Saturday, October 13, 2018

"Abundant Resources"

This Sunday, October 14th, I will conclude my proclamation series on Abundance at Christ United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

             My first focus in this series was on Abundant Living, where we saw that Christ intends for his disciples to live full, abundant lives filled with peace, hope, and joy.  My second focus was on Abundant Opportunities, which occur when God invites us to become created co-creators in God’s ongoing work of creation and redemption.  Expressed another way, they are those opportunities when God invites us to become junior partners in establishing God’s Reign here on Earth.
Last week we examined Abundant Giving.  God has already given to us so graciously and abundantly.  From the beginning, God created humans in the Divine image and then sought to establish loving relationships with us.  Out of love, God became incarnated in the human person, Jesus of Nazareth, teaching us how to live—and then suffering crucifixion and death to demonstrate the awesome scope of God’s love for each of us.  In response to God’s love for us, we are asked to give abundantly.  When we give abundantly in response to God’s love for us, then we clear the way for abundant living. 

We will conclude this series on abundance by reflecting upon the Abundant Resources which God makes available to us for the work of redeeming the world and establishing God’s Reign.  In my proclamation, the story of Jesus sending forth 70 of his followers to engage in ministry, will center our thinking on abundant resources:

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. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.  Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.  Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’  (Luke 10:1-11)

            In this scriptural passage, Jesus recruits 70 of his best followers to be in ministry.  Jesus tells the 70 that the harvest is plentiful, but the harvesters are few.  And, Jesus suggests that they ask God to send out more harvesters into the ripened fields.

            By Abundant Resources, I mean the many followers of Jesus Christ and all of the resources and abilities which they possess for establishing and expanding the Kingdom of God, as God’s created co-creators. 

            Each and everyone of us is called into some form of ministry by Christ.  The 70 were sent “ahead of him” to prepare the way for Jesus in towns, which Christ would visit.  They are sent in pairs.  Jesus instructs them to travel lightly, carrying no purse, no bag, no sandals.  In other words, Jesus’ 70 followers are to rely solely upon God’s Providence, rather than relying upon material possessions or other forms of human assistance. The 70 are to greet no one on the road.  In other words, they are to go forth on their mission with a singleness of mind, focused only upon proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

            Whenever they enter a house, they are to offer peace to the household which offers them hospitality.  Whenever they enter a town, which welcomes them, then they are to accept what is offered to them.  Jesus calls on the 70 to be exclusively focused on ministry, caring for the sick and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near to the village.  When they are rejected, then they are to move own, shaking the village dust from their feet, and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near the village—even if that village has rejected God.

            The point is this:  Each of the 70 followers was called to be in a partnership of ministry with Christ.  The 70 responded to Christ’s invitation and used their resources and abilities to prepare the way for Christ and begin establishing the Reign of God.  It was a specialized ministry.  Similarly, each of us are called by Christ to some form of specialized ministry, which draws upon our unique constellation of gifts and abilities.  When we respond to the invitation to be in ministry, then we join in the work of redeeming the world and establishing God’s Reign.

            God has not finished with us, just yet.  God has not finished with Creation, just yet.  God continues the work of Creation, moving now to redeem the world, preparing for the breaking in of the New Creation—or, as described in the Book of Revelation, “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1)  God has abundant resources for the completion of this redemption, including all of the disciples of Jesus Christ.

If you live in the Lincoln, Nebraska area and do not have a place of worship, then I invite you to come and join us at Christ United Methodist Church this Sunday, October 14th, as we conclude our exploration of Abundance.  This Sunday, I will focus on the special gifts and opportunities which our community of faith has for joining as created co-creators in the work of  redeeming the world and establishing God’s final Reign over earth.  That is, I will suggest to the Christ UMC congregation that we are part of the abundant resources that God has available for God’s work of redemption and transformation.  Further, I will assert that perhaps God has called this congregation for just such a time as this.  Christ UMC is located at 4530 “A” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Our two traditional Worship Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday morning. 

Come, join us.  We are committed to acting inclusively because God loves us all.

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