After this 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. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.
20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
I’m always annoyed when the passage assigned for the day starts with the phrase, “After this…” After what? Just before this passage, Jesus is getting real with the folx who say they want to follow him by letting them know that they are going to have to make hard choices when facing up to the empire. This real talk comes right after Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him to a village of the Samaritans to get them ready for his arrival. The text then says the Samaritan villagers “did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53). Jesus’ disciples, James and John, responded to this rejection from the Samaritan village with an idea: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
Honestly, I can relate to the desire to call down some fire on people who are rejecting the liberation-way of Jesus. I’ll admit that these days are bringing out in me not just the urge to resist oppression, but to dominate – to win for the sake of defeating my enemies. And this weekend of all weekends, it is clear to me that I was formed in a culture that believes this way of domination is the path to freedom. Why else are fireworks stands selling out of explosives but to celebrate the American obsession with dominating our enemies, remembering year after year the time white settlers “commanded fire to come down from heaven and consume” their enemies”? You don’t have to look further than all the ‘America first’ memorabilia covering Lake Sacajawea right now to know how much Americans revel in the idea that domination is supposed to make us free.
But Jesus has something to say about that. In the chapter leading up to this one, Jesus “turned and rebuked” (9:55) James and John when they suggested this call-down-fire strategy of domination. And in our passage today, Jesus lays out another path for all of us to be formed in a more beautiful way – the way of the Kin-dom of God. Jesus gives them, and us, some things to practice, a warning, and a promise.
First, some things to practice… Jesus tells his disciples to invite people in every place to be a part of an empire-resisting, countercultural way of life: “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals… remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide… whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you.” The message is clear: collecting wealth and clinging to possessions doesn’t build up God’s kin-dom family. Relationships where we depend on each other do. Jesus calls his followers to actively reject the urge to cling to possessions, and to instead rely on our communities to provide for what we need to live. Capitalism tells us to bulk up individual retirement savings accounts and IRAs as the way to thrive. And I think Jesus knows the pressures humans face in wanting to store up wealth as a way to compete our way to survival. That’s why I appreciate that he doesn’t tell the disciples how they need to feel about letting go of material possessions to rely on relationships at first – it’s scary! Instead, he gives them practices to act out no matter how scared they feel. Because, as the saying goes, practice makes permanent.
The daily practices we choose – and we all choose something – shape and form us no matter how we feel about them. Jesus knows that if we will practice letting go of material possessions regularly, daily, often, and instead practice sitting at table with our communities to build relationships and relying on our friends and chosen families in real ways to walk through life, we will start to feel in our bodies the truth that competing via wealth accumulation is not the way to true belonging. It’s by asking for what we need and giving what we have to share in community that we resist the urge to dominate one another and embrace Christ’s way of interdependent community .
And then, a warning from Jesus when the disciples come to him “with joy” saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus replies, “…do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Theologian Nichola Torbett puts it best when she writes that in this warning, Jesus is not “moralizing. He’s just explaining that the kin-dom is inaccessible from a place of domination or self-protection; the minute we try to dominate or armor up against rejection,” Torbett writes, “we lose access, not because God is mean and trying to exclude us, but simply because those ways of being are inconsistent with the kind of interdependence that characterizes the reign of love to begin with.” (Nichola Torbett, pg. 7 of Liturgy that Matters – July 3, 2022 – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 – enfleshed: nourishment for collective liberation.) Contrary to what this white settler holiday weekend would like to proclaim, God’s presence is not found in dominating others, but rather in the webs of connection and relationships of solidarity we weave together in the midst of apocalypse. Yes, we will organize like hell so that the halls of power reflect the right for every human to live AND we will build up a world in the meantime that is not about dominating enemies but about making friends across lines of difference, ever-inviting, ever-welcoming, ever-open-hearted to connections that may surprise us. It’s why Jesus says we should really be “rejoic[ing] that [our] names are written in heaven,” because in the kind of heaven he brings near, God is alive and active and as close as every breath we take through our relationships of solidarity, relationships that outlast the crumbling of empires.
And this is where we find the promise. Even in a world where we see the rejection of Christ’s values of liberation at every turn, where the highest court of the land decides that there are some bodies that do not deserve autonomy and we watch with horror as the dominoes of oppression start falling one after another, Jesus tells us that what all these practices of building deep community instead of accumulating possessions and celebrating domination have in common is that they give us a peace that cannot be taken away. This is why Jesus instructs his disciples by saying “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.’” The kin-dom of peace is offered – generously and widely. This is what Jesus means when he says the kin-dom of God has come near. And if his way of peace that defies empire is rejected? The peace returns to the one who offered it, unbroken, still whole, because the one offering that peace has been building a community of care and support that cannot be legislated or court-ruled away. It’s a kin-dom of peace built to carry us all, a community built to last.
So for every sign of American domination we see, hear, or feel over this 4th of July weekend and beyond, may we remember to walk in a different direction, inviting someone into our home to build a relationship of mutual support and interdependence. For every firework that crackles and sparks on the sidewalk next door, may we decide to share something we have or ask for what we need so that everyone has enough. And for every moment of overwhelm in these impossible days, dear ones, may we breathe deeply, recommitting again and again to building Christ’s kin-dom of peace, a peace that can never be taken away. Amen.