Is it possible that Jesus left us a manual for mission?
This series in The Call is drawing on stories and themes in Luke 9, 10 and 11 to explore the nature of life and mission rooted in the person of Jesus.
And in this article we’ll wonder how the instructions recorded in Luke 10 as being given by Jesus to the 70 might offer us a series of 10 principles to put into practice now – a manual for mission in the 21st century.
1. Pioneer new paths
The Lord sends the 70 in pairs ahead of him “to every town and place where he himself intended to go”. A key principle in 21st century mission is that we seek to discern the presence of Christ and the nature of his activity in the places to which we go. Perhaps this verse gives us an additional perspective to that vital understanding. Is it a reminder that our pioneering presence is in some way key to the breaking in of Christ’s mission in a particular place? Your imaginative participation – your pioneering – may somehow be, in God’s grace and imagination, essential to the task.
2. See the possibilities
“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” It’s tempting to despair about a harvest when the weather seems to be consistently poor. “For the first time in generations there’s a sense that the world has entered an uncontrolled skid” says Neil Cross, screenwriter for the new BBC series Hard Sun, and it’s hard to disagree. But this saying of Jesus offers an additional view. However difficult things become, the willingness of people to seek and imagine a better future remains. So, while being realistic about the nature of the times in which we live, we are called to see what is possible as the world seeks its healing, and to be bold in our response.
3. Go undefended, trusting
“Go on your way. See I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” This principle in our manual of mission is a reminder of the nature of the struggle that we face. It will be costly. The wolves will make themselves known. But more importantly, Jesus’ statement appears to suggest merit in going undefended. Lambs cannot defeat or even resist wolves. Their salvation needs to come from another source. Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptiser’s “Lamb of God”, of course knew a thing or two about this principle. Go undefended, trusting only in the protection of God.
4. Travel light
“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” This appears to be a tough principle for those of us who like to travel well prepared for all eventualities! The principle seems to be that when engaged in the Christ’s mission we should not be reliant upon anything – however sensible – except the love and presence of God. It’s a radical call to dependence upon God. Travel light, trusting only in the provision of God.
5. Keep focused on your calling
“Greet no one on the road.” This is an interesting principle. And not an easy one to fit in with contemporary models of mission, where presence to people and attention to context are rightly stressed as important. In our context perhaps this principle is something to do with being about our business. Not allowing ourselves to be distracted. Keep focused on your calling.
6. Be a person of peace
“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.” As you seek to participate in the liberating mission of Jesus your own sense of peace, rooted in Christ, may be the greatest gift that you can bring. Greetings change the world in small ways – and a greeting or gesture that says “Peace to this house” (in your own words or style) may be a vital element in your mission. Resolve to be a person of peace, bringing peace.
7. Commit yourself to a place, to a people
“Remain in the same house…. Do not move about….” This principle for mission is about staying committed to a place and to a people. The monastic vow of stability has been expressed in many different ways but has always echoed this teaching of Jesus. The peace of a house, a street, an area or a city will take time and presence. Do not lightly leave the people or place to which you have been called.
8. Receive hospitality
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you eat what is set before you.” This principle seems to be about encouraging us to accept the hospitality of those with whom we are working. We are used to being hosts. And to host well and generously in the name of Jesus is important. But equally important in this manual of mission is the capacity to allow ourselves to be hosted. In this way the distinctions between us begin to blur. All are called to enter and enjoy the hospitality of God. Allow yourself to receive hospitality.
9. Pray for healing
“Cure the sick who are there, and say to them ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” It’s tempting to take a route here of suggesting that healing comes in many ways. It does, and that may be the bottom line. But I don’t want to gloss over the potentially literal and obvious meaning of healing. Either way perhaps our prayers for healing should be much bolder, whatever the nature of the healing that we seek. In this way, a sense of the liberating presence of God will be deepened. Pray boldly for healing.
10. Resist whatever is destructive
“But whenever you enter a town and they don’t welcome you, go out into its streets and say…” This principle is another tough one. How, if at all, might it be appropriate for us? After all, it could be argued that in our mission as Church at various and many times in history we have been way too eager to insist on a welcome. Perhaps the gift of this principle is an encouragement to embrace the nature of our prophetic calling to society, to speak truth to power, and to stand against whatever damages humanity or the rest of creation. In this way “the kingdom of God [will have] come near”. Resist all that is destructive.
Returning with joy
What might happen if we practised the principles in this passage, seeing them as forming a manual for mission in the 21st century? The 70 sent by Jesus “returned with joy, saying ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’” The struggle for the healing of all things in the way of Jesus, for a better world now, is a demanding one. The powers and principalities seem to be in the ascendant. Fake news, false truths, abuses of power and of privilege seem to prevail. But it is a struggle for good that will be won, and we are called to play our part. In the bold language of Jesus, may we see Satan fall from heaven.