Scripture Readings: Isaiah 66.10-14; Galatians 6.14-18; Luke 10.1-9
Jesus appointed 72 other missionaries and sent them in pairs ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit. …Whatever house you enter, say first, “Peace to this house.” . . . Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you and cure the sick there. Say to them, “The reign of God has come near” (Luke 10.1, 5, 8-9).
July 4th is a day for singing “America the Beautiful.” Farmers are harvesting amber waves of grain beneath spacious skies in many parts of the country. Fittingly, in Sunday’s gospel Jesus is sending workers out for the harvest of seeds he has planted in his preaching and healing. The word to send in Greek is apostlein, from which we get the word apostle or missionary. A missionary is one who is sent to bring a message. The message is “the reign of God has come near.”
Only Luke describes Jesus sending out 72 missionaries in pairs. Only Luke finds the story of the early Church inseparable from the story of Jesus’ ministry and elaborates a second, companion volume to the gospel, his Acts of the Apostles. With the sending out of missionaries, Luke’s gospel turns to the people of the nations and anticipates a future that includes us who hear the gospel 2,000 years later.
In America it’s summer. It’s the Fourth. Families set out to camp and fish, eat hot dogs, and watch red, white, and blue fireworks cascade, explode, and spill down the dark night skies. Congregations plan services outdoors. Relatives gather for potluck picnics as they have for decades. Hometowns plan parades. We rise together to honor the flags that lead the parades.
Perhaps at our picnics we don’t talk politics or religion in order to keep our friends and keep peace in our families. On other days, the congressional investigations remind us as citizens that democracy takes watchful work. This Sunday the gospel reminds us as Christians Jesus’ messengers are to bring healing as he did.
For what about our nation are you grateful this 4th of July? Who has brought the good news of God’s nearness and healing to you?