Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
In an article from the 50th anniversary issue of Interpretation, Richard Lischer offers this comment on Luke 10. You can access the whole article online by going to www.interpretation.org. They offer a free seven-day trial of their online journal, which includes access to back issues. They also offer deals on print and online subscriptions.
Here is an excerpt from Lischer's article. He is contrasting preaching with other kinds of speech in modern western culture.
"In a culture obsessed with self-improvement, preaching speaks an eschatological word. It announces God’s open future that has broken into time in Jesus Christ. …
"The sermon participates in something larger than improvement, the reality of which is hard to put into words and whose end cannot be seen. In Luke 10 after Jesus sends out the Seventy, they return with glowing reports of their success. The Lord replies in an eschatological non sequitur, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.' What we see in our parishes is improvements and setbacks; he sees on our behalf what is the beginning of a whole new age (pp. 178-9)."
Richard A. Lischer, "The Interrupted Sermon," © Interpretation 50 (1996) : 169-81.
Lischer's word is great for weary pastors. I wonder, too, if it isn't transferable to anyone who is weary of seeing nothing more dramatic than improvements and setbacks in work, family, self, etc. Perhaps it works to say that Jesus sees the beginning of a whole new age in our lives together as well as our congregational life together? If that is true, and if preaching is indeed the strange language that communicates the transformed future that has broken into time in Jesus Christ, then preaching could also be described as the proclamation of what Jesus sees.
In this Sunday's text, Jesus sees all sorts of things. He sees:
- A plentiful harvest & the need for workers.
- A sense of urgency about the task (no purse, bag, sandals or dawdling allowed), but urgency without restlessness ("remain in the same house…") or the need to "trade up" to more important people or better accommodations.
- A future for the apostles that includes both welcome and rejection.
- Occasions for each of these widely varied tasks: sharing peace, announcing the kingdom and shaking the dust off your sandals.
Finally, Jesus sees that his disciples' names are "written in heaven." Dudes, you're in. Or, as Paul might say, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." As Satan fell from heaven like lightning, so the likes of Jesus' disciples then and now will be raised from the dead and find our names written in heaven. This means that no matter whether we do "official ministry" or something else as our harvest field work, responses to our work are only responses to our work. Apart from whether the response of those we meet in the harvest is welcome or rejection—or most likely some of each—what Jesus sees on our behalf is God's welcome to us ("Rejoice that your names are written in heaven"), and that welcome is the source and goal of true and lasting joy.