Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
1After 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. 2He 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. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain 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. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘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.’ ” 16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
A local priest and pastor stood by the side of the road holding up a sign that said, "The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" They planned to hold up the sign to each passing car.
"Leave us alone, you religious nuts!" yelled the first driver as he sped by. From around the curve they heard a big splash.
"Do you think," said one clergy to the other, "we should just put up a sign that says 'bridge out' instead?"
Sometimes the straight forward message would be a lot simpler than getting too wordy. So here it is: God loves you very much. So much so, his Son died on the cross for you!
Tomorrow is in God’s hands. Hope is in God’s hands. You are in God’s hands. Do not fear. Do not be weary. God is good! ALL the time. God’s gifts for you are free! You don’t have to earn them, buy them, save up for them, even come to church for them. They are yours.
We are free! We are free to worship God openly, and express our beliefs, even though they may be different than our neighbors beliefs.
Freedom is what we will celebrate this long weekend as a nation. Pope John Paul II said this - "Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."
How often we take this freedom for granted. About fifteen years ago, a young woman named Diana came from Latvia to work at Lutheran Memorial Camp. Our family hosted her for the summer, welcoming her to our house on days off and breaks before and after the summer camp schedule.
I remember Diana sharing stories about her church back in Latvia. Latvia was part of the former Soviet Union. When the USSR fell apart in the late 1980s, Latvia was greatly affected, because it lacked the resources to be an independent nation - no oil, very little food - things that were more accessible when Latvia was a part of the USSR. There was a great cost to freedom.
But Diana stated the benefits that came from being able to worship freely greatly outweighed the costs. No longer did the church have to meet in secret rooms in fear, now they could worship in the church. The mayor of the town is a prominent member of her church.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Free from sin. Free from death. May rejoice and give thanks for our freedoms today!
But it isn’t just about good news for you and me. God calls us to move from fear, to moving off our rear, so to speak. We are God’s hands and feet. We are the body of Christ. We are the ones who bear the good news. We are the ones who need to share the message.
Let us pray: O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us. With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey, that we may spread your peace in all the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.