Jesus Is on the Move
Scripture: Luke 10:1-11 Luke 10:16-20 Isaiah 66:10-14
One of the hidden features of my iPhone that I use fairly often is the Find Friends app.
With my Find Friends app, I can link to people close to me, and, as long as they are connected to the internet, get a glimpse of where they are. At any moment, I can find out what adventures my brother might be up, where my mom currently is, and so on. This works for my wife, Yunkyong, too - so if I tell her I am stopping at Target on the way home, she could theoretically check to see if I am where I am supposed to be.
Let’s be clear - this feature is not supposed to be used to spy on the people in your life, but it could be handy also if you lost your phone or need to know how much time you have to clean the house before someone gets home.
This week, at General Assembly, I got to spend time with a good friend of mine, Vy Nguyen. Vy is the Executive Director of Week of Compassion, and he and I are linked on Find Friends. Vy’s role with Week of Compassion has him responding constantly to disasters, famine, and turmoil in our world. Sometimes, I open Find Friends and discover Vy in Switzerland, Puerto Rico, Baltimore, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan, and all manner of points in between.
And I know if Vy is there, it means that Jesus is there. It means that caring hands are there. It means help and friendship is there.
I’m not suggesting that my friend, Vy, is a perfect human being - but I am suggesting that Vy’s work with Week of Compassion on our larger church’s behalf means that the love of Jesus Christ follows him all over the world to communities that are hurting.
I wonder if someone could say the same thing about you.
I wonder if someone could say the same thing about me.
Does Jesus go where we show up?
In the gospel story we just heard, Jesus sends his disciples and followers out ahead of him. He tells them to pack light and depend on the hospitality of those towns they will visit. This group of seventy go in pairs, announcing peace and God’s love and reign in every little village and home that will take them.
What fascinates me about the scripture is that Jesus sends them to places he is preparing to visit. They are sort of Jesus’ advance party - wherever they go, Jesus is going to show up, healing those who are hurt, sharing in meals of radical welcome, confirming God’s favor upon the people there. But only after the disciples go first.
Rev. Nancy Growler, pastor at First Christian Church of Puyallup, preached a message on Sunday night of General Assembly about the kind of shoes you need to be ready to wear when “abiding” with Jesus - when following Jesus. You’ll need walking shoes, dancing shoes, soft slippers, work boots, and more. You’ll end up at wedding feasts, in private rooms, around dinner conversations, on mountaintops, and in tombs. Here, we see a glimpse of some of those shoes that the Disciples will wear as they participate in God’s reign on earth.
But again, what is so interesting about this scripture is that Jesus sends his Disciples first.
Sometimes, we hear about Jesus telling his disciples to follow him. But this time, Jesus follows his disciples. Isn’t that wild?
Yes, this text could be problematic if we take it to mean that Jesus is dependent on us to show up, and if we don’t show up, Jesus won’t come walking on by. I’m not sure Jesus always waits on us. From my life of faith, I know there are plenty of times that Jesus leads the way, and we must grab the courage to seek after him where he leads.
But there are times when Jesus does wait on us. Where we go, where ever it is, Jesus comes in after us. Our workplaces. Our classrooms. The metro. Hospital rooms. Bedrooms. Living rooms. Sanctuaries Cells. Block parties. Big towns. Little towns. Places halfway across this world - in Singapore, in Oklahoma, in Nigeria, in Scotland, in South Korea, and more.
The old quote goes - “You may be the only Jesus someone will ever see.”
Best of all, where Jesus shows up, evil loses.
Jesus tells his disciples when they return that he saw the evil one fall out of the sky as they carried out their ministry announcing God’s reign. The forces of injustice don’t stand a chance against the power of God.
Some of us have been in some evil places. Some of us have been locked up and left out. Some of us have been placed in harm’s way because of who we are or who people think we are. Some of us have been called nasty things and judged. Some of us have been shut out by systems of injustice and oppression. But when Jesus is on the move, the goodness of God always has the final word. Those evil things and actions do not have power in God’s beloved community.
Rev. William Barber, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, reminded us this past week that this coming of God’s reign doesn’t begin “on some glad morning when our lives are over” - it begins “now”.
Jesus sent his disciples out to announce the Kingdom of God being present now.
And we get to join in that work.
University Christian Church is part of that work right now, and we have done that work in the past. We can look back and see that Jesus has followed us into tough situations when we have cared for neighbors, stood up for each other, and blessed others.
Where ever we go, when we follow our God of love and trust that God is going where we are, Jesus follows after us. Jesus is on the move after us. And where Jesus is, there is love and there is peace.
The prophet Isaiah says it - God’s vision is to comfort us - to comfort the suffering cities and places of our world, whether they are West Baltimore or the border or Mar-a-Lago. God’s comforting love is not an abstraction but begins with cities and places where we call home. “Our bodies shall flourish like grass.” - the prophet cries out. What a word for a world where too many bodies are being broken over and over again by sin and death. Where young lives are not allowed a chance to grow. Where neighbors are turned away. God desires for them to flourish!
God’s work through Jesus is to walk into our lives over and over again. To walk into our towns. To move with cosmic love that helps us flourish. And sometimes, we are the ones to crack that door open to allow the abundant life of Jesus to take hold.
Will we go out and lead Christ into our villages, homes, neighborhoods, and classrooms?
Will people say what they do about my friend, Vy, that wherever WE go, Jesus shows up?
A Blessing of Shoes
I want you to take off your shoes for a minute. I know for some of you that is easy, and for some of us, that may take a minute. As you take them off, think about where your shoes were last week. What places did you go? Did you travel, did you work, did you spend time in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices? Did you pace the floor of your home? Did you walk through some frightening realities?
And think about where your feet will take you this week. To a classroom? To a church or some other sacred space? Into the halls of power? Into a family dispute? Into a funeral home or a place of sadness? Into God’s wide open creation?
Think about those places. If you want to hold your shoes, do so.
Lord, we pray for these shoes and for the feet of those who will wear them, that wherever you might take them this week, your presence might abide in and through them. Give us courage to speak a word of peace where we are needed. Give us courage to proclaim your reign in those places. Be on the move, Jesus. Be on the move through our lives. Be on the move wherever it is that you would have us go. May your revolutionary love bring an end to all evil, pain, and suffering to those places where we will take you this week. And then lead us on to where we need to be next. Amen.