God Says “Go!”

July 3, 2016 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 10.1-11, 16-20

Last Monday Mark and I, Jo Haas and six kids from Central shopped at the Family Dollar store at 4th and Oak. We were using money you contributed for personal care items for clients of Central Louisville Community Ministries. We bought lots of laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste. We loaded those items along with the personal care items you have purchased and brought to Central in previous weeks and delivered them to the delighted staff at CLCM. Just that day they had been turning clients away because they had no personal care items to share.

Our kids packaged up dozens of bags with three rolls of toilet paper, a bottle of lotion, a bar of soap, three razors, a bottle of shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste. On Tuesday, our neighbors whose food stamps and limited incomes don’t cover personal care items, would be able to take home a bag of these supplies.

This past week was Central’s second annual Hometown Mission Trip. Mark and I spent four jam-packed days with six to seven of our kids age third grade to ninth grade. Our theme was “God says ‘Go!’” Go make disciples, go share the good news, go care for the poor, go transform the world.

We have three goals for the hometown mission trip:

  • For our kids to meet adults who are part of the Central community and to see and hear how their faith is connected to their work;
  • For our kids to experience of variety of ways people serve God;
  • For our kids to work on a project with or for the people we meet.

On Tuesday, we visited Carrie Klinge in her lab at the UofL Medical School. The kids got to look at cancer cells under a microscope and heard Carrie eloquently make the connection between the breast cancer research she does and her Christian faith.

Tom Parmenter, who works at St. John Center for Homeless Men, introduced us to Lenny who awed us with stories about his life and helped us remember that every person who is homeless has a story that is about more than just being homeless.

The kids made and served three full sheet cakes to our neighbors who come for prayer and lunch on Wednesdays. They heard many appreciative words for their delicious cake and after the lunch they talked with Debbie Moore and Carol Noffsinger about why they volunteer at the lunch and Mark told them about starting the lunch thirteen years ago.

We also explored bible stories where God says “Go!” in a variety of ways and to a variety of people. We played games and made art together. We created small pouches out of duct tape and inside we placed a list of the things we would carry if we were homeless and had to carry all our possessions with us. We had a scavenger hunt all over the building and spent time playing at Central Park.

The research about how Christian faith is shared from one generation to another says kids need to participate in the actions and practices of faith and they need to have conversations with adults about those actions and practices.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two. “Go,” he says. No one is sent alone. There is a harvest waiting to be harvested but there are not enough laborers. Everyone is needed. The work of bringing God’s peace and blessing does not belong just to Jesus, or even just the twelve disciples, but to all his followers. In fact, we who follow Jesus are not simply the advance team. “Whoever listens to you listens to me,” Jesus says. Those who follow Jesus are the messengers of God.

As I said last week, following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. “I’m sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves.” “Leave your purse, your overnight bag, and your extra sandals at home.” “Rely on the hospitality of others.”

“What you’re bringing to others,” says Jesus, “is God’s peace.” Now that’s no small thing. And it’s not inconsequential. It’s not peace as in, “You’ll hardly know I’m here. I’ll make my own coffee and strip the bed when I leave.” What followers of Jesus bring is shalom; the kind of peace that is about wholeness, well-being, life being the way God intends for all people and all creation.

And when someone does not receive you, do not get angry, do not be snarky or defensive or vengeful. Simply wipe the dust off your feet and move on. Because the realm of God has come near no matter how you are received. The truth of God’s goodness and love, the broad reach of God’s concern and compassion, the wildly inclusive love is still making its way in the world.

So, go! Go on your way. Go into the world bringing God’s peace and love, God’s joy and justice, God’s healing and hope.

Now I’m going to invite you to go one step farther. One thing we learned about ourselves as a congregation from the StrengthsFinder Inventory is that we are good at talking and thinking about things among ourselves. We have fewer strengths as a congregation in influencing others—people outside of our congregation—with our message. We don’t have a lot of strengths in talking with others about our congregation and about our faith. I’m not saying that none of you have this strength but as a congregation, this is not our strength.

In order for our children to grow in faith and be followers of Jesus, we must be able to demonstrate our faith with actions and talk about it with words. Similarly, if others in Louisville and southern Indiana are going to join us in the ministry of living in God’s wildly inclusive love, we must be able to demonstrate our faith with actions and speak about it with words.

I’m less worried about the action part of this equation because people from Central are involved in lots of ways in our community. But I venture to say we are not that great at talking about our faith with other people—especially people outside of our congregation. I include myself in this too. I love to sit and talk and think as much as many of you do. But that doesn’t get the job done of reaching out to others about what is amazing and wonderful about this congregation and about the challenge and joy of following Jesus in the world as it is today.

Carrie Klinge told our kids last week about how being a disciple of Christ led her, and continues to motivate her, in her work as a cancer researcher to bring healing to the world.

I wonder how you would express that if our kids came to your workplace or the place you volunteer or to your home? How would you say, in 30 or 60 seconds how you are God’s person in your community, your workplace, your family? Think about that for a minute. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to use big religious words. You could also think about how you would say this to a colleague at work, or a neighbor, or a family member. If it helps you to jot a couple of notes as you think, feel free to do that. How is what you do with your life shaped by your Christian faith? [pause for a minute]

Now here’s the part that’s probably the hardest. I invite you to practice saying that out loud. Share it with someone else. One other person or two other people. If you need to move around to get close to someone to talk to, do that. For those of you who are regular attenders here, will you look around and make sure someone who is newer isn’t sitting by themselves?

There’s no grade. There’s no judging. It’s okay if you stumble looking for words. There’s no right answer. I simply invite you to practice something that is hard for many of us liberal Presbyterians—to talk about how our faith is connected with our life outside of Sunday morning. It’s an essential skill in sharing the good news that we have received and by which we have been blessed.

So take a minute, find another person or two and tell them about how your faith shapes what you do in your workplace, in your community, in your family.

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