Finding the Blessing on the Path You are On

Sunday, July 9, 2023
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner 

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Have you even been somewhere that all of a sudden you wondered, “How did I get myself into this situation?” Maybe you offered to help someone before thinking about what it would take to actually help them. Maybe you got lost going to a new place and realized that the only way to get “found” was to ask strangers for help. Maybe you started out on a project that you thought was within your skill set and once you got started, you quickly realized you were in over your head. We’ve all been there at some point or another.  There are times when the only way forward is with the help of others.

When Erica and I bought our first house shortly after I became a pastor, I decided that I should remodel the bathroom. I’ll admit, we were inspired by all those DIY shows on HGTV. Mind you, I had zero construction experience and my tool supply consisted of a cordless drill, an old circular saw, and a smattering of hand tools. But, we were young and hopelessly optimistic. There was also fact that we had just finished grad school with a heap of student loans, had our first child, and were on a tight budget.

The first task of any remodel job is demolition. We were going to buy a new tub and surround, so the old ones had to come out. It turned out the tub was cast iron, and the old surround needed to be taken down to the studs. I didn’t have the tools for this kind of job, and I definitely couldn’t lift a cast iron tub out of there myself. So, I called my buddy Kyle. He had a bit more handy man experience than I had – and he had a Saws-All!

If you don’t know what that is, it’s like a giant electric carving knife –  you know the kind where the blade goes back and forth really fast – that you use at Thanksgiving dinner. But rather than cutting fine shavings of meat, it cuts through just about anything!

My friend Kyle was giddy when I called him. He was game for anytime to use power tools. We got into the bathroom and started demoing. We decided that it would be best to open up the wall at the back of the tub so we could see how the bath was attached. He revved up the Saws-All and started cutting down the wall and then across, near the top of the tub. Some of you might know where this is going…When the chunk of wall came off, we realized he had cut right through the studs. The same studs we needed to attach the new surround to the wall. At that point, we were both wondering, “How in the world did we get into this situation?” After a brief panic, we improvised a solution and in the end I was still incredibly grateful to have a partner to help me figure out how in the world I was going to do this thing I didn’t know if I could do.

When Jesus gathered those seventy initial disciples and prepared to send them out, I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked themselves, “How in the world did we get into this situation?” Jesus’ instructions are crisp. Go out. Travel lightly. Offer peace- everywhere you go. Rely on the hospitality of strangers on this mission. Oh, and you might feel like a lamb amidst wolves. So, when you are rejected (which is likely to happen at some point) just shake the dust off your feet – which was an ancient way of saying “let it roll off your back and don’t take the rejection with you.”

If we’re honest, we probably have a particular idea of what it means to be sent on a mission by God. It might have to do with knocking on doors and asking people invasive questions. Or maybe we think about standing on a street corner with a megaphone. Or it’s that we have to know a whole bunch of Scripture to “convince” people to be “saved”. For most of us, thinking about doing that is about the last thing we’d want to do. The good news is, I don’t see any of those things being part of Jesus’ mission to the seventy – or to us. Notice that Jesus just says go. He doesn’t tell us to keep track of souls saved. That work is left up to God. Jesus’ call to offer peace is dependent on relationship, on learning to trust others, living with them, sharing life together. As Christians, it’s as much about how we live and interact with others, as it is about what we actually say.

One of the saving graces to Jesus’ mission strategy is that Jesus never sends us out alone. That’s no small thing. Because it’s always easier to do hard things when we have someone to share the load, right? This is actually a key mark of following Jesus – we show up for each other. When one falters, the other can help. When one is lost, the other can seek the way. When one is discouraged, the other can hold faith for both for a while. That’s what we do as the church, as God’s people – we hold on to each other, console each other, encourage and embolden each other, and even believe for each other.

Yesterday, we held the funeral service for Max Williams, the young man who drown in Lake Superior two weeks ago. Max was a car enthusiast. He had just finished high school and he worked part-time at Discount Tires. As people gathered for the visitation, you couldn’t help noticing young men about Max’s age showing up in black pants, accompanied by a black tank top, and aviator sunglasses. By the time the service started there were more than 20 of them. They were Max’s co-workers. The black attire was what they wore under their uniform at Discount Tires. They showed up to remember and honor their friend. Throughout the morning they hugged each other. They cried with each other. They encouraged each other. They held faith for each other. After the service, as the casket was rolled out of the sanctuary, toward the hearse, these young men – some of them barely old enough to drive – lined the sidewalk in reverence, a sign of peace to everyone who gathered there. There were very few words, but in that moment, they did what Jesus calls us to do – go to the places Jesus intends to go – to the hurting, the grieving, the forgotten, the struggling, and the lonely. It’s not always easy, and often you’ll encounter pain – but that’s where peace is needed most.

Maybe one of the reasons Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs in the first place was that it gave them a chance to practice offering peace to those they knew, and maybe even liked, before they brought God’s peace to strangers, and to those who are hurting?

I know of a small group of Christians who have been friends for a long time, who made the decision together a few years ago to move to the West Side of St. Paul. They chose to move there because they knew people in that neighborhood are struggling with underemployment, violence in their kids’ schools, and the daily grind of life. They sensed a call to be people of peace in the midst of the struggle, trusting that Jesus was already there. Some of them ask their neighbors what they can pray for when talking with them on the sidewalk. Some volunteer in the local school. They spend time getting to know people they otherwise would never know. After living there for a couple of years, they started inviting all the neighbors to a monthly Sunday breakfast. They didn’t know if anyone would show up, but now young and older people, black, white, and Latinx show up for together to extend peace and be in community together. It’s a quiet ministry of healing, of peace, and even a place where the Kingdom of God has come near.

Not everyone sees the value in this kind of community. But Christ’s mission is clear, and Christ’s good news is worth the risk. We live in a society that celebrates individuality. We are the land of bootstraps, and fierce independence – whether it’s always good for us or not. So, being of person of peace, committing to dependence on others, and inviting others into that life may not always win us popularity contests. Sometimes we may be outright rejected – but it doesn’t cost us anything to offer peace to everyone, everywhere. And when we do, we might just find ourselves improvising a better way through life, and more than that, we may just find that the Kingdom of God has come near. Amen.

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