Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As Lambs in the Midst of Wolves

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a child of peace is there, your peace will rest upon them. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ Luke 10:1-11

This past weekend we went to an annual wool and sheep festival in Rhinebeck New York. People from all over to display their sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. There are wool products and all sorts of related items for sale. There were shepherding demonstrations and border collies in profusion. We have always had an interest in sheep, goats and other small farm animals for some reason. Maybe it is because my family had a border collie that really wanted to be herding every minute, or maybe it was because sheep are followers and like to be around others of their kind. Sheep aren't the brightest in God's kingdom, but they provide incredible warmth, wonderful cheeses and are willing to live among and forgive humans. The colors of blankets sweaters and other clothing was only outdone by the golden oranges in the tree leaves. It was a sweet and cool autumn afternoon to experience the beauty of God's world and the tender and often comic nature of the animals.

Jesus sent the seventy-two out with instructions to rely on the gifts of the community they went to. If they were not received, they should leave. If people welcomed them, they should make a place among them and share with them in everything. And he told them that they were like sheep among wolves, herd animals used to being guarded and lead, now among cunning and hurting folks. I have often wondered how many clergy feel as if they are sheep among wolves, vulnerable and unprotected and less bright and cunning then the church where they serve. I also know that it is too easy, when things get rough for people to play they victim, and not move to the work of sharing the gospel, healing the sick and doing the work of the kingdom. Jesus instructed them to be wise and not play the victim, and to name those place and people who are completely unreceptive to God's love. And to realize that in serving others for God we will always be met with resistance, not all of which is bad.

Today, I am reminded that the easiest way out is demonize one group or individual and victimize the other. And neither spreads the radical love and inclusion offered freely by God in Christ Jesus. I pray that today I can go out in the world equipped just as I am entrusting that God will provide a receptive audience and a community which which to grow and develop the blessings of God in our midst.

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