Lambs in the midst of wolves sounds like an unsafe mission environment. We are wise to acknowledge the gospel enterprise is far from safe! Jesus does not send his disciples out in this way without purpose. The kingdom comes with power. But it is not the power we are accustomed to in this world. It is not the intimidating form of coercive power over others. Rather, it is the gentle, vulnerable, attracting power that invites a willing response of engagement and relationship.
Any who respond to the vulnerable emissaries will be blessed with a profound experience of God’s kingdom even in the act of opening their homes and lives to these disciples. Any who reject the sent ones will be equally respected. Yet, in what could be construed as a deliberately provocative act, the disciples were to highlight this rejection - rather than down play it.
What is your experience of kingdom power? How has it transformed your own life and what kinds of transformations have you observed in others?
Each of the characters in Jesus’ Good Samaritan story behave in stereotypical fashion. That is to say, there is nothing surprising in their responses to the man on the side of the road. Most of us could easily relate to the desire to overlook this victim and simply avoid getting involved.
It is the Samaritan who behaves outside of expectations. This story is beyond believable. No one in Jesus’ audience saw it coming. None of them would have considered it a credible narrative.
Jesus is deliberately messing with the normal standards of social interaction. His point is precisely that God’s kingdom is NOT normal! It is full of inconvenient opportunities and non-obligatory demands. Everywhere you look you can find ways to enter more fully into kingdom life… if you want to.
The deep mystery is that the kingdom reward is experienced in the act of kingdom love. When have you acted outside of the parameters of expected social norms and found yourself ministering in God’s kingdom? What was that like for you?
Hospitality is a truly beautiful thing. Making space in your home for another, and attending to them, is a generous act of love. This generosity goes a level deeper when the space we make is not simply in our home, but within ourselves. In this way, we make space for the other person in our in our sense of things. We do not demand that the other fit in with us. We take the time to meet, listen and understand as much as we can, so as to accommodate the other person.
This enables us to not simply serve refreshments, but to enjoy the refreshment that comes from being deeply and respectfully engaged with one another.
Showing hospitality to The Christ becomes more than a social event. It is a life altering engagement. We do not ask Jesus to fit in with our established ways of doing things. We change the way we do things as a result of our time with Christ. How have your established ways of doing things been altered as a result of time spent with Christ?
The Lord’s prayer, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, is brief. It does not contain the manifold concerns of the 21st century person. Perhaps that is part of the point.
This simple prayer focuses on God, the kingdom, our most essential requirements and the way we relate to others. It also acknowledges our frailty in the area of losing our way as disciples. It points us to the most important aspects of life.
As Jesus said to Martha in the previous text, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed…”
When we are liberated to focus on that which is important, persistence is more straightforward. When what we desire coincides with that which is most worthwhile, conviction and perseverance come more naturally to us.
We can seek with confidence and hope. Our good Father will certainly respond favourably to our requests for that which is worthwhile. What do you find yourself praying about? In what ways have your prayers become more focused over the course of your praying life?
Rev. David Gore is Minister at MustardSeed Uniting Ultimo, Chaplain at UTS and Chaplain at Wesley College USyd.