Text: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
This hot weather makes me think of summer vacations, home with my sister and brother. We’d turn on the radio in the kitchen in the mornings – in those days we only listened to the AM dial. And we’d hear:
Listen. Do you want to know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?
Wo-o-o … closer. Let me whisper in your ear.
Say the words you long to hear. I’m in love with you.
Now imagine that God is the one singing the song.
And imagine you’re a person whose life circumstances make it really important that you hear those words that God loves you.
And imagine you’re a person for whom it is essential that you believe that God loves you.
And now imagine that, for whatever reason, you cannot hear God’s song. And worse than that, no one ever comes to tell you the lyrics. No one ever bothers to share with you God’s words that can make all the difference in your life.
Just imagine not knowing that God loves you….
There was a day some time ago that I needed to wash my hair, and didn’t really want to go to the beauty supply store to get the things I needed to do it. Since I was at my sister’s house, and since she also has dred locks at the time, I asked her if she had any locking gel.
She did not. But she insisted that I go to the beauty supply store she frequented, and get a very small, very expensive jar of the stuff that she used on her hair.
She wrote down the name, so I would be sure to get it right. When I expressed uncertainty as to the location of the store, she told me four times – just about drew me a map. Later that day, she called me to find out if I had found the store okay, if I had found the merchandise in the store okay, if I had washed my hair yet, if I had actually used the product, and if I had found it to be everything she said it would be….
Recalling that life episode got me thinking about the things we care about enough to share with others.
Women with hair like mine share their hair care secrets with other women with hair like mine – even though they are total strangers. Its just one of the things we do.
But there’s other things, too.
A young man I know has raved and raved to me about the movie, “Avengers: End Game.” He cannot wait for me to see it so we can talk about it together.
Four people have told me how much they like Hello Fresh, one of those meal preparation services that sends everything to cook a meal to you in a box.
Many a weekday morning finds me bombarded with infomercials for Pro-Active skin care system. It is supposedly so terrific at fixing troubled complexions that ordinary people buy it by the case, just so they can pass it out to family members and friends who they think would benefit from its supposedly nearly-miraculous properties.
The examples abound…
You eat at a new restaurant, and share with your nearest and dearest how much you liked the food and the service.
You find a way to get from here to there without getting stuck in commuter traffic, and you make sure you spread the good word.
After Superstorm Sandy, there was a Facebook page devoted to sharing where there were gas stations with gas and short lines.
There is something in us that just makes us want to share the good things we know…
And so, Jesus told some of his followers to go out and share the good news that they knew: that the Kingdom of God had come near.
Now, there is a significant distinction between the examples I have used and the direction that Jesus gave the 70. My examples depict circumstances where we might expect the people with whom we are sharing to be receptive to the good news we bring. But Jesus knew that the good news of the gospel is not always welcome.
Folks are often more receptive to information that will make it easier to do their laundry, care for their lawn or get to work, than they are to information that will save their lives.
But in today’s lesson Jesus says: tell the good news whether they like it or not.
If they are receptive, stay a while and tell the good news again and again. If they are not receptive, don’t take it personally, just leave them. Shake the dust from your feet and go.
And yet, as you go, keep tell the good news: the Kingdom of God has come near. The Kingdom of God has come near in Jesus Christ.
The other week I was reading a story about a young man who found Jesus while he was in military service. When the war ended and he went home, he took very seriously Jesus’ call to tell the good news everywhere he went.
Shortly after returning home, he met a young woman whom he had known socially before the war. She was delighted to see him and asked how he was doing. He told her, “The greatest thing that could possibly happen to me has happened.” “You’re engaged to be married,” she exclaimed. “No,” he told her. “It’s even better than that. I’ve taken the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” The girl’s expression froze. She mumbled a few polite words and went on her way.
A short time later the new Christian met a young man whom he had known before going into the service. “It’s good to see you back,” he declared. “We’ll have some great parties now that you’ve returned.” “I’ve just become a Christian,” the soldier said. Again, the news was met with a stiff smile and a quick change of conversation. He found that pretty much all of his old gang responded that way to his news.
God had planted in his heart the wonderful truth that the Kingdom of God had drawn near. And yet, no one else seemed to want to know. To his credit, though, he never stopped telling the news. Every chance he got, every opportunity that presented itself found these words on his lips: “I have found the Lord Jesus. The Kingdom of God has come near.”
This is our task, as well. To keep telling the news. To tell it again and again and again. And not just with words – although our words are important. But we must also tell the good news by the way we are present in the world, by the service we give to the world, by the love we pour out in the world, by the healing we bring to the world. By everything that we say and everything that we are, to let the world know that God has drawn near.
Some time ago I saw a documentary called, “My Father’s Son.” It was about a man who chose to live outside of society in many respects. Although he had once held a job and owned a home, he now lived in a tent in a public stand of woods somewhere. He got around on a bicycle, and had a small job that allowed him to earn enough to eat and drink, but for the rest of his needs he relied on his own ingenuity.
He had a sister somewhere with whom he had had a falling out. He had a vague sense of wanting to be reconciled with her, but didn’t know where to begin. He had spent nearly two years composing a letter to her that was still unfinished.
Through a series of circumstances, a local social worker learned of the sister’s whereabouts and contacted her. The social worker arranged for a meeting between the two, and on a pre-arranged day walked the sister into the woods to the man’s tent compound.
It had been years since they had spoken, but there were no recriminations. The sister threw her arms open wide and embraced her brother. He tried to be nonchalant as he wiped tears from his cheeks.
There was so much longing in his eyes: he couldn’t believe she had wanted to see him; he couldn’t believe she had wanted to see him badly enough that she had made the long trip to where he was; he couldn’t believe she didn’t give him grief about the way he was living; he couldn’t believe he deserved the love she was showing him by her non-judgmental presence….
There were so many true things he couldn’t believe, that he simply could not respond to her. Instead, he rejected her again, by rejecting her offer to be in relationship with him.
That’s where that story ends.
Except, I’ve been thinking about how very much it presents a perfect example for the need to ceaselessly tell the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. Because people who are separated from God are just like that man estranged from his sister.
Somewhere inside of every wandering heart there is a vague sense that something is missing, that life was made for something more than self-absorbed living.
Inside of every human heart is an inarticulable desire to be reconciled to God.
But inside of those same hearts is often an inability to believe that God would really want to have anything to do with them. And so, as we tell the good news, we meet rejection. It is rejection that is not personal – although it may seem to be. It is rejection founded, as in this man I have been telling you about, in the inability to believe that they are loved by God, and the nagging feeling that they are, in fact, unlovable.
That is why the news must be told whether folks accept it or not. That is why the good news must be told – again and again and again and again.
With the same delight that we display when we share our hair care tips and our barbeque secrets; with the same passion we show when we talk about how the winning score was achieved; with the same tenacity that we rely upon when we tell a persistent child that they cannot ride their bicycle in the street, people need to hear that salvation is available by grace through faith that the Kingdom of God has come near in Jesus, God’s son and our savior.
As you go out into the world today, sisters and brothers, go with the song I sang for you on your lips. But change the words just a little. Sing this song to everyone you meet:
Listen. Do you want to know a secret?
It’s a tale I’ve got to tell.
Wo-o-o … closer. Let me whisper in your ear.
Say the words you long to hear. God’s in love with you.
Ooo. Ooo. Ooo.