Naomi grew up in Muskegon, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Some of the roads in Muskegon tend to make turns and even circles, because they were built to coincide with the big lake and bays that kind of circle much of the city. I remember once when we were visiting, the boys and I dropped Naomi off to do some grocery shopping, and we decided to visit a sporting goods store. I can’t remember why. As we pulled out of the parking lot of MC Sporting Goods, we asked for directions from someone that appeared to be a local resident. This was long before the days of GPS or cell phones.
I remember he gave us some detailed instructions that had to do with several turns. We did our best to follow the directions, but to our dismay we discovered that we ended up again at MC Sporting Goods. We sort of knew at least the direction of the grocery store we had earlier dropped Naomi at, and so we set off again on our own. We made a few turns, and guess where we ended up? Yes, MC Sporting Goods”! So, we set off again taking a different route, and I kid you not, guess where we ended up? MC Sporting Goods! We decided to ask someone else for directions, and the directions we got were completely different than the first set of directions. And, we finally found our way out of the circling maze. So, whenever we would get lost in the future, our famous expression was “Oh no, MC Sporting Goods!” So, the moral of this story should be, be careful about who you ask for directions.
I don’t know if you have ever done this, but I can remember times when someone going down the road, rolled their window down and asked for directions, and then I would give directions, only to realize after they drove off that I left out something really important, like to turn right instead of left, or to turn at the third light when it was really the fourth light. Ever done anything like that? Well a rule of thumb is to probably never ask me for directions. That’s not my strong point, but when I am driving, I am quite familiar with U-turns.
In our Gospel passage, this morning, we read that The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs amid wolves. (Luke10:1-12)
In the middle of making plans for travels to communities on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus sends out 35 teams of two to do the same work of the ministry that he is doing. He not only sends them, but he empowers them to preach the good news, to heal the sick, to care for all people they meet. The grace that empowers them will rest on those that receive with open arms, but the peace that is intended for others that do not wish to receive will come back into the volunteer’s bosom. I really do not think we can call this 35 teams of volunteers. They are 70 commissioned disciples sent out to be messenger of God, bearers of grace, power and love.
We had a meeting last Thursday with the Welcome Ministry Board. We had several special guests at this meeting. One of which was Rev. Tom Goellrich, Pacifica Director of Evangelism Ministry of the ELCA Pacifica Synod. After the meeting Rev. Tom asked us about how many volunteers were involved in all aspects of Welcome Ministry. The answers were 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. Even if those numbers sound high, it encouraged me that we have so many ministers, not only from St. Alban’s but from other churches, as well. We could not function without volunteers. And, we are always on the lookout for others to join our ministry teams. And, my prayer is that we will always be open and receptive to new ways of doing things, creative ways to share the love of Jesus Christ in our community, and in our world.
That means we will always be adjusting our work, our methods of operation. I pray that we will do our best to maintain a balance of enlisting our own efforts, gifts, resources and time, in cooperation of the leading of the Holy Spirit, walking hand and hand with the Spirit. And, if we make some mistakes, we know we have a loving God, and have you ever made a mistake? Of course, you will make mistakes. Being on the creative edge of change is not always an exact process. But, that’s why we work in teams and encourage each other to go for it, in new and exciting methods of evangelism and outreach.
As we journey on this pilgrimage to our heavenly home, we join the prophets and all those that have gone before us looking for, seeking better directions to a city that is prepared for us, journeying to our eternal home
On this journey we see, but we don’t see fully, we understand, yet we do not understand fully. We experience the joy of the Holy Spirit, the bliss of the kingdom of God here on this earth, but we do not see like we want to see. We know God, yet we do not know him as well as we want to. As St. Paul describes this’ stammering of knowing, yet not yet knowing fully’: “For now, we see in a mirror, dimly,but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known”. (1 Corinthians 13:12, NRSV)“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18)
I want to give directions to the heavenly Jerusalem, to point people to this city whose builder and architect is God, mentioned in Revelation 21 and 22. Revelation 21 paints a picture of the holy City of God, a place where there will be no more suffering, death or evil of any kind. And then Revelation 22 paints a picture of a river that is flowing out of the city. It goes something like this, and I’m quoting from a lovely song that Naomi wrote from this passage.
We shall see the river, the river the river of life,
Coming from the throne of God, and the throne of the lamb.
The tree of life with healing,
Healing for all who will come.
And Jesus will end our curse,
Well serve him forever, amen.
And, we shall see his face, his face.
His name will be our joy.
And, there will be no night there,
Neither the need of a light,
For Jesus will be our light,
He’ll reign and he’ll shine ever bright.
He’ll reign and he’ll shine ever bright. (Rev. 22)