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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 donor’s 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 we’ve 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. They’ve 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 she’s 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. There’s 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 Luke’s 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 Ayatollah’s 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 I’ve 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 Luke’s seventy plus team ready to go on their way; what power! Satan was crashing down through the heavens like greased lightning!

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 Luke’s 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 church’s stained glass! You just have to be willing. Amen.