So that's the update about my life. Now back to the sermon-preparing! The gospel text for this week is Luke 10:1-11,16-20. Here is the lectionary text:
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.’
“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
It's always fascinating to see what the lectionary cuts out. In this case, here are the missing verses that should follow "Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near": "I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades."
As it's been set out in the lectionary, the focus here seems to be on the commissioning of the seventy, and their power to heal and cast out demons. They are doing, at least in part, what Jesus has been doing in his ministry. Obviously, they are not identical to Jesus, but they are carrying his ministry out to a broader area. This might be a good image for what the ministry of Christians looks like today. It's similar to the ELCA slogan, "God's work. Our hands." The seventy are doing the ministry of Jesus with their own hands (and feet).
At the end of the reading, Jesus says, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." This sounds to me like the kind language that's used in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a clear dualism, a heavenly conflict, and the seventy have the authority to defy the enemy and be unharmed. However, the real source of rejoicing is not the power itself, but the identification of which side they are on — namely, the side of Jesus, of heaven.
Those are my initial thoughts. Once I figure out what box commentaries are packed in, I will check that out and put up another post.