Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sending out the Seventy-two

Luke 10:1-20

He isn’t a very good boy scout, is he? Jesus. ‘Always be prepared’.. no sandwiches, no handbag, no purse, no wallet, no mobile phone, no spare underpants, no toothbrush..

Just for a minute, can you try something. Bring your keys, your bags, purses and wallets and mobile phones here.. to me. Ok. Now imagine how you would feel if I sent you out now. What would you feel without this stuff.. just going on a journey  in the clothes you are standing in, and a staff. How would you feel?


That is exactly the state that the disciples were in when Jesus sent them out to do their first bit of ministry.. When I first came to minister here, I had the Bishop, I had a bunch of robes, I had a liturgy to practise, I knew what was going to happen and hide behind my training, my status, my garb.. a far cry from the disciples first ministry.

So why? Is Jesus some sort of sadist that likes making his disciples feel naked and exposed for no reason?  I believe it is because we cannot minister from strength, but only from weakness, and that challenge is for all of us because all of us are called to ministry.

When we are weak and vulnerable, without our defences, without being one up, only then are we in a place where we can truly share the love of Christ, and when we receive from others we are in a place to give to others.

When I separated from my husband, I thought it would be entirely negative in terms of ministry. But within days many people who had also experienced divorce spoke to me, they ministered to me, I found, in my place of weakness that I had a new connection with others, I found I suddenly understood much better those who had experienced the loss of a partner, either through death or divorce. I knew loneliness in a new way and felt empathy with the housebound, I knew so many people in a deeper way.. weakness and ministry, they go together.

I think weakness and vulnerability connects us with God in a new way. The prodigal son, when he returned empty handed gained a new understanding of the love of his heavenly Father. And Jesus made himself vulnerable in a similar way to the prodigal son, he left his father and spent all he had, returning broken and empty, perhaps desolate ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

And yet through the weakness and vulnerability of the cross, Jesus ministers to us, so in some small way, the leaving behind of these bags and wallets represents the requirement on us to minister from weakness.

If this isn’t bad enough, the passage tells us that perhaps in our places of greatest vulnerability, where we are known, we will be rejected.

It was interesting for me in my career, I started off in management, and if people disagreed with me, that was fine, I didn’t take it personally. Then I became a lecturer, and somehow, in teaching, I found I gave a lot more of myself, I felt a great deal more vulnerable and if someone disagreed with me, or disliked my style, it felt much more like they were rejecting me. Finally, in this job, where I share what is most precious to me, the things of most worth and most sacred, I find I am more vulnerable still, and rejection is more difficult again. And that is what we are all faced with as we go out from here, that to minister we are sharing the places of greatest vulnerability.

An Anglican friend told me recently about his experience of going to a Catholic mass and not receiving communion, saying words like ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed’  Then not partaking, being excluded from the representation of fellowship with God. I feel this rejection more keenly than I expected when people reject the ministry of ordained women. Suddenly, what I hold most precious feels rejected, tarnished, worthless.

The temptation, when we meet the sort of rejection Jesus did in this story is to clam up, to retreat into our shell, to nurse our wound and to promise to ourselves that we are never doing that again. I think this is to be avoided. Jesus tells us to shake the dust off our feet, in other words, get over it, move on, keep ministering, don’t let the so-and-sos get you down, or as a friend put it ‘nil carborundum illegitimi

The good news is that I believe that we don’t minister alone. God calls us to do ministry together, as God is Trinity and the three persons act together, so the Body of Christ has many members and we act together.. Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs.. Paul goes on missionary journeys with others.. I believe we are called to work together.. and I think that helps us stay on track when we are afraid to be vulnerable and when we get rejected.

So may I commission you to go out and minister to others, to share with others your faith using the words of St Teresa of Avila..

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.


  1. I don't practise any religion but I rather like what you say.

  2. even the smallest thing counts to God, such as smiling a lot and telling people how nice they look, it's not hard we just forget to do it, your message is a good reminder that we just are to be ourselves and God uses that, I really enjoy your blog thank you for putting in the effort-Mo