, “Don’t wait until you feel full ready. Don’t wait to pack your bag. Don’t wait until you have a place to stay. Go! Now!” Jesus was always moving forward, always looking for the next person who needed God in their life.

Jesus is saying to us, “You did a great job of taking care of the person in your midst who had cancer, so keep it up, keep going. There’s ten people with cancer who need that care, your care, my care, ten people within blocks of you right now!”

We’ve talked as a congregation about “Finding Our Why” discovering and articulating God’s call for us, the reason behind everything we should be doing. For Jesus, his Why was to go to as many people as he could, heal them, love them, give them good news.  As Christians, that’s our why too: get to as many people as we can, bring them God’s love, healing, and good news.

We are long past the time when we can expect that most people who need God will come to us.  And many of them have good reason. Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic, a church in Los Angeles, says, "people have given up on the truth of God because they don't believe anyone can be trusted. The world is full of people who have been hurt by those who were supposed to love them-people they should have been able to trust. Before churches will be heard, they must reestablish trust. To establish trust, they must first show their ability to love.”

The harvest is plentiful. Let me turn one last time to Rev. Katie Hays, and a story she has about her church’s work in the harvest.

Katie Hays Video #3 21:55-24:14

How do we make Fairview a church for non-churchy people too? Nothing against churchy people, I’m one of the churchiest people you will find. But most of our neighbors in need are not churchy people. They aren’t going to come to us, but they have needs and struggles like we do, but they don’t have the faith, the community of care that we do. How do we bring it to them if they aren’t going to come to us?

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

How many of us are here this morning?  1..2…3…maybe somewhere around 70? God says, “I am sending you. Go. Don’t worry about what you will bring with you, you don’t need it. All you need is me. Bring peace to those you meet. And if they reject you, they are really rejecting me. Go! Cure the sick, bring wholeness in my name. Let people know that the Kingdom of God is near!”

Later in in Luke chapter 10, the seventy return, amazed and what happened at what God enabled them to do.  I have no doubt, that if we go, trusting God, our results will be amazing too.