By Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon July 5, 1998    
Galatians 6:1-6, 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the act of people willing to say "Yes" to the joy of receiving salvation for themselves and others!

The story from the Gospel of Luke is one of the most interesting stories around the ministry of Jesus, but we only have a very brief account of it.35 or 36 pairings of individuals are sent off to prepare the way of the Lord.  All sent to different towns to spread the Good News.  The verses 12-15 tell of three villages that the visits were unsuccessful and the wrath of God would be upon them.  So we might guess that just over 30 of the villages visited were successful.

The mission of the 70(72?) is announced, their instructions are recorded, and their return is announced.  But, what is missing is left to our imagination.  We do not even have one story of the events, the nature of their witness, who was visited, or the specific information about any of those visits.  It would be interesting to know just what occurred so that we might model that kind of ministry as a part of our church outreach, our way of preparing the way of the Lord.

The Mormon Church has taken this text very seriously in their ministry as we are probably aware, although they have adopted some variations on how they go about this. Two by two, individuals from their church go forth into neighborhoods knocking door to door to share information about their religious practice.

Jesus asked those on this mission to do the following:  1) travel light 2) Be discreet along the way;  3) Bring a greeting of peace to the home they visit, 4) If invited in, share a meal, bring healing to the sick, and proclaim the kingdom of God.

So off they went and they came back.  For the most part except the villages of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernum, the pairings returned with joy!  They were overwhelmed with the success of their journey and the power of God's word through their witness.  93% of those sent had positive results.  Some even cast out demons to their amazement.

That's it!  That's all we know about the mission of the 70.  An interesting story about which we know so little.  We can only imagine what it would have
been like to have been given this assignment by Christ and what we would have done had we been the ones hiking barefoot into a strange village, picking out a particular home to visit, hoping to be welcomed and fed, and
bringing the message of Christ.

This morning there are two parts of this text I want to draw your attention to: the very first part of the text and the last.  Then I want to share an idea with you for spreading the Gospel.

First, give your attention to verse 2 of this text.

"And he said to them, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." 

I get the impression that Jesus would have liked to send out hundreds of teams of two.  But some of those turning out to help had excuses and were,
like we found out in last week's text, and ended up not going.  Jesus did not get as many people willing to take on this assignment as he would have wished.  As Luke often does in his gospel, he captures the mood of Christ.  Christ is expressing disappointment over those who not only reject the good news, but those who reject spreading the Good News.  And then he prays for those who are willing to do so that their work not be in vain.  While we may want to know what happened in at least of few of these visits, it is more important that we know how Christ feels about this mission.  Jesus has set forth a mission of proclamation of the Gospel and the laborers are few.  He fed multitudes on a hillside, at least 5000.  Now only 70 are available to go announce the coming of Jesus. 

I have an idea about spreading the Gospel and it will take willing people to get involved.  It will take people who will be sensitive to the feelings of Christ and not say "no" or find excuses. 

The second part of this text, I want to draw your attention to is the very last verse, verse 20:

"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; (referring to the power of their witness), but that your names are written in heaven."

Jesus points out the greatest benefit of their mission, their names "are"  written in heaven.  He doesn't say they will be, or they might be ... "Their names are written in heaven."    The original Greek states "have been enrolled" (eggegraptai).  It is a done deal.  Those who were willing to go and spread the good news, who showed up, you did not give excuses, were rewarded with salvation. 

It doesn't matter what happened on each of this visits, in each of these villages.  What matters is that there were people who answered the call of Christ to go and do it.  While they were amazed at what they accomplished, Christ told them that even more was accomplished.  They action was to proclaim the coming of the Lord.  Jesus proclaimed to them their salvation.  Their names had been enrolled in heaven!

Now I have an idea about spreading the Gospel of Christ. But in order for this idea to move from the idea stage to implementation, we have to capture the vision of serving Christ without hesitation.  We have to see the challenge of being willing to go forth to tell others the good news.  We have to understand the consequences of rejecting Christ.  And we have to realize the promise of God's salvation is ours when we spread the good news.
We have a church of approximately 70 families.  What could 70 families do to spread the good news of Jesus Christ?  That's the question that sparked this idea, but now this idea may spark some ideas in you that will embellish this idea further so that a new idea might emerge ... as is often the case.  So let this idea be a seed idea, planted into the idea bank of this church.

What if ... 70 families of this church were sent forth to invite one family to join them as guests at our church for the 3rd Sunday in September?  What are the possibilities of what could happen?  How should they go about asking, ... and who should they ask? 

Rev. Bob Keefer was here last Sunday for the kick off of our long range study.  He made the comment that we are no longer doing long range studies in the church, instead we are doing "strategic planning" with short term goals. "Pick something, get excited about it, and JUST DO IT!"  How might we develop this idea and JUST DO IT!

The growth of our church depends upon our willingness to go and spread the good news.  Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the act of people willing to say "Yes" to the joy of receiving salvation for themselves and others!  AMEN!