We Are The Seventy
by Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
There is good news, friends; if you missed out on round one, there is always round 2. A chapter ago, Jesus sent out The Twelve on their mission, but now the number is seventy, so here is your chance! This is quite an expansion of the team being sent out onto the playing field. As with many references in the Bible, numbers mean a lot, and seventy is no different. This is the number of elders that Moses appointed in the Wilderness to help him care for the needs of the people. Faithful Jews would have also noted that the ruling Sanhedrin also numbered seventy. These were the elders of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is no coincidence that this is the number chosen now.
This means that you don’t have to be part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Among the Seventy were undoubtedly faithful followers of Jesus, well acquainted with his teachings – just as Jesus was well aware of them.
Jesus spends a good bit of time in this passage giving the Seventy words of wisdom with which to travel. The first thing for servants to know is that they must travel lightly. They are to carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. Jesus asks servants to not only trust Jesus to care for them but also to be vulnerable to folks with whom they will be soon. So often, we won’t lift a finger without having everything planned out with multiple contingency plans. To-do lists and checklists for most of us are very much needed for any road trip. Jesus is saying, “just go and trust that all will be well.”
Jesus also challenges his servants not to become distracted even by conversations with others. There is no time for water-cooler discussions because the kingdom of God is coming near. The servant is to be focused on the task ahead.
The servant must also be satisfied with what they receive as hospitality along the way. These servants are not to be asking for a certain amount of money or ordering food off a menu of items. Instead, the servant should humbly accept what is offered to them as wages for their labor.
Finally, the servant is not to judge those to whom they will be ministering. Let them judge themselves by their reaction to your message. If they receive your blessing of peace, it will be allowed to rest upon them. If they turn it down, the blessing will return to the servant. If you are accepted, then be joyful. If you are rejected, simply wipe the dust off your feet and move on.
Much of this wisdom fit much better in the society within which Jesus and the Seventy lived. But there is much wisdom here for us in 2022. The truth is that each of us is called to be a messenger of God’s love by using the gifts and talents that we have been given. This might be preaching, teaching, hospitality, building, healing, and the list goes on. The worst thing we can do is nothing. The next worse thing is to claim that our good work has saved the day. It is God who enables our work, not the other way around. Jesus is also calling his servants to act with a certain sense of humility that I find sadly lacking in our society these days. Humility allows us to open our hearts to the world’s brokenness with a desire to bring God’s presence into it; rather than to judge it and leave it broken.
Some Moravian congregations might be using this Sunday to celebrate the work of John Hus, the reformer whose followers founded the Unitas Fratrum, which became the Moravian Church. One can easily make connections between the teachings of this text and Hus’ reformation efforts at full inclusion for all at the table of our Lord and preaching in the local language rather than Latin.
Perhaps some congregations in Canada or the United States might be focusing on their respective independence days. If doing so I would encourage a message that focuses not on national pride, but rather on humble service to others.
In the Moravian Church, we believe in the essential tenant that God is one who creates, redeems, and blesses and that we are called to respond in faith, love, and hope—moving from a team of twelve to a team of seventy means that we are all included in the call to respond to God’s amazing creativity, grace, and presence in our lives. May we respond by caring for others as we have been cared for. May we forgive as we have been forgiven. We love as we have been unconditionally loved. May we serve others as Christ has served us.