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Pentecost 7 July 3, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Pentecost 7  Proper 9 Year C 
Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-8; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, July 3, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Jesus has just set out
on his last journey to Jerusalem.
There’s a sense of urgency
as he sends messengers
ahead of him
to all the places he intends to go.
Their mission:
to till the soil of hearts
in which he hopes to plant
          the  seed of the gospel.
The potential harvest is plentiful,
the laborers few,
and there is only
a short time remaining to him.

A short time
to reveal God’s coming kingdom,
a way of life grounded in God’s love,
          available to all who would receive it.
And only a short time
to prepare his followers
for this work that would soon
          be theirs:
continuing this ministry in his name
          after Jerusalem,
                   and the cross.
Matthew, Mark and Luke
each tell of the sending of
the twelve.
Only Luke has
the additional story of the seventy,
a story perhaps for his own community,
that the proclamation of the kingdom
is the responsibility not of the few,
          but of the many.
All disciples,
          all followers of Jesus . . .
                   All are apostles,
                             the sent ones.

All disciples . . .
all the baptized . . .
not just the clergy,
not just the parish leaders,
not just the teachers,
not just the adults,
not just the extroverts,
not just the especially articulate,
not just the theologically astute . . .
. . . everyone who has
passed through
          the waters of baptism,
everyone who has
died to the ultimate futility
          of living for self
                   (as the world suggests
                             we should do . . .)
and has
risen to the joy
          and privilege
                    of living for Christ
                   and for the world.

Remember that baptismal promise:
“Will you proclaim by word and example
the Good News of God in Christ?”
“I will, with God’s help,”
we answered,
our parents and godparents answered
on our behalf.
The next two promises make more specific
what proclaiming the good news
          by word and example means:
“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons,
loving your neighbor as yourself?”
“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?”
“I will, with God’s help . . .”
seek and serve Christ in all,
love all,
strive for justice and peace for all,
respect the dignity of all . . .

Jesus expected his followers
to live as he lived,
to do as he did,
to speak as he spoke:
“Whoever listens to you listens to me . . .”
he told the seventy.
He expects the same
of us:
“Be bearers of peace,”
he says to us.
“Whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this house!’”
Imagine if that were our everyday greeting.
Share in the table fellowship of that house:
“eating and drinking whatever they provide.”
Care for the physical and spiritual well-being
          of the suffering and oppressed:
“Cure the sick who are there . . .”
Proclaim the Good News:
“say to them,
‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

Don’t let anything deter you
from this urgent mission:
“greet no one on the road.”
Rejoice when people have ears to hear,
move on when they don’t:
“Shake the dust of that town
off your feet,
but say to them nonetheless,
‘ . . . know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’”
Because, maybe, later,
they would get it.
In every way,
who you are,
how you are,
what you do,
what you say,
          be a revelation
                   of the imminence of God’s kingdom.
A revelation
of life radically different
          from the ways of the world.
Life animated by
          love, generosity, kindness, gentleness,
          concern for the well-being of others,
                   and for the common good.

There are still many places
where Jesus intends to go;
it’s our mission,
the mission of the baptized,
          to prepare the way.
people are hungering and thirsting
          for a new way to be,
                    a different way to live,
                             in this struggling,
                                       increasingly cynical
                                                and angry
The mission field
          is right here,
                   right outside our door.
In the most ordinary activities
          of our daily lives,
we may find ourselves
exactly where Jesus intends to go,
encountering just the people
          he’s been looking for . . .

hoping for something new in the world,
          a new creation
                   born of the cross
                             and the waters of baptism . . .
                   and catching a glimpse of it
                             in us . . .
and a way may be opened
into hearts
yearning for Good News.
The obstacles faced by the seventy
were many.
They were to travel far afield,
seek food and shelter
          from strangers who might or might not
          welcome them . . .
They were to take no bag, no purse, no sandals,
no just-in-case money and supplies.
They were to go out
          as “sheep among wolves,”
pass through isolated, dangerous territory,
face ridicule, rejection, perhaps even violence.

They were to arrive in peace
and depart in peace,
          no matter their reception.
They were to strive for success,
endure failure,
and persevere.
They were to accept others
          just as they were . . .
and do all this
with humility,
and compassion.
It’s the same for us,
in the mission field of
our own front yard,
our own neighborhood,
our own city,
our own beloved and fragmented country,
          where news of God’s love for all people
                   is so urgently needed.

As we celebrate the independence
of our country this weekend
amidst increasing words and actions
of intolerance and division,
we might hear,
in Isaiah’s prophecy
of the flourishing of a restored Jerusalem,
words that speak to our present day
hopes and fears for our land.
Thus says the Lord:
"Rejoice with [America], and be glad for her,
          all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
          all you who mourn over her –
that you may nurse and be satisfied
          from her consoling breast . . .
For thus says the Lord:
‘I will extend prosperity to her
          like a river . . .
As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; 
          you shall be comforted in [America].
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known
          that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,
          and his indignation is against his enemies’."

And who are God’s enemies
but hatred, discrimination, selfishness, greed,
abuse of power and position,
bombastic rhetoric inciting to violence . . .
How shall this flourishing promised by God,
this restoration,
come to pass,
if all who desire it
do not speak and act for it?
The apostolic life
is risky business,  
asking of us
nothing less
than total surrender of our selves
          to the gospel,
          to our baptism,
          to the kingdom,
                   to Christ . . .

nothing less
than a complete and continuing
re-orienting of
          our selves and lives,
          our values and priorities,
          our choices and associations,
          our energies and resources,
a re-orienting
          that may cost us
                    position . . .
                   possessions . . .
                    opportunities . . .
                   friendships . . .
                   sometimes even family.
As we speak out against injustice,
take a stand against oppression,
resist cynicism and anger,
reject incivility and brutishness,
press for equitable distribution of earth’s abundance,
strive for well-being and safety for all God’s people,
reach out to the lonely,
listen to the troubled,
visit the sick,
care for God’s good creation and all its creatures . . .

As we do these things
the kingdom becomes visible
          in and around us
because something mysterious
          and of ultimate goodness
                   is emerging.
The seventy returned from their mission
          flushed with success.
Yes, they had experienced the difficulties
          Jesus predicted,
but when they called on his name in prayer
          even the demons submitted to them.
Imagine the joy of Jesus
as the heavens opened
to reveal a startling vision
of the culmination of his ministry
and their ministry
and our ministry
at the end of all time . . .
          the absolute destruction
                   of all evil
          and the fulfillment of the kingdom
                   we even now proclaim.

“I watched Satan fall from heaven
          like a flash of lightning . . .” he said.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this,
          that the spirits submit to you,
but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Our name,
written in heaven
by an invisible hand
          before our parents
          had even thought of us,

blazened with gold
          by that same hand
          at our baptism.
Now imagine,
          each time the kingdom
                   is manifest in us,
                   in large ways or small:
          each time we act in accord
                   with the Gospel . . .
          each time we faithfully live
                   our baptism . . .
          each time we are a sign
                   of God’s reign coming on earth . . .
          the most delicate of brushes
          in that invisible hand . . .

entwining through and around
                   the letters of our golden name,
          like the illumination of a medieval manuscript,
                   tiny scenes of kingdom beauty,
                             of love and justice and peace,
                   all embellished with
                             curling vines, spreading leaves,
                             blooming flowers in every color,
                                      golden wheat,      
                                                bursting grapes,
                                                and every living creature
                                                          in complete harmony . . .
Imagine and rejoice . . .
because surely
that is worth the risk and cost
          of discipleship.
“A new creation is everything.”