A SERMON FOR OCTOBER 31, 2021
You are not far from the Kingdom of God
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A SERMON FOR JULY 3RD, 2022
By the Rev'd Heather Liddell
Let us pray: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What do you rejoice in? What lights you up from the inside out?
In our gospel reading today, we heard the story of a ministry that worked out - that went well. Seventy disciples of Jesus Christ went out in pairs to preach the Gospel - to tell the world about Jesus.
They went out with nothing - well… with almost nothing, no purse or bag, and no sandals on their feet. They went to strangers' homes and asked for a place to stay and, in turn, taught those homes - those families - those communities about the great teacher and healer named Jesus Christ.
Jesus told them to go out in twos. To not be bothered if they were rejected but to focus on those who did not reject them. To stay with the first person who listened. To appreciate and honour anyone who listened. Not anyone of a particular religion or class or ethnicity - anyone.
That's an interesting detail, isn't it? That Jesus knew that they'd be offered better accommodations as their popularity grew but that He cared enough about those who really needed the Good News of the Gospel that he elevated those who first opened their doors to a higher status than those who had more to offer?
How many of you would stay in a crowded home with few luxuries if a more plush option presented itself?
They went out to tell the world about cosmic things - world-altering, world-shattering things - to tell the world about God on earth and what He was up to.
But, what are they excited about?
Are they excited to be a part of the new heaven and the new earth? Are they excited that God provided for them so well?
St Luke tells us - the Gospel of Luke tells us - that they returned with joy, proclaiming that even the demons submitted to them.
They were impressed by the power they were wielding, by how compelling and profound and important the seventy disciples had become. Icons of their day. Celebrities.
But, Jesus - does he rejoice with them in their notoriety and fame?
No. He says this instead: I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. Do you find those demons so impressive? They're nothing to me. You've been given authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and, overall, the enemy's powers, but that is not the point. The fame isn't the point. The notoriety isn't the point. The impressive nature of what you are doing is not the point. The point is nothing more and nothing less than your names being written in heaven. Your names are known to God, YOU are known to God, and that is worth celebrating.
There is an initiative out of the UK started by a man named Michael Harvey called Back to Church Sunday. A few years ago - half a decade ago - the Diocese of Edmonton participated in the movement. We sent postcards to families, invited our neighbours, and taught evangelism classes. Michael Harvey himself came to give a series of talks about it.
It was a fantastic initiative, and I remember being blown away by this one thing he shared with us.
Inviting people to church is not about them. Whether they accept the invitation or not is not the point. The point is in the asking. What is important is how we understand and live the Gospel. What is important is that we live lives that point to Jesus.
And that concept really stuck with me.
It gave me permission to put down the burden of other people's Faith - of how others felt about God or about me or about my church community. What mattered instead was what I believed, what I still believe, and How I live.
Michael Harvey's words were a gift to me, and they returned to me this week as I prepared this sermon. Because it's easy to fall back on them in failure - to be comforted that results are up to God, not us.
But what about our successes? What about when things go well?
When things are going well, how often do we get caught up in our own importance? How often do we lose ourselves in celebrating our own cleverness instead of remembering the actual gift? The gift of God's own Son.
If that's you, if that is us, then we are in good company. The seventy disciples from our reading today were faithful followers - they were doing everything right. Almost. Still, Jesus had to correct them. He had to point out that the joy of success, while intoxicating, is not the point - the point is a much deeper, more profound joy.
The joy that Hearts unfold like flowers before. The joy that Melts the clouds of sin and sadness;
Thé joy that Drives the dark of doubt away.
The joy that comes from the Gospel is itself the truth that God took on flesh and dwelt among us - that Jesus loves us so much that not even his own death can keep us from that love.
So, I'll ask again, what do you rejoice in? What lights you up from the inside out?