A Homily based on Luke 10:1-10, 16-20
By Rev. Thomas Hall
In one of the churches
where I pastored, we had a special stained glass window at the very back of the church.
The 4 x 10 foot window was called "The Elverson Window," bearing the
donors name embedded at the very top of the window. At the bottom were these words,
"Ministers licensed by this church--Samuel Kurtz, Coleman Hoffman, Levi Hughes, Caleb
Hughes . . ." Some of those names go all the way back to the late 1700's. And some of
those names can still identified among active worshipers in the congregation.
From this country church have come a small army of missionaries, preachers,
evangelists, and educators. All distinguished by their names attached to the Elverson
Window hall of fame.
Recently weve had the honor of adding some newcomers to window fame, like
Frank and Brigette and Blair and Robert and Kevin and Dociah and Celine and Grimaldi and
Diana and Chris and Julie and Charles. Theyve also joined the ranks of
professionally sent ones. So I used to look at that aged window and mumble those names and
remind myself that this congregation believes in the sending forth of
professionally-trained ministers. Churches have a way of inscribing their sending stories
right in their stained glass windows sometimes.
In a sense, the gospels are stained-glass windows that record the achievements and
indelible memories of the Church. Seems that in the gospels we have the Elverson Window
version of ministry. The inscription at the bottom of the window reads like this:
"Then Jesus called the twelve together...and sent them out to proclaim the
kingdom of God and to heal. ..they departed and went through the villages, bringing the
good news and curing diseases everywhere. "
Embedded in the gospel window were the Twelve, of course. Peter. Andrew. James the
son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were the early heroes. The martyrs. The ones who
willingly laid down their lives for the Savior. The ones who dropped everything and obeyed
Jesus' commission, going out into the pagan world to share the Good News. Off they went
without equipment--for they believed they were the equipment; off they went barefoot and
penniless with no extra clothing and no money for a motel. So halos soon began to appear
over their heads. We've told of their lives and adventures. We've named our churches and
towns and children after them. The names of the twelve apostles are forever inscribed in
the Church's stained-glass memory.
But seems that Luke is messing with the Elverson Window. Why, he's busy in the
back of the church scratching some other names into the Elverson Window. Right beside the
names of the Twelve Apostles! Matthew didn't do that. Nor Mark nor John. In these gospels
we see Jesus sending twelve handpicked people to share the Good News, that's it, no one
else. Whose names is Luke adding? Where did these people come from? Listen to what Luke
has to say about this sending business.
After 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.
Seventy others? Twelve should have been enough. But Seventy? Luke tells us the
rest of the story. Apparently, Luke doesn't want us to get the wrong idea. Maybe he was
afraid that we'd think that the way God does business is to select a few promising
candidates from among our congregations and to pack them off to seminary to be trained as
ministers. So Luke lets us in on a unique event--Jesus commissions a small army of seventy
volunteers. Why seventy? Well, Luke reflects the ancient understanding from Genesis 10
that the earth had been carved into seventy cultural pieces. So off they go, boldly going
where no one has dared to go, off into new adventures of healing and reconciliation. And
the odd thing about this little sending story is that none of these men and women had
graduated from Princeton or Eastern Theological Seminary; none had completed their
master's thesis; none were already pastoring a two-charge parish to give them some
preaching experience while they were in school. Not one.
Who are Luke's additional people? Oh there's Mary and Chad, proud parents of two
year old Parker; and that couple over there in their early 30's, who have just started
coming to church; Jesus has invited them to go out and proclaim the gospel. Look, there's
a gospel preachin' assisted living saint whizzing down the hall like shes on a
mission. Putting the fear of God into residents everywhere. Shows up for every Bible
study, never misses an opportunity to thank God publicly for daily strength and courage.
Theres even room in the seventy for a growing clutch of skateboarders,
rollerbladers, and 18-speeders. Going off to share the gospel in their own way.
So why don't we have the rest of our names scratched on the windows of our church?
