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Tuesday, July 09 2013

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

          Have you ever wondered who they were?  These 70 people that Jesus sent out to tell others about the Good News of Jesus – the Good News that the Kingdom of God has come to them. 

          Ever wonder who they were?  The only time we ever hear about them is when we read this passage in the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. This is the only place.  After this, we never hear about them again.  Who were they?  We don’t know because we’re not given a single name of any of them.

          Now, I’m sure that most of us could name at least a few of the more well known disciples – the names of the twelve who were on this adventure with Jesus.  Anybody want to give it a try?  (Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Matthew, Thomas, Judas, Bartholomew, Thaddeus/Jude, Simon, and another James.)  Yeah, those we know.  But these 70; we have no idea who they were.  They never attained super star status like the 12 that we’re more familiar with.

          No.  These 70 were not superstars.  But do you know who they were? I’ll tell you who they were.  They were ordinary people – people just like you and me – who were sent out by Jesus to announce the Good News of God’s love – the forgiveness of sins.  They were messengers of hope.  Messengers of peace.  They were – ordinary people.

          We tend, however, to focus more on superstars and super heroes.  That’s why there are so many movies about heroes.  This weekend the Lone Ranger and Tonto came to the big screen.  A new Superman movie is out.  Iron Man III is still showing.  There is just something about the super hero character that draws people – young and old – to the theaters over and over again. 

          I remember when my sons were young boys, their favorite super heroes had names like Michelangelo, Rafael, Leonardo, and Donatello.  Anybody here who can tell me who I’m talking about?  Yeah – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – heroes on the half-shell.

          It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult.  There’s something magical about the superstar, super-hero image that captures our attention.  There’s something special about that hero image that says only super people can do great things. 

          Unfortunately, this kind of thinking has invaded the church.  And my friends – I’m here to tell you it’s a lie.  The work of spreading the Gospel – of telling others about the Good News of Jesus Christ – is not the work of superstars.  And if we had to come up with a list of Christian superstars today – we might have a tough time putting a list together.  Although I think on anyone’s list we would certainly remember  Mother Teresa, and include Billy Graham, Pope Francis I, [Arlene Tesnow] [April Folckemer].

          No, the work of proclaiming the Gospel – the Good News of the Kingdom of God – is not the exclusive job of super stars or super saints.  It takes ordinary people – like you – and like me.

          One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  Maybe you have felt at one time or another like the main character, George Bailey.  George Bailey dreamed of an adventurous life – of traveling and exploring all over the world.  But circumstances keep him tied to his home in Bedford Falls.  There he lives what he considers to be just an ordinary life.  No excitement.  No adventure.  Just ordinary.

          Finally, George feels the world caving in on him – and in a moment of desperation, wishes that he had never been born.  And his wish is granted.  He has been given a gift that no one else has ever been given – to see what life would have been life if he had never been born.  And what George discovers is that his ordinary life had not been quite so ordinary after all – touching the hearts and lives of countless other people.

          Now you and I don’t have the insight of a George Bailey to know what life would have been like if we had never been born.  But you and I are just like George – ordinary people living ordinary, everyday lives.  But oh, what a difference – as George Bailey discovered – one ordinary life – your ordinary life – can have on so many other people.

          Ordinary people are people who are involved in the work of the church – in the work of ministry.  People on a mission.  You know what that means, don’t you?  It means that I am not the only minister here.  We are all on this adventure together with Jesus Christ – committed to following Jesus Christ.  We are ordinary people touching the hearts and lives of other ordinary people – in the name of Jesus Christ. 

          Jesus sent out 70 disciples – ordinary people – to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  And that’s what they did.  And they were amazed at the results of their ministry.  The Gospel – proclaimed by ordinary people who spent time and energy – who reached out and touched other people – who took time to be with other people.  They made a difference.

          Let me share with you a story.  During the middle 1600’s England was ruled by a man by the name of Oliver Cromwell. The story goes that England was running out of silver for making coins.  So Cromwell sent his men to the cathedrals of England to see if they could find any silver there.  The men came back and reported, “The only silver we could find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners.” 

          Cromwell replied, “Good!  We’ll melt down the saints and put them into circulation!”

          Friends – that’s where saints belong – ordinary saints like you and me – out in circulation.  And I can tell you that we don’t belong in the corner of some church somewhere gathering dust.  We belong out among the people.

          Ordinary people can reach out to other people about Jesus Christ.  The door to door evangelizing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for just isn’t going to cut it.  In fact, as I was writing this sermon this past week – I kid you not – I had a Jehovah’s Witness at my door.  I would rather that we be known – as Lutheran Christians – for the one thing that will make a difference – the warm, real contact of ordinary people. 

          Pastor Mike Slaughter says that, “Sometimes a simple invitation is all people need.  Surveys show that, if you invite a friend to church, 50% of the time they will respond with a ‘yes.’  That percentage goes up substantially with a second, third, or fourth invitation.”

          And I know that many of you have done just that.  You are excited about this place – about Jesus Christ – and what God through the power of the Holy Spirit is doing in this place.  And that is one of the reasons why this church has been for so many years a growing church.  And why it is still a growing church – by invitation and reputation.  I want to take a chance and ask – how many of you are here because either someone brought you here as a child – or someone told you about this church and invited you to come here?  Let’s see a show of hands. 

          Some of  you may know the name Garrison Keillor, host of the popular program on public radio, A Prairie Home Companion

          Keillor was brought up in a fringe group of the Plymouth Brethren Church.  Finding the church’s heavy legalisms and dullness off putting, Keillor stopped going to church.  From then on people would ask him, “Do you go to church?” And he would say, “No.” Then they would say, “Why don’t you go to church?” And he would tell them.

          That ritual exchange served him well for many years until, sometime back, a Lutheran friend – yes, some Lutherans do do the work of evangelism – engaged Keillor in those same two stock questions, “Do you go to church?” and “Why don’t you go to church?” But then this person surprised him with a third question: “Why don’t you come with us?”

          Never having been asked that before, Keillor didn’t have a stock answer. And before he knew it, he found himself saying yes. And that’s all it took and he was back in the fold once again.  Wouldn’t it have been a shame if no one had ever asked?  For all we know, Keillor might still today be unchurched IF no one had ever invited him.  And then we would never have heard about the Lutherans of Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

          All it takes is an invitation.  Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, talking about his church puts it this way, ‘Our whole evangelism strategy is summed up in two words: invest and invite. Invest in relationships with unbelievers and, at the appropriate time, invite them to an environment where they can hear the gospel.

          Invest and invite.  Folks – God demonstrated His love for you when He sent Jesus, His Son.  Christ’s life, death and resurrection proved that love for all of us.  God invested the life of His Son in you!  And he invites you to come and follow Him and to invite others to come along with you.

          Jesus sent out 70 people – 70 ordinary people – to proclaim the Good News of God’s love.  How about you?  You don’t have to be a Christian rock star – or a super saint.  Invest and invite.  Invest and invite.  All it takes is ordinary people.  Because ordinary people can – and ordinary people do. 

          Ordinary people – like you – and like me. 


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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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