"SAY WHAT?"[1]

LUKE 9:1-9

NOVEMBER 24, 2013



            I want to begin this morning with five quotes, all related to the same topic.

            Quote #1 from Confucius:  "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

            Quote #2 from Leonardo da Vinci:  "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

            Quote #3 from Henry David Thoreau:  "Our life is frittered away by detail.  Simplify, simplify."

            Quote #4 from Albert Einstein:  "Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury - to me these have always been contemptible.  I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.

            And finally, quote #5 from Sir Isaac Newton:  "Nature is pleased with simplicity.  And nature is no dummy."

            In our passage for this morning, Jesus encourages his disciples to keep it simple as he offers his disciples simple instructions for ministry, and really, about life.  Listen to what he had to say.  Let's begin reading in chapter one, verse nine.


            Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them, Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor moneynot even an extra tunic.


            In other words, they are to depend on two things:  God, and the hospitality of others.  And remember these instructions are case specific.  This is not a strategy for all time.  There is a general principle, however, that still applies today, and we'll get to that later.  Let's continue reading.  Verse four.


            Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 


            Providing room and meals to a stranger was a given in New Testament times.  It was the custom.  We don't pick up hitchhikers today.  We are wary of the stranger at our door.  That wasn't the case in Jesus' day, and Jesus wanted to make sure the apostles did not take advantage of the hospitality offered to them.  The apostles are not to shop around for the best available accommodations and meals.  The first person who invites them to stay, they are to go with that invitation.  They are to accept that invitation.  They are not to change homes if they get a better offer.  Verse five.


            Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.  


            When rabbis entered Palestine after a trek into Gentile territory, they shook off the last particle of heathen dust from their feet.  A village or town which did not receive them was to be treated as a strict Jew would treat a heathen country. 


            They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.


            Note the word "everywhere."  They met with great success "everywhere" they traveled.  So much so, that word of their success reached all the way to King Herod, and he started to get a little nervous.  He wondered if John the Baptist had come back to haunt him.  Verse 7.


            Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen.  Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?"  And he tried to see him. 


            At this point the disciples had been with Jesus nearly two years.  Up until now they have observed and listened to him, but now the days of preparation are over.  The apostles in preparation now become the apostles sent out.  We can but imagine how they felt.  They probably felt a little like we all did when our parents took the training wheels off our bicycle.  We felt both excited and frightened at the same time.  Up until now Jesus has been doing the heavy lifting.  He has been the one doing the teaching and healing and they have been the ones listening and learning.  Now it all has to be put into practice, and as Jesus removes the training wheels he gives them four simple instructions.

            First, he gives them a simple authority for their mission ... his own.  Luke says that Jesus gave the twelve power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.  Of course, there is a subtle difference between power and authority.  Power is the ability to accomplish a task and authority is the right to do it.  Authority is like a traffic cop who, by simply raising his hand, can bring two tons of speeding automobile to a complete halt.  Does the officer have the power to stop the car?  No!  He's not Superman, but he has the authority to do that.

             In that same vein, I like the story about the officer in a police helicopter who spotted a car speeding down the Interstate.  He radioed his partner on the ground and the patrolman in the car stopped the speeder and began writing a citation.

            "How in the world did you know I was speeding?" the man asked.

            The patrolman didn't say anything, but pointed skyward.  The speeder looked up and moaned, "Do you mean to tell me that he's turned against me, too?"

            The authority for our mission comes from above.  We are privileged to live in a country where we enjoy a measure of religious freedom, but the authority for our mission does not come from the Constitution of the United States.  It comes from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  It doesn't get much simpler than that.

            In addition to a simple authority Jesus also gives them a simple approach to ministry.   As Jesus sent out the Twelve on their first mission, he told them to concentrate on doing two things.  He told them to heal sick people and to proclaim the Good News.  In other words, simply do what they had seen him doing.  They followed him as he went from town to reaching out to people in their own locale.  Now Jesus wants his followers to do the same.  Go from town to town proclaim the good news and healing people in his name.

            Thats our ministry as well ... to proclaim and to heal.  Our twofold task is simple and clear.  Jesus didnt give us four laws or twelve steps or eighteen tasks.  He simply said, Go to where hurting people are and help them and tell them that I love them.  By the way, how do you think we are doing in that regard?  How are we doing when it comes to reaching out to hurting people and proclaiming the good news?  How many of us would give ourselves, and I'm speaking of Anderson Grove Church here, how many of us would give us an "A?"  How about a "B?"  How about a "C?"  How about a "D?"  Any "F's?"

