Vulnerable in our Mission


In Luke 10, Jesus appointed 70 disciples and sent them out to the towns and villages where he intended to visit. We know that Jesus with His disciples was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would die an ignoble death on a cross.

The sending of the 70 reverberates with Old Testament imagery. Here are appointed, in one sense, the new 'elders' of Israel. They are commissioned to go and, as it were show and tell God's Presence and Rule (His Kingdom) to villages in varying places.

Thus commissioned, the disciples are to take with them no provisions - no script, no sword. They are to forage. as it were by living from the hand of those villagers in whose homes they are given entrance. They have been living and sharing the journey of Jesus. They have become, to some extent, like Him. The flavour of His life was upon them. His humble, vulnerable, not-having-a-permanent home was now also their lot. The One who showed up in a Manger and the dirt, dust, squalor and stink of a stable, was sending them to out, without many resources at all. The outcome was, to say the least, uncertain. 

In the old covenant economy, vital import was given to how Israel treated guests, the strangers and foreigners among them. Remembering they had once been ill-treated foreigners and slaves in Egypt, they were commanded to treat guests as they themselves had not been treated, but rather to treat them as one of their own, to house, clothe and feed them as opportunity arose. Who knows but what they might (like Abraham and Sarah) have opportunity to entertain angels (and even the Lord) unawares?

But the seventy are sent out with quite different mandates. They are not now those 'within' - to whom outsiders might come expecting food, housing, clothing. Now the outsiders and strangers, they were to go to the villages of 'outsiders' who did not know Jesus nor the Gospel message. Instead of being the host they were to be the visitor. They were not to go only to give; they had to learn what it mean to receive.

Thus, too, their mission was one of vulnerability and necessary trust: trust in God and in the welcome, or otherwise, and the ability or want of the home-owners and hosts to whom they sought and gained entrance, to give them welcome. There's was a great mission: they were bringing the Gospel of the Kingdom. They were bringing - speaking 'Peace' to that home - the peace, as Israel knew it even if imperfectly, that embraced the entire shalom of God. They were advancing and seeking entrance for themselves and for God's message, that of the Kingdom perfection and New Creation gifts that were near, that would fully come when Jesus Himself came, bringing within him all the reality of God's Reign. It would be the shalom of healing, meaning, proper integration of all creation, justice, and the proper rule and placement of all people and places. All of God's purposes and all that was created and good in God's world, in embryonic potential and reality was very close to those who would open their door to God's people and to God's message.

We must reverse our thinking of how it is God sends forth missioners in the New Testament economy. Indeed, we are not to be static, to remain at home; we are to go. We are sent ones (apostoles). We go to their village, their home, their culture just as Jesus lay aside and came from Glory and was 'embedded' in Jewish village life and culture for the first 30 years before emerging into His public ministry. We are to go to the turf of others, to go without all the things we have as resources available to us at home and which we take for granted.

Our churches are to welcome and embrace people from other cultures and lands, with all with various kinds of illnesses or needs they may have. But in this passage Jesus sends us out without all of the resources we have been used to having available. We are vulnerable and dependent. 

When sent ones go they don't always know how they're going to survive, whether they'll make it or not. Not everyone will find welcome. Words and deeds of peace and blessing may rebound off some who will stubbornly refuse to allow entrance of missional messenger into their home. And if rebuffed, we are to go on to the next home, seeking to bring near the Kingdom and all the Good News, reality and integral-shalom that God offers.

This reversal of Israel’s normal role and its transfer or incorporation as principle into the Church as a missional community reveals a new way (but a way very much as modeled by Jesus). It is a way of humility and vulnerability. It is the way forward in mission often for Jesus' disciples, also. We are sometimes simply to obey and to go, to simply show up and see whether homes and hearts will be open to us and to the Gospel.

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