Luke 10:1–12 (NIV – Anglicised)

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

 

Having just conducted my Aunt’s funeral I have discovered something we have in common: she had no sense of direction. On one occasion she was driving from Southend to Brighton to visit my cousin and began to wonder why it seemed to be taking so long to get there. Eventually she stopped at a service station to find out where she was only to discover that she was on the M1 heading towards Luton!

If we’re not heading in the right direction all sorts of things can go wrong, that’s why we are starting a new series called ‘Moving on’ which will help us to cast vision for the future.

 

The last few months have been very encouraging. We have a lot of people coming to our Alpha course and a great team to lead it. Debra Green and Ruth Rice’s ministry has been very significant. There has been a wonderful sense of the Holy Spirit among us and we have been able to come alongside people through the day-to-day ministry of the coffee shop. This is fantastic, but as Ruth reminded us there are even better things ahead!

This morning I would like to share with you what I believe the Lord has laid on heart and I would love you to pray about this so that we can discern God’s will together.

 

I believe that God wants us to be living for his Kingdom in our community through engagement, evangelism and encounter.

Engagement

  • Working together with people of goodwill to build a kinder, safer community.
  • Coming alongside people in our community especially those who are vulnerable and needy.

 

Evangelism

  • Spreading the good news of Jesus in word and action.
  • Leading people to Jesus and helping them grow as his disciples.

 

Encounter

  • With God: growing closer to him, experiencing a deeper work of the Holy Spirit and becoming more like Jesus.
  • With one another: growing together as God’s family.

 

Let’s get some pointers from the King as we look at the way in which he sends 72 people on a mission for his kingdom.

How can we be people who live for God’s Kingdom in our community?

 

Pursue our Purpose

Which is to extend his Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God was at the core of Jesus’ message so it’s not surprising that it was to be at the heart of this mission. Jesus instructed them to ‘Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you”’ (9). As they went from town to town declaring this message they were announcing that God was going to rule over people’s lives in a way he’d never done before. This was going to be made possible through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. His Kingdom is extended through the witness of the church and will be brought to completion at his return when he judges this world and rules over it in justice and peace. In the words of Tom Wright:

‘When Jesus spoke of God’s Kingdom … he was talking about something that was happening on this earth, through his work, then through his death and resurrection, and then through the Spirit-led work to which they would be called’

We do this in word – as we spread the good news about Jesus and lead people to him and in action as we live out the values of his Kingdom.

Love our Community

I hope that we love Hucknall, especially the people who live here. God has put us in this town and he loves everyone in it.

Have you noticed that these disciples were sent to towns in the region?

‘After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.’ (1).

As well as making a public announcement that the Kingdom of God was near they were to visit people in their homes and declare ‘peace to this house’ (5). This is similar to the word ‘shalom’ in the Old Testament that describes a state of wholeness and peace which comes from God. In other words they were called to pronounce God’s blessing on them.

In my experience before launching into evangelism I have found that God has led me to organize something that will bless a town (actually I have the idea and get someone to do the organizing!).  For example a group of churches in Chesterfield arranged a family fun day in Queen’s park. Hundreds of people came and listened to live music, went on rides, enjoyed a picnic or got involved in sporting activities. We had face painting for children, homemade refreshments and a climbing wall. The Fire Service gave free rides on their ‘Cherry Picker’ and the Police brought some of their best cars and let the children set the sirens off. One Christian was quite perturbed at this and asked ‘but how are you going to tell them they are sinners?’ The answer was: ‘we’re not, this is a day to bless our town’.

Build up relationships

Jesus went on to tell them:

‘If someone who promotes peace is there your peace will rest on them; 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house’ (6).

A person of peace was someone who would relate to the disciples’ and partner in what they were doing. The provision of hospitality was very significant in that culture – it signified that you identified with someone and supported what they stood for. That’s why Paul tells the Christians in Corinth not to eat with people who were living in open disobedience to God.

When I was a Police Chaplain God brought me in contact with Senior Officers who were right behind my work in the Force. I would meet regularly with them, they would involve me in what they were doing in the community and support what churches were doing in the town. I didn’t have to work very hard to find them – God had already put them in place and that has been my experience in Hucknall!

 Show vulnerability

Jesus told these 72 ambassadors for his Kingdom we read about in Luke 10 that he was sending them out ‘like sheep amongst wolves’ (3). If I’d been in their sandals I wouldn’t have felt very confident after hearing that, however Jesus was making an important point: they may be going out in his authority with a message about his Kingdom but their vulnerability would be a mark of his rule. Matthew’s gospel links a prophecy in Isaiah that says ‘a bruised reed he would not break, a smouldering wick he would not snuff out’ with Jesus’ ministry (Matt 12.20, Isaiah 42.40). Jesus came as a ‘suffering servant’ rather than a conquering hero and as such he came alongside people who were marginalised and poor.

I know that our town is rapidly expanding and changing with all the new housing that’s being built but I believe that God is calling us to make the vulnerable, poor and marginalised our priority, particularly in the Broomhill and Chatsworth Estates that are on our doorstep.

Live in expectancy

As Ruth reminded us last week, the best is ahead of us. Amongst many other blessings we can look forward to two things:

A great harvest

As they set out on this ground-breaking mission Jesus said:

‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (2).

This is a picture of God gathering people into his Kingdom. There were great things ahead but there would be a huge need for people to do the ground-work, however they could ask ‘the Lord of the harvest’ to send them more labourers.

We are a very busy church and we do so much that we could be forgiven for saying ‘please Lord we can’t manage any more’. Let’s pray to the one who has given us this harvest and ask him to send us more workers who will us to help gather it in. I’m sure that God will bring such people into the new housing that is currently going up around the town. Let’s also remember that this isn’t a solo mission – we are in partnership with other churches in the town. Each fellowship has its own strengths and distinctive which has the potential of making us a formidable team. In Chesterfield there was a church who were great at getting us to pray together, another who helped us evangelise and another who were at the cutting edge of social action. There was so much we were to for our town together!

A move of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit has clearly been at work here in recent weeks. This is just the beginning; I am looking forward to us experiencing a deeper, more powerful work of the Holy Spirit among us. There have been reports of ‘unprecedented openness to the gospel’ in Reading[1]. This is undoubtedly a move of the Spirit. If God can do it in Reading he can do it here!

Think it through!

  1. How can we
  • Engage with our community
  • Evangelise
  • Encounter

In our lives, home groups and life groups?

  1. Identify ‘people of peace’ (5-7) who you can link up with.

Spend some time in prayer for your relationship with them.

  1. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and discuss how this helps us understand what Jesus means when he says he is sending the disciples out ‘as sheep amongst wolves’ (Luke 10:3).
  1. Spend some time discussing the issues from the message that particularly spoke to you.

Pray it in

  • Spend some time praying for our
    • Engagement with our community
    • Evangelism
    • Encounter: with God and with one-another
  • Pray for our community leaders and ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can work alongside them.
  • Identify problems in our community to bring to God in prayer.
  • Pray for those who are vulnerable and lonely.
  • Ask the Lord to send more ‘labourers’ to help us gather the harvest’.
  • Pray for a greater move of the Holy Spirit in our fellowship.

 

[1] https://www.premier.org.uk/News/UK/Unprecedented-openness-to-the-gospel-reported-in-Reading-as-1-200-make-commitments-to-Christ