The following message is based on Luke 10:1-12, entitled “Being Sent to Serve.” It was preached at the Central Schwenkfelder Church on May 3, 2010
Specific instructions towards a substitute are very important. If not handled correctly, the wrong direction can be taken. Unfortunate and unexpected choices can be made. Take for instance the following story. A minister was called away unexpectedly by the illness of a close family member. He entrusted his new assistant with filling the pulpit. The Pastor’s wife stayed home. When he returned, the minister asked his wife what she thought of the young man’s sermon.
“The poorest I’ve ever heard,” she said. “There was nothing in it, nothing at all. It didn’t even make sense. It was very unorganized. I was disappointed.”
Later that day, the concerned minister met his assistant and asked him, “How’d the Sunday service and sermon go? Did all go well? How did you manage?”
“All went very well, sir, absolutely wonderful,” he said. I didn’t have time to prepare a new sermon of my own on such short notice, so I got on your computer and pulled up one of your old sermons from last year.”
Today’s message is on Mission and Service in the life of the individual and the church. In performing mission and service, we are, in a way, Christ’s substitutes. Although He is at work within us, we are His representatives to this world. Central’s Core Value #3 defines this as “…spreading the good news of God’s salvation and love in Jesus Christ through outreach to others both locally and globally.” So how do we go about doing ministry? I speak not in reference to ordained clergy, but as everyday Christians- followers of Jesus in today’s world. Today’s Scripture is the sending of the 70, found in Luke 10. We learn some very critical things surrounding our responsibilities as Christians in relationship to our world. First, consider the fact that…
I. AS DISCIPLES, WE ARE SENT BY GOD.
A disciple is simply a follower of Jesus Christ. Here, they are followers who are sent! Notice Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10:1: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Here, Jesus sends 72 out to do the work of the ministry, in addition to the 12. This was a preparatory ministry. They were given a message before He Himself would go. He sent them 2-by-2. Jesus gives some interesting facts about the significance of ministry. For one, there are few willing to go. These 72 were in addition to the 12 that he picked. These were to go where Jesus was about to appear. He says “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
One of the marks of a true follower of Christ is a willingness to represent Him in the work of the ministry. We must be willing to represent the Lord in His work. When God called the prophet Isaiah, he responded in 6:8 of the book that bears his name: “Here am I, send me.” What does it mean that God is the Lord of the harvest? It also tells us that prayer is critical to the growth and expansion of Christianity, both locally and all over the world. Both statements indicate that that God is responsible for the work and the employees of the harvest.
Ministry is not an easy, nor a popular thing to do. There was also a message of preparation in verses 3-7. Here, Jesus says some interesting things. He first blatantly labels His followers as “Lambs in the midst of wolves.” In other words, their mission would encounter unpleasant company. One commentator pointed out that Wolves are natural enemies of sheep. “The warning is a general one. The disciples are like lambs in that they are “defenseless and dependent on God alone.” He’s essentially saying that not everyone will receive you and you’ll have enemies. Wolves are ferocious towards lambs. It is not always popular to be a Christian. Sending them out two-by-two would provide protection, companionship and the double witness mentioned in the Old Testament.
Secondly, they were to act with intention. Travel light and travel determined. You’re here for a purpose. Every Christian is sent and called to serve in some way. This is the way we glorify God. We must put our faith to work. You leave the provision to God. Don’t get distracted by details. We encounter this at work camp. Flexibility is a must. Go with the flow. Be bendable, pliable, and easy to please. Your life is a mission trip and you are sent by God to minister to others. That is why Core Value #3 centers on Mission and Service. But what is the content of our message, that we’re called to bear? Next, we find that…
II. AS DISCIPLES, WE ARE SENT BY GOD TO SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS!
Verse 8 states: “And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 “I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.”
Notice that the message bearers were to state without reservation: “The kingdom of God has come near you.” The good news of Jesus Christ is both material and relational. These early missionaries were to stay, eat, preach, and heal. Activities were spiritual, intentional, and communal. God’s salvation and love is the substance of our message. Central’s message must accompany action. There is value in service to Christ. People near and far need the Lord. Remember Christ’s call to the 12in Matthew 4:19: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Ministry must possess a certain attitude that says we are willing to be spent by God and for God. Paul saw his life as being poured out as a drink offering. 2 Timothy 4:6: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. In other words, there is something bigger at stake than just our comfort or security. The message is simple; the receptivity complicated; the result divine. God causes the growth. He controls the impact. Paul realized this when he sensed a division at the church of Corinth. So he wrote them and said it really did not matter who they claimed as their spiritual mentor. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 he says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
III. OUR MISSION HAS A PROFOUND IMPACT ON THOSE INVOLVED.
Mission has a profound impact on others. Mission also has a profound impact on us. Now to share with you a little of this is Pat Marburger.
