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Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 Jesus said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvesting. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The reign of God has come near.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the reign of God has come near.’ 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the evil spirits submit to us!” 18 Jesus said to them, “I watched the Accuser fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”   ————————   Please pray with me this morning, church: God of peace, In the midst of a world that feels like a lot recently, You call us and send us out into the harvest. Give us courage as we go, And a willingness and boldness to share our story. A story of wonderful love, incredible grace, and fervent hope. A story about you. Amen.   ————————   Whenever we leave for any kind of trip, whether a long extended vacation like I just got back from or even just a weekend away, I always go through the same ritual. I’m usually the last one out the door because I’m always late; and our cat, Piper is usually in her tower by the fireplace watching everyone rush out the door and looking at us with judging eyes, as cats do; and I always walk by her scratch her head and say, “No parties. Or at least if you do, just clean up after yourself.” And it always works. We always come home to a house just as we left it, maybe a hairball or two or a pile of vomit, just to let us know who’s actually the boss. But in 11 years, I haven’t had to clean up a single red solo cup or a game of kitty beer pong left set up on the kitchen counter. Things tend to be just as we left them.   I am very glad to say that things are mostly just as left them here, too, church. Truly, such is the mark of an incredibly capable and gifted Staff. And my thanks to Pastor Janelle for covering for me, to Danny, Jessica, Jeffery last week and Hsiao-Lan this week, Wanda, and Aimee, as well as our Council and everyone who helps out with worship and everything else. Thank you for the time away, it was very refreshing for me, and I am truly able to rest because I know New Hope rests in such lovingly capable hands that are not my own. So thank you, and I am grateful. But not only are things mostly just as I left them, things are actually much much better since I’ve been away. The Community Center is almost all the way done, we have new locks on all our doors, a brand new Conference Room in the Community Center, brand new doors on the Community Center and the Sanctuary…y’all have been busy! It all looks really really good.   Things are much better here at New Hope than when I left. Things in our country and elsewhere…? Ehhh…… Debatable… Maybe we’ll work on that next time.   It’s been a wild few weeks…amen, church? Lots of folks are scared. Lots of folks are despairing. Some folks are rejoicing. Some of us don’t really know what to think. Some of us are feeling a whole lot of different things. And it’s all ok. And it’s all holy.   But if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re feeling sad or hopeless or despairing…particularly if you’re feeling sad or hopeless or despairing…I want you to pay close attention real quick. Because one of the real gifts, I think, of our Lutheran understanding is that we view the Gospel—God’s good news of restoration and wholeness and liberation—as Lutherans, we say that, yes, that good news is for all people, but it is especially for those moments in our lives when we are sad or hopeless or despairing. A Lutheran understanding of the Gospel doesn't shy away from the hurt and the pain in our world. Quite the opposite, Lutherans acknowledge that hurt and pain and say that God is most especially made known in those moments. Lutherans say those are pretty well universally felt, right? We all have times and seasons in our life where hurt and pain and discomfort and dis-ease and anger and hopelessness are very present and very real. This is simply part of what it means to be human in a very broken world. But God has something to say in those moments. God is not indifferent to the suffering of God’s people.   What I’m saying is that a very Lutheran understanding of the Gospel says that God’s good news of liberation and restoration and wholeness is most powerfully felt and experienced when we are feeling at our least, when we are feeling hopeless, when we are feeling hurt and broken and shattered. That’s a real gift, I think. So if that’s you today, I want you to hear me for the next couple of minutes.   Psalm 146 1 Hallelujah! Praise the Ageless One, O my soul!  2 I will praise the Ever-living God all my life;  I will sing praises to my God throughout my living  3 Put not your trust in the great, nor in any child of earth,  for there is no help in them.  4 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,  And in that day their thoughts perish.  5 Happy are these for whom the God of Rebekah’s line is their help,  Whose hope is in the Creator of All, their God.  6 Maker of heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;   Keeping faith forever.  7 Bringer of justice to the oppressed,  Bringer of bread to the hungry;   The Compassionate God sets the prisoners free.  8 The All-Seeing God opens the eyes of the blind,  The Just God lifts up those who are bowed down;  The Righteous God loves the righteous.  9 The Mother of All cares for the stranger, Orphan and widow she bears up, But the way of the wicked she confounds.  10 The Majestic One shall reign forever,  Your God, O Zion, from generation to generation. Hallelujah!   Don’t put your trust in people who claim to be great. There is no help for you in them. When they breathe their last, they return to the dust, just like everyone else, and their thoughts and their wickedness and their evil and their attempts to exert power and control all die with them. Happy are those who trust in God, the God of Rebekah, the Creator, the One who laid the foundations of the earth, the One who brings justice to the oppressed and food to those who hunger, who liberates those in captivity, who heals the sick, lifts up the lowly, cares for the immigrant, upholds the vulnerable and marginalized. She disrupts the ways of the evil and wicked ones. She shall reign forever and ever. Amen. And Alleluia.   I’m so thrilled to be using these Psalms for the Summer, these translations from the Reverend Doctor Wil Gafney out of Brite Divinity in Fort Worth. I’m so grateful to Pastor Janelle for suggesting this and for putting these together. And I’m going to try and preach from the Psalms these next few weeks and see how it goes. It’s a bit of a new challenge for me, but one that I kind of also love because I think we have an opportunity to hear some new words in new ways, words we might not have heard before or might not have paid much attention to. These are part of our story, too.   I’m going to steal a line from our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, she preached at our Synod Assembly about 6 weeks ago, she said, “We have a better story.” The world tells us one thing, the world and the powers that be, very often leave us feeling sad or hopeless or despairing, the world often tells us a story of hurt and pain and divisiveness and wickedness and evil…we have a better story. Not that those things aren’t true, at some level…but we have a better story.   And friends, it is a story that the world needs to hear. There are those who aren’t here this morning who need to hear. There are those you know in your life and in your circles who need to hear. There are those who aren’t here yet…who need to hear. And friends, you are the ones to tell them. You are the ones sent out. You are the seventy. You are the ones entrusted and called and equipped and sent out to tell this story.   It’s interesting that on a weekend when we remember and celebrate the independence of this country, that we hear a gospel story about co-dependence, about being sent out together, about having to rely on one another and to rely on the hospitality of others. Over and over and over again, the Christian narrative is one of reliance and dependence on God, and interdependence on your neighbor and on the stranger. There is no independence in the life of a Christian. Your life is not your own. Your life is claimed by God for God’s purposes, for the sake and for the well-being of your neighbor, the stranger, the outcast, the immigrant, the vulnerable, the have-nots, and those that the world sees as less than…the hurting, the despairing, and the broken. These are the ones who need to hear this story, and this is the story that you are called to share, dear siblings.   And the thing I probably take the most comfort in in all of this is that these 70 didn’t have special training. They got a pep talk from Jesus, but they didn’t have a crash course in Evangelism 101 from Jesus. Jesus called them together, said, “Don’t take anything with you,” and sent them out. That’s it. No special training required. Go out and share your story. All they had was a call, instructions to share peace and show and receive hospitality, and to announce the imminence of the reign of God. That’s it.   No special training required, church. I promise you. You already have everything you need. Only a willingness to share your story. To share where God has moved powerfully in your life. A word about a time when you were hurting or despairing or broken, and someone showed you kindness. A word about when you felt seen and found by God. About when God didn’t leave you just like God found you. A word about when you felt loved back to life by God. What a story worth sharing.  
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