Materials for Worship on 3rd July, 2022

Nerys writes: This week I invite you to  focus on the Gospel reading as it is so rich and relevant to our life as a church today. Only in Luke do we have this second sending out by Jesus of a large number of his followers (70 in some manuscripts, 72 in others), soon after the sending out of the twelve. As you read Luke 10.1-20,  I wonder what you will notice.

Here is a story about a large number of people with a real sense of ministry and mission. They are full of energy for the task ahead.

Did you notice that they are sent out in pairs as we see in Tissot’s painting above? They are not expected to go alone.

Did you notice that how and where they travel is directed by Jesus? They listen and obey.

Did you notice that it is the Lord’s harvest? The enterprise is initiated by God.  This is not just a human project.

Did you notice that the work is risky and challenging? Those who are sent  make themselves vulnerable, like lambs amid wolves.

Did you notice that they travel light? They’re not weighed down by excess baggage.

Did you notice that they don’t waste time on exchanging pleasantries along the way? They are totally focussed on their urgent task.

Did you notice that they are armed with the gift of peace? This is what they offer in return for the gift of hospitality that they receive.

Did you notice how they return triumphantly to Jesus, delighted at what they have achieved?

Did you notice his response to them?

I invite you to read the passage again and place yourself in the story.

I wonder who you identified with: was it those sent out by Jesus or those who opened their doors to  them or was it both?

They say that it is when we are simultaneously guests and hosts that the best hospitality is offered and received. This is because hospitality is a two-way process. What it does is to create relationship and enable  community to be built. It requires trust on both sides.

The famous Rublev icon based on the story of God’s visitation to Abraham,  depicts God the three-in-one as a community around a table. You can’t quite tell who is hosting whom and there is  that amazing space for the viewer who is also both host and guest at the meal.

The icon writer, like the author of the third Gospel in our passage today, invites us to enter into relationship with God, the Creator who is the ultimate host. He calls us to be a follower of  Jesus who was the finest example of how to receive hospitality – born as Emmanuel, God with us. And he encourages us to receive the Holy Spirit  who dwells within us and among us as  both guest and host. When we enter into that community of mutual love, we receive gifts of peace, healing and hope but we are also called to extend the table by becoming both host and guest to others.

Luke’s story of the 70 or the 72 (the numbers of the nations of the world given in various versions of Genesis 10), was probably intended as a preview of  the Church’s mission reaching out to all peoples. It gives us insights and encouragement as we respond to the challenge laid down by the risen Christ at the end of his Gospel.

Most churches I know are quite good at offering hospitality to the wider community but it is often much harder for us to be the recipients of the  hospitality of others.

It is  hard to go out to look for those in our wider community who might be ready to offer us hospitality. Did you notice how Jesus prepares his disciples for rejection, urging them to walk away from those who don’t welcome them, shaking the dust from their feet? Seeking hospitality risks hostility. It was something Jesus knew all too well, and yet he was prepared for the consequences of placing himself in humanity’s hands.

There will be those ready to create relationship and build community with us but it is hard for us to receive  hospitality from them when it’s not on our grounds and on our terms. Did you notice that those sent out by Jesus  are to eat whatever is set before them? In a culture where food taboos were prevalent, this was quite a challenge. To receive hospitality, we have  to overcome our prejudices and assumptions about others and ourselves. We need to travel light. Our hands need to be free of baggage in order to accept what others have to give to us. Our culture needs to be open to different ways of thinking, being and doing. In order for the kingdom of God to come near, we need to let any barriers come down and allow new communities to form.

In your time of prayer this morning, I would encourage you to reflect on your own experience of offering and receiving hospitality.

Can you think of a time when you were totally dependent upon the hospitality of someone else? What did it feel like and what were the consequences of it?

Can you think of ways that you, your family or our church community might offer or receive hospitality? To what extent is God’s love present in what we do?

Are there new ways that you or we together can develop the holy habits of offering and receiving hospitality?

What one small thing can you do this week to help bring near the kingdom of God where you are?

Lord, as your apostles were the agents of peace, le me too bring your peace to others. Take from me all worry and insecurity, in the knowledge that if I trust in you rather than my own strength, you will give me your own peace to abide with me for ever. Amen.