The following is testimony from Mrs. Pat Marburger:
Good morning, I’d like to share with you a little bit about the Angel Tree project & the impact it has had on my life.
When Pastor David asked me to speak about Angel Tree, I did not hesitate. It’s a program that touches me deeply. In my mind, it’s all about the children.
Angel Tree, a part of the Prison Fellowship ministry, is for children of incarcerated parents, moms or dads, most in state or federal prison, some hours or days away from where the children live, making visits almost impossible. Do you have any idea how many children were signed up for Angel Tree last year? I’ll tell you later.
My initial involvement with the program began because I like to shop & I love the Christmas season. At that time, there were no small children in our family to buy gifts for & I missed the hustle & bustle (some would say madness) of Toys R Us at Christmas.
My Mother & I took tags, usually 3 each. Over the years, it became part of our Christmas routine, going out together to buy our Angel Tree gifts. Later, I attended an Angel Tree party with Al Koehler & Jeff Benham. A few years later, the Potpourri class became responsible for coordinating the program & I made phone calls to the families, to see if they were interested in participating.
For me, making those phone calls is one of the best parts of Angel Tree. Some of the caregivers, usually mom or grand mom, will open up about their children, telling me about their personalities, as well as what they would like for Christmas. It’s moving to hear the love in their voices.
Later, when a new coordinator was needed for Angel Tree here at Central, I took responsibility for the overall program, with a lot of support form the Potpourri class. Al Kohler & his Bethel class, along with & Bill & Portia Potts, had everything so well organized, all I had to do was follow the directions!
It was my turn to get people to help make phone calls, make sure the tags were all distributed, including those that came in at the last minute & the gifts were returned in time. Along the way, the Lord has always made sure the needs were met. Last year, the young adults were a terrific help.
Taking the gifts to the parties is always the best part. The children get their gifts in a large bag with their name on it. The little ones like to carry their own bags. Sometimes the bags are bigger than they are. The children take their wrapped gifts home with them. I know some must wait until Christmas to open their presents.
Much like the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, the ministry doesn’t end there. With your help, we planted a seed with those families; the children, the caregivers & the incarcerated parents, letting them all know God loves them. God again uses His people, strangers, to provide gifts for these children, His children.
Last year, in Pennsylvania alone, there were requests for 10, 338 children, children with a parent in prison. 8,344 received gifts from churches. Prison Ministry drew from a special reserve fund to make sure that every child that was signed up & wanted to participate received gifts last year. We provided gifts for 92 children. Central has been partnering with Angel Tree for over 10 years.
There is so much more I could tell you about Angel Tree. Pastor David wanted me to tell you about the blessings involved in getting involved. As I said before, it’s not about me, it’s about the Lord & His love for the children. My experience with Angel Tree started out with tiny steps, as I grew, my involvement grew, too.
Finally, there are many opportunities to get involved in missions here at Central. Keep your heart & mind open. Get involved with something that speaks to your heart. Pray about it, ask the Lord to show you opportunities for missions. Please pray for the families involved with the Angel Tree program. I’ve already signed us up for another year!
Thank you, Pat. Are you being sent? How? The next year, I challenge you to get involved in one of these ministries:
Angel Tree project- For some of us, this means purchasing gifts only. For others, there’s a blessing to go down for a part of day and being with those that are different than yourself. Both are needed. Or what about the Interfaith Hospitality Ministry? When you eat with the family or stay at the church, reach out to those people. Introduce yourself. Ask if they have a prayer need.
Or what about Christian Endeavor’s work camp in West Virginia this summer, rehabbing homes devasted by flood several years ago?
Or maybe you’d like to go on an overseas missions trip? We hope to take a group to Greece in 2011 to work with refugees.
And there are probably many other things you could do. The point of it is to do something intentional for God’s kingdom!
At a Methodist Church in Virginia, they recently ended the service with the commission to the congregation: “The worship has ended. Now let the service begin!”
So remember our Core Value #3 and its emphasis on Mission and Service: “…spreading the good news of God’s salvation and love in Jesus Christ through outreach to others both locally and globally.” Such a value is, in a way selfish- because it is critical to your growth as a person. Charles Simpson wrote: “I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet full matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet.”
That also happens to us as Christians. If they stay within the confines of the church, only attending services, never giving back or getting outside their box to serve in a mission of sorts, then our faith simply won’t grow. It is only when we get employed by God and in service to Christ, our Master, does our faith grow like it should.
 Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 937.