Sunday, July 3, 2016

Galatians 6: 1-16; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

Bam! New Creation!
Two hundred and forty years ago, after a year of war, and repeated attempts at resolution of American complaints to King George, a group of patriots put their lives on the line and created and signed the Declaration of Independence.
They were weary of not being allowed self-government, of foreign mercenary soldiers making life difficult for all citizens, of taxation without representation. In short, they were tired of the tyranny of King George III.
Basically, they were saying, like Emeril Lagasse, Bam! (or perhaps, Boom!) New Nation! While our form of representative democracy is not perfect, it was and continues to be worth fighting for. It has withstood the tests of time and the human imperfection of its elected and appointed leaders.
This is the last time this year that we read from Paul's letter to Galatians. In this section Paul is wrapping up his comments. I am struck by his last paragraph or so. Up to this point, Paul has been dictating his thoughts to a scribe.
In ancient times, people did not necessarily have the skills of writing. Those who wished to write something hired a secretary to write for them, much the way 50 years ago business secretaries knew shorthand and transcription. Now, most of us open a tablet or computer and do it for ourselves. But Paul would have had a secretary to do his writing. Then, in order to make sure his readers know he thinks this is important, he takes up the pen and finishes the letter in his own handwriting. 
As he writes, he goes on and on about obeying the Spirit and not the written law. Then, suddenly he inserts this phrase, NEW CREATION! It’s almost like a billboard. Nothing old matters, it’s all about the New Creation that is present because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Bam! New Creation!”
Your station in life: male or female, slave or free, circumcised (so Jewish) or uncircumcised (so not Jewish), wealthy or poor, educated or not, none of this matters in God’s eyes.  It’s a new day for everyone, because “Bam! New Creation!”
This is how they are to think about the rules others are insisting they follow. Because of New Creation! the only rule that matters is following the Spirit, which leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus. Let us all do what is right, working for the good of all.
“Bam! New Creation!” is what Jesus told the disciples to say as he sent them out into the towns and villages where he planned to visit. The disciples and Jesus have left the Galilee and are on the way to Jerusalem. The band of followers has grown, to 70 at least, and he sends them out to tell everyone they meet about the coming of the reign of God into their midst.
He tells them to take nothing more than what they are wearing: no extra clothes, no money, no extra food, not even an extra pair of sandals. They are to trust in God for everything they need. All they need is the training they have had from Jesus, and the name of Jesus, which has God’s power.
They are to stay where they are welcomed, and to tell the folks who do not welcome them that they have been visited by the reign of God. They are to heal the sick and to say, “Bam! New Creation!” is coming.
So the seventy went out in pairs to reach as many people as they could with Jesus’ message. We don’t know how long they were gone, but we know that when they returned, they did not sit like polite Lutherans in church. They were excited, raising their voices and talking over one another in their excitement to tell Jesus and each other about what happened.
Certainly, they healed the sick. They also cast out demons, because they marveled that “even the demons submit to us.” Jesus agrees. “I watched as Satan fell from the heaven like a flash of lightning.” Jesus then admits, “I am sending you into treacherous territory. There are snakes and scorpions out there, and I have given you my authority, so nothing will harm you. But do not rejoice that the demons have submitted to you in my name. Rejoice instead that you know God and God knows you.”
Two thousand years later, Jesus continues to send us out, one by one, and two by two, and seventy by seventy. A comment I read this week remarked that those of us in small congregations usually comment on the smallness of our congregations. We are too small to do much, so we’ll just hang out and praise the Lord, and let the bigger congregations do the ministry.
Except, most of the congregations in the ELCA have about 70 people. Where have we heard that number today? Jesus began with two or four, and then twelve, and three years later there were at least seventy. Today, because of the work of those original seventy, there are about 2.2 billion (with a “B”) believers in the world.
Hope’s “about seventy” people do a lot of ministry: weekend food for children, shoeboxes for children, quilts for the homeless, food for the hungry, cash to buy food and dental care for the poor, and so forth. We send a portion of our offerings to the Synod and to the ELCA Churchwide offices so they can start churches, and train pastors and missionaries, and create education and worship resources, and connect with Lutherans and Christians around the world.
But we’re not so good as a rule of saying to those whom we encounter, “Bam! New Creation!” We are afraid we will offend them. We are afraid to tell someone about how much Jesus loves us and them. We are afraid they will not want to hear that they are forgiven and loved by God, no matter what they have done.
But Jesus has not stopped sending us out. So, let’s stop worrying if we will offend someone. Let’s stop worrying that we don’t know enough about the Bible. Let’s stop worrying that we have not been to seminary. Instead, let’s remember that we are carrying the power of Jesus’ name. With Jesus’ power, we can do anything, including talk to someone about his love.
Do I dare ask? Do I dare challenge you? This week, try to be one of the seventy, and say to someone “Bam! New Creation!”. Tell them why you believe in Jesus. Tell them Jesus loves them and forgives them. And tell them you heard it right here at Hope.

Please pray with me. Give us your power, Lord. Take away our fear that we, by ourselves, are not enough. You filled the seventy with your word and your power and they trusted in you and made demons fall. You gave the Fathers of our country power and trust in you and in each other and they formed a Republic that still exists two hundred forty years later. Give us the same power and trust, so that we can speak about you to someone this week. Give is the courage to say: “Bam! New Creation!” so we can start something new in someone’s heart. Amen