GROW IN GRACE: STEPPING OUT IN FAITH
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Rev. Helen Havlik
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 23, 2018
During September, we’re looking at the joy of lifelong learning with a sermon series called, “Grow in Grace.” So far we’ve been reminded of how the Bible is crucial to our connection with and understanding of who God is, who we are, and what it means to be God’s faithful people. Beginning with Sunday School when we’re young, lifelong Christian Education helps us—myself included—keep growing in knowledge, in faith and in relationship with our Creator. We’ve also considered what it takes to become a spiritually mature person—which begins with how God’s Word is received and nurtured in our lives. Jesus tells a parable where he says the right soil for spiritual growth is “a good, honest and faithful heart”—not too heavy, not too light, with lots of open space for the seed of faith to take root. Christians don’t just learn facts for the sake of knowing them. Like the first disciples, our education is preparing us for something. I’m reading from Luke, Ch. 10, beginning with vs. 1. Listen with me to God’s holy word.
Unlike a lot of people of his generation, my father had many jobs during his lifetime. His first job was caddying at White Lake Resort in Whitehall. When business was slow, his boss let the caddies play the course—so began my father’s lifelong enjoyment of golf. Later he did factory work; he helped run a mom & pop store. He was an airplane mechanic in India during World War II. After the war, he got his teaching degree at Michigan State on the GI bill and for three years taught agriculture, math and science in Concord, Mich. For 15 years he worked with farmers in Kent County as a rural sales consultant for what was then Consumers Power. He got that job because he didn’t like teaching and had gone into business for himself as an electrician—he did some project work for Consumers and they offered him a job. When he retired from Consumers, he went back to being an electrician and made a decent living from doing little jobs no one else wanted to do until he retired for the last time at age 80.
One thing all these very different jobs have in common is that my dad wasn’t born knowing how to do them. And he certainly didn’t just wake up one morning doing any of them well. Even golf took time and effort before he knew the basics well enough to be able to play a round of it. Though he had mechanical ability, no one turned him loose on an airplane until he was trained. And then he didn’t work alone or without supervision, because the planes he serviced and repaired were flown by pilots over the famous “hump” of the Himalayas. A mistake could cost lives. The same goes for his work as an electrician—he spent years learning his trade, first as an apprentice, then a journeyman, then as a master electrician. The State of Michigan always looked over his shoulder to make sure his training was up to date and to inspect every job he did. So his jobs involved some risk—not just in what he was doing, but also in moving from one to the next. In both his work and play, my dad’s success depended on continued learning, which led to increased skill and confidence. And he didn’t work just to work, but to support our family. His work involved service to others.
Earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus sends out “The Twelve.” They’ve been traveling with Jesus for awhile in what we could call a “discipleship apprentice program.” He teaches them about scripture and prayer and devotion, about healing and sharing the good news of forgiveness. Much of this is by example and then discussion, and not all of them understand everything or are very skilled at these things, but Jesus seems to be a patient teacher, correcting where needed and always challenging them to grow. Finally, he appears to be satisfied of where they are in their training and so he gives them “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,” and sends “them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” (Luke 9:1-2)
Now in Ch. 10 we find out The Twelve aren’t the only students in this training program. Jesus “appoints 70 others and sends them out in pairs to every town and place where he himself intends to go.” Their job is about the same as that of The Twelve: proclaim and heal. Just like John the Baptist, who told everyone his job was to prepare the way for the Lord, the 70 also will go ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for people to receive him. They will find out just who is and who isn’t open and ready to hear the good news. They will show the people the power and authority of Jesus that subdues demons and heals what ails them. They, too, do not just wake
up one morning knowing how to do this! Jesus isn’t about magic—he’s about preparing them to step out in faith. They, like the Twelve, have been listening and learning and preparing for this first venture—and their preparation pays off with the excitement of their success.
Anyone here wake up knowing how to read? Drive a car? Wash dishes? Use a smart phone? Program a DVR? Pray? I didn’t think so! I certainly wasn’t born knowing how to preach—or understanding what the Bible says. Learning any of these things takes 1) a willing teacher and 2) a willing student and 3) practice, practice, practice. Most of what we learn in life is a step by step process: here’s how you hold the golf club, here’s how you stand, here’s how you swing. Maybe—maybe —there are people in the world who get it right the very first time and hit the ball 300 feet straight ahead of them, land the ball on the green in one and in the hole on two, and do that every hole thereafter, but for the rest of us, it’s a long process of perfecting