Sermon by Clare Heard at St John the Baptist, Holland Road on Sunday 15 October, Trinity18
St Luke – Sending out
Today we are celebrating St Luke the Evangelist and in preparing this sermon, I realised how little I knew about him. I did know he was a physician and a gentile and I knew he wrote both Luke and Acts, over a quarter of the NT, but what I also found out is that he has set out an incredibly full account of Jesus life and ministry after much research. Indeed, he writes at the start of the gospel:
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
Luke is writing to share the truth about Jesus and provide as much information as possible…and he has a unique perspective. He includes 6 miracles and 18 parables not found in the other gospels including the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
Luke has a passion for the poor and gives women a far greater role than in other gospels. Luke doesn’t have Jesus say Blessed are the poor in Spirit in the Beatitudes, but Blessed are the Poor. And Mary’s Magnificat, where God brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly, is also only found in this gospel.
Luke’s gospel has been referred to as the gospel of social justice for a reason.
So let’s turn to the gospel passage we heard today. This follows on from Jesus sending out the 12 in Chapter 9, he is now sending more and many believe Luke was one of those to be sent. Jesus expresses the importance of this mission – the harvest is great but the labourers are few. It’s like he’s saying, I need all the help I can get, so please don’t duck out of this.
But he is also asking the disciples to go out as lambs among wolves. Now this is not exactly encouraging is it?
And what’s worse is, he says take nothing with you – no purse, no bag, no shoes.
And then he says, don’t even stop to talk to people on the way – there is a sense of urgency here. This can’t wait.
And maybe this is something today that we need to hear again. Maybe this is something that challenges our comfortable Western thinking and forces us to take another perspective.
When Jesus calls us, when he sends us out, it’s quite easy to come up with a long list of why now is not quite the right moment to do something, or to change something, or to go somewhere.
We all do it. My list of excuses includes my children, my work and my husband’s work. I’d love to do more to help with [slot in appropriately worthy cause here], but my life is too busy right now, so it will have to wait.
And this passage says no – don’t wait – go, do, change. The right moment is now!
Luke wants us to embrace our calling as disciples of Jesus, and he wants us to do it right away.
So why does Jesus say take nothing with you? Maybe because when we leave behind all our security and comfort, we are utterly dependent on God. There is nowhere else to turn. We can’t pay our way out of a situation, we can’t fall back on our normal security blankets – and this forces us closer to God. It may also remove the barriers between us and other people, particularly those who already have very little.
Jesus wants us to trust our heavenly Father for our provision, to realise our dependence on God, and maybe, to let go a little of our need to control our lives.
And so he tells them to go and accept hospitality where it is offered. To eat what is put in front of them and to bring God’s peace.
Now I expect we’re all thinking that we wouldn’t want to be dependent on others, we don’t want to scrounge, or need others to provide for us when we could provide for ourselves. But this loses sight of the way relationships develop.
When I left university I backpacked for 6 months around the world. I had very little money and had to be very careful what I spent. And I have to say it was amazing.
Two small examples I’d like to share – in New Zealand we were offered someone’s floor to sleep on – they took my friend and I out, showed us round and looked after us – we made new friends. A few years later, when I had a holiday in Thailand, my friend and I met a couple who were backpacking with very little money. We took them out and bought them pizza. It’s not much, but our relationships deepened as a result of the receiving and giving.
When we allow people to be generous, when we learn to give and to receive, we build relationships and we let go of the idol of self-sufficiency.
Jesus then tells his disciples to share his peace and to bring healing. And his message to us today is the same – share his peace, bring healing to our world, help God’s kingdom come.
To recap – God is sending us out, he is asking us to let go of the things which stop us trusting him, and he calls us to bring peace, healing and love to our world.
So, my first question today is where is God sending you? What is he calling you to? Because, to say it straight, we are all called – the harvest is great and the labourers are few – there is no get out clause on this one. The question is, what is God calling you to do? How can you bring God’s healing and peace to our world?
Now this is not an easy question to answer. There are of course the more obvious things – we can treat those we meet well, we can give to charity but, to be brutally honest – I’m not sure that is enough. So let’s think more broadly about this and I’ll try and break things down into different areas to consider:
1. Our world – environment, ecology, animals, food, clothing
2. Our social and political structures – justice for the poor and oppressed
3. Our communities – supporting our church, building relationships, noticing people in need
4. Our families and ourselves – healthy relationships, growth, honesty, love
These are all areas we should think about, pray about, and consider how we can bring God’s peace and healing. Often God is calling you to what you feel strongly about – where there is that tug that won’t go away, the pull towards a particular area or people. It has been said that your calling is where your great love meets the world’s deep needs – how can you use what you love and care about to bring healing to our world?
My second question is what are the things you need to leave behind that are stopping you from letting God be in control? What are the things that you cling so tightly to that it stops you following God’s call?
For many of us these will include money, power and security. As an example, throughout the centuries we have seen countless people with wealth and power, not want to support laws or regulations that would make things better for the poor, because of the impact it will have on them.
We still see it today – just consider the response when governments suggest increasing taxes. When we look at who to vote for, is our priority the impact their policies will have on me, or the impact it will have on those who are most vulnerable? I’ve recently heard people get upset about the impact a policy might have on their house price, regardless of the fact that it might help the many lower income earners to be able to live in London, rather than being driven out by completely unaffordable prices.
And this is hard – we obviously want to live a secure and comfortable life, we want to provide for our families, we want to be able to enjoy the many wonderful things life has to offer – and let’s be clear – God wants that to. Jesus says I’ve come that you may have life to the full – we are not all called to a life of poverty with no fun or enjoyment.
But we are also invited to consider the impact of our actions on others, and we are invited to share the many gifts we have been given. And first and foremost, we are invited to share God’s love and bring peace and healing to our world.
So today, let’s think about our lives, the gifts we have been given and our many blessings. Let’s pray about how we can use what we have to help the poor, the oppressed and the vulnerable. Let’s try and let go of our need for control, power and self-sufficiency.
I pray that as we remember St Luke, we would all be able to listen for God’s call on our lives, and to receive the strength from God’s Spirit that we need to follow this call, just like Luke did.