            Whatever grade we gave ourselves, I hope we considered a couple of things as we voted.  I hope we considered the church-gathered, the church-scattered dynamic.  Right now we are the church gathered.  When we leave this place around noon, then we become the church-scattered.  How do we do when we scatter?  Do we reach out to hurting people?  Do we do all we can to help them?  Also, do we ever mention the fact that God loves them?

            And as we think of Jesus' simple approach to ministry plan ... this twofold task of healing and proclaiming, we may be thinking that the church does a much better job of proclaiming than healing.  In fact, you may be thinking the church may get an "A" in proclaiming, they do it every Sunday, but an "F" when it comes to healing.  I, of course, beg to differ.  What about Creighton Medical Center?  What about Immanuel and Bergan Mercy and Methodist?  Who started those hospitals?  Who reached out to hurting people?  I would venture to say the majority of hospitals started in the United States where started by followers of Jesus Christ.  Agree?  Agree?

            A simple authority.  A simple approach, and thirdly Jesus gives them a simple attitude toward possessions.  Simply put he says, "Don't let 'stuff' slow you down."

            Wow, do we ever need that word today.  Over the past 20 years one of the fastest growing businesses in America has been the storage business.  I can remember growing up, you never saw storage garages where people would pay money to store their stuff.  Today, it is a booming business.  What does that say?  We have so much stuff that we cant even keep it all in our houses.  We have to rent additional space just to store it.

            Possessions can really weigh us down.  Trudy and I have begun thinking about significantly downsizing.  After our dog dies, and Calvin our dog, turned twelve this month, we think we will move into an apartment.  We want to be able to travel more and not have to worry about things like the grass and snow removal.  But let me tell you, the thought of disposing of many of our possessions seems overwhelming at times.  There is so much to sell or give away.  How did we accumulate so much stuff? 

            And it's somewhat embarrassing.  I think of all the stuff we have purchased over the years and hardly used.  That money could have gone to much more important causes.  Money to help hurting people.  Money to extend God's kingdom.  On this commitment Sunday, I'm a little embarrassed that we didn't give more over the years.  Instead, at times we have bought more, and given less.  Am I alone in this?  Have you ever done the same? 

            Do we need to unpack our suitcase a little bit?  Do we need to depend a little more on God and a little less on our stuff?  If we lightened our load, would we enjoy the journey a little more?

            Then fourthly, and finally, Jesus gives them a simple act to deal with failure ... shake it off and move on.

            This is a spiritual principle that we need to understand and practice today.  If a pair of disciples entered a certain city and began to talk about Jesus, they faced the possibility of rejection. If the people didnt accept them or their message, they might feel like they had failed. The act of shaking off the dust was a symbolic way of saying, I dont want anything in that city to remain on me.  I dont want their bitterness, their rejection, and their lack of faith to remain part of me.  Jesus didnt want their feeling of failure to bog them down.  Instead, he told them to just shake it off and move on to the next village.

            Evangelist Jay Strack has written a book titled Shake off the Dust.  Jay was physically and emotionally abused as a child.  He started doing drugs when he was 13 and by the time he was 16, he was hooked and was dealing drugs to pay for his habit.  He was busted and found himself as a teenage junkie and criminal.  He met Jesus after the bust, but it took him a long time to shake off the dirt and dust of his troubled past.  In his book, he writes, As long as you remain a prisoner to your past, you will never know the freedom of the future.  You cant spend the rest of your life sitting in the ashes of devastation, crying over what went wrong.  Youd dont have to carry around the dirt of your past mistakes.  Get up, shake off the dust, and go on.

            Even the very best followers of God stumble and fall.  Judas and Peter both failed. What was the difference between the two?  Judas was unable to shake it off.  Instead went out in despair and hung himself.  On the other hand, although Peter felt as badly as Judas did, he recognized his failure, he wept bitterly at his mistake and then he got up, and shook of the dust from his failure, and moved on.

            I love the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal Here was a man who at one time opposed Jesus to the point of having Christians executed for their heresy.  He stood by, consenting to the brutal stoning of Stephen.  Im sure Old Redlegs would have loved to have kept that image before Paul but he shook off the dust from his past and kept on moving ahead.

            Have we failed relationally?  Shake off the dusk and keep on moving ahead.  Have we failed financially?  Shake off the dust and try again.  Is there some dirty, dusty experience of failure from our past still lingering on our character?   Shake off the dust and move on.  Why?  Because Jesus tells us to do it, and he's the authority on the matter, pure and simple.

[1] Outline borrowed from "A Simple Sermon," New Covenant Baptist Church, Grand Junction, CO.