Perhaps we don't relish Luke's story." You want me to vohmteer? Oh, I get it; this is
a pitch for VBS. You're going to ask me to help out with tile crafts. Be an usher?. A
sound technician? A Sunday School teacher? "
I began in the short list of twelve names--I am a professionally trained kind of
guy. But I've become intrigued with Lukes stained-glass window. A picture that
requires everyone in mission in order to get the job done. But getting everybody to join
the seventy does take some convincing.
During one of his many illnesses prior to the Ayatollahs death, the other
Iranian clerics called all the faithful warriors of Islam to gather in the central square
of Teheran on behalf of their ailing leader. "We declare that only a supreme act of
bravery will be able to save the Ayatollah's life. If someone is courageous enough to
allow his still-beating heart to be ripped out of his chest, our great leader will
live." As one great body, one hundred thousand soldiers volunteered to take upon
themselves the responsibility of keeping their leader alive. "Choose me, choose
me" they chanted.
"Since you all wish to honor the Ayatollah, Allah must choose. Let the one
upon whom this feather lands be chosen to give his life." A feather was dropped onto
the sea of upturned faces and from a hundred thousand throats there came - . . .phhhht. .
. . phhhht. . . . phhhht. I know that sound sometimes when Ive asked folks to get
involved in mission with me. "Phhht . . . Phhht . . . Phhht."
Sometimes I feel like that when I call someone up to ask if they can do something
for the church. Jumping into the seventy group is challenging. But you see what Luke is up
to? In God's elite number of missionaries there are no Allen Iversons. No Steffi Grafs or
Tiger Woods. Just willing folks who roll up their sleeves and do what needs doing. The
real pastors of our churches you'll never see or hear up here, but the future existence of
this church depends entirely on how mobilized our congregational members become. Luke's
group are all non-professionals when it comes to their faith; they're all
volunteers-ordinary people who have responded to Jesus' invitation to fan out two by two
to share the Good News through their unique personalities and giftedness. But what power
they wield! Heady power! Jesus puts his hand to his forehead and says "Whoa, I just
saw Satan come crashing down from heaven like a bolt of lightning."
P .T . Forsyth once remarked that "the first business of the church is to
preach. And the first business of the person the congregation calls to be their minister
is to enable the whole church to preach." That's what the congregation at Saddleback
Valley Community Church believes. They've bought Luke's touched up stained-glass window of
seventy ministers. They have 100 lay pastors who visit the sick, the shut-ins, and the new
residents of the community. As their minister says, "The church is measured, not by
its seating capacity but by its sending capacity."
If we buy Luke's stained-glass story, it will require some change in our church
structure. I will have to change the way I view my job. My new job will be to preach on
Sunday so that the rest of us can preach the rest of the week. I must minister to this
congregation so that the congregation might better minister to the world.
I recently sat around a table at a committee meetings. We were discussing how we
might be more intentional in our evangelism and the sharing of our faith. I wish you could
have been there! One person suggested that we look into getting our worship service out
into homes in several counties through television and radio. Another believed that once
people came, many would continue to return. Clearly, people were excited about what was
happening to them when they gathered for worship. And though we weren't even aware of it
at the time, I think we were already finding our places in Lukes seventy plus team
ready to go on their way; what power! Satan was crashing down through the heavens like
Kevin and Dociah. Chris and Julie. Grimaldi and Celine. Frank and Brigitte.
Charles. Add to those the names on all of our church windows across the globe. They have
lived their Christian faith out among us, learned from us, worshiped with us. And now they
go. And I've personally encouraged all of them to leave! Because I believe deeply that our
church can never be measured by seating capacity, but sending capacity. We are a sending
church and that's a very healthy sign that we're alive.
But what we need in their absence sits before me this morning in all our weakness
and strength. Would you join me in forming Lukes seventy to change lives in this
community You're not too old, too young, too poor, too retired, too committed to have your
name scratched into the churchs stained glass! You just have to be willing. Amen.