Summary: Being a disciple means being called to mission. This isn’t an optional extra.
By Rev Bill Stewart
Can I begin by asking you to cast your mind back? For some of us it will only be a short time for others it may be somewhat longer. Cast your mind back to the first time your Christian faith really came alive for you. When was it? Why was it?
When I was in primary school my parents sold the property we were living on and we moved to another town, to another school, and to another church. St Barnabas’ Anglican Church was little wooden building like many in the country with a congregation of just five ladies, all of them over seventy years of age. When my mother and my younger sister and brother went we swelled the attendance by eighty percent. There was just one service a fortnight at 7.30 a.m.! The service was very formal and ritualistic. (I should say that those five ladies were women of great faith and I want to say a little more about them in a moment). But I am telling you this because there was no youth group, no CLAY, no STOMP, no beach missions, no Summer under the Son. As a child I didn’t know such things existed. But miraculously when I enrolled at university I just "happened" to meet a couple of members of the Christian Fellowship group on campus. I didn’t expect to become part of such a group because it never occurred to me that such groups existed. I had expected to go to the local church now once in a while but not to be part of a group of young Christians living out their faith on the university campus. And what first made my faith come alive was the way that group prayed for each other and for the fellow students and the way they talked to their friends about Jesus. And at our university in that part of Queensland many young people were living a long, long way from home for the first time, and the Christian Fellowship supported many who found that experience difficult. And they looked after the drunks! As with most universities alcohol abuse was a serious problem - probably worse there than most. And often it was the Christians who were there - sometimes at 2 or 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning to help frequently ungrateful drunks safely home. It completely changed my understanding of my Christian faith. When did your Christian faith first come alive for you? Why?
Before I go on let me just briefly go back to that church at St Barnabas and those five senior Christian ladies. It should not be left unsaid that in no small part because of their faith there is now a congregation of over forty people. And the town has a moving population so many more have been part of the congregation over the years. And four members are now ordained ministers, including myself - proof that aging congregations can grow and prosper.
Today we are continuing our series on Christian "discipleship". But our focus is moving from our individual commitment to Christ to our role as a group of disciples. But our mission as God’s people presumes what we have seen over the last 2 weeks: that we are individuals who are both "walking with Jesus" and "students of Christ". Those of you who remembered the 1980s will be glad I’m sure that I have resisted the temptation to wear a black suit and black sunglasses and use the phrase ... "We’re on a mission from God" - partly because it has become a cliché, but also because it risks trivialising our real mission from God.
I this series we have focussed on reading from Luke’s Gospel. And Luke draws attention to the range of disciples beyond the Twelve who were around Jesus. He mentions many others, especially women, as we saw last week in the case of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). In today’s Gospel reading Luke tells us that: "... the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go." He said to them, ’The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’. Go on your way" (v. 1-3). The questions I’d like to ask from this passage about our discipleship are these:
Firstly, WHAT did Jesus want them to "Go on your way" and do?
Secondly, WHO did Jesus appoint and send to do it?
WHAT mission from God?
WHAT did Jesus want them to "Go on your way" and do? In chapter 9 (verses 51-52) of Luke’s Gospel, just before today’s reading, Luke tells us that "When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him". And in the reading today Jesus sent seventy of his followers ahead of him with a very simple message: