Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go. He gave them this charge:
"What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.
"On your way! But be careful—this is hazardous work. You're like lambs in a wolf pack.
"Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.
"Don't loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.
"When you enter a home, greet the family, 'Peace.' If your greeting is received, then it's a good place to stay. But if it's not received, take it back and get out. Don't impose yourself.
"Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don't move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town.
"When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, 'God's kingdom is right on your doorstep!'
"When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, 'The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we're giving it back. Did you have any idea that God's kingdom was right on your doorstep?' Sodom will have it better on Judgment Day than the town that rejects you.
"Doom, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had been given half the chances given you, they'd have been on their knees long ago, repenting and crying for mercy. Tyre and Sidon will have it easy on Judgment Day compared to you.
"And you, Capernaum! Do you think you're about to be promoted to heaven? Think again. You're on a mud slide to hell.
"The one who listens to you, listens to me. The one who rejects you, rejects me. And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me."
The seventy came back triumphant. "Master, even the demons danced to your tune!"
Once again I’m left wondering even where to begin with this passage. I feel like there is so much that applies and hits me right in the face.
I think what I need to focus on is Jesus’ calling them to move on their mission with intention.
It turns out that I get bored easily. I am always looking for new challenges and wondering what is the “next thing.” There has rarely been a season in my life where the “next thing” has not been on my radar. This last year has been brutal by and large because it made chasing the “next thing” almost impossible. I have had to learn to focus on what is right in front of me.
The seventy had a clear calling and mission: Go throughout the cities and towns and preach the good news. They were to give peace and accept hospitality. This mission that was before them was such that Jesus didn’t want them getting waylaid on the road. They were to stay focused and not lose sight of their specific calling.
As I think back over the years one of the things that I’m realizing is how easily it is for me to lose sight of my specific calling. My first order calling is that of husband and father. I believe that I have done that well. I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve missed an event for my children. This has been a great privilege of my work as a pastor. Many don’t have that privilege, but I do. I am beyond grateful.
As I think about my calling as a pastor, I wonder how focused and faithful I have been. I am quickly given to the “new” in opportunities. As I consider my public ministry (which of course must include social media interactions) I have come to realize that I have fallen prey to the thing that Jesus has asked the seventy to avoid.
“Don't loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.” Jesus says. The hours wasted on online arguments and the mental and emotional expenditure that goes along with them I think is the same as “loitering” along the way. I need to continue to grow in this realm. There is something deeply enjoyable about “winning” an argument on the Internet. That moment when you know you “got” them, and you watch them intellectually spin. But, at the end of the day this is not the mission I’m on.
No, it’s actually the opposite of the mission.
Some public intellectuals may be called to debate the various philosophical, political, and cultural issues of our day on the Internet. But, that’s not what I’m here for.
I am here to create space for people to be faithfully present with one another so that they might recognize the divine in their midst in the face of Christ.
It’s taken me a while to figure that out. What I continue to realize is that when I am creating and opening space like that, that is when I feel God’s joy most acutely.
This story today was a good reminder that I need to stay focused on my calling and being about what it is that God has invited me into.
How about you? What is your calling? Where do you feel God’s joy in your life? How are you doing staying focused on that calling?