T HIS MONDAY is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence. The 13 colonies declared that they were no longer subject and subordinate to the king of England.
It was a moment of serious risk-taking by the signatories. By signing the document, they were effectively saying they were committing treason against the crown. It was at once a solemn declaration by the leadership and a huge celebration as the yoke of oppression was lifted from their shoulders.
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SO, WHAT DOES the Fourth of July have to do with the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and the Gospel reading from Luke, Chapter 10? That is what I would like to explore a bit here.
In the reading from Luke 10, Jesus appointed 70 others to go out and prepare the way for the Lord. Jesus didn’t send them out one by one; he sent them out in pairs. He said that he was sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves (10:3). They would need each other for support as well as protection on the road.
They weren’t sent out independently one by one; they were sent out in a community of two.
They were charged with bringing the message of God’s peace to the cities that Jesus would be visiting. In a sense, they were his advance team and charged with preparing the way for Jesus.
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JESUS’ INSTRUCTIONS to them seem strange at first glance. I’m sending you on a journey but don’t bring your suitcase. You won’t need a purse, your bag, or even an extra pair of sandals. I can hear them saying this to Jesus after receiving those instructions:
“Wait a minute, don’t bring anything other than what we are wearing, Lord? Seriously? And don’t greet anyone on the road?”
In my own journey with the military, we always had a bag packed with extra uniforms and enough personal items to last 90 days. The reason for having the bag packed was so that when the order came to “move out,” we wouldn’t be distracted by trying to find all our gear and packing at the last minute. We were supposed to be focused on the mission at hand without any distractions.
Commentators have said that the reason Jesus told them not to speak to anyone on the road was because that could cause a delay and their mission to prepare the way for Jesus was urgent. If a town didn’t want to hear their message or welcome them, they were told to simply knock the dust of that community off their sandals and leave.
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AS I STUDIED and reflected on this story, I came to realize that the Spirit was teaching me something about life and ministry. Our culture is so focused on the history of rugged individualism that to be anything other than strong and independent was a sign of weakness. Instead of that sort of individualism or independent spirit in life, perhaps we should look at life differently. Jesus relied on the seventy to carry his message of peace and the kingdom of God to the people. The pairs that were sent out had to depend on each other and on the hospitality of those villagers who welcomed them into their homes.
As Christ-followers, shouldn’t we do the same? Relying on each other and caring for (and loving) our neighbors is a sign of tremendous strength. Instead of being so doggone independent, shouldn’t we rely on each other and support/encourage each other in life and ministry?
So, on this Independence Day weekend, I’m going to focus on the way that I am called to be interdependent as I serve the Lord. I can’t do it alone and the Spirit is really good at opening doors and guiding Denise and my steps as we seek to serve and share the good news of God’s peace, love, justice, and mercy in our daily lives. So, I wish you a Happy Interdependence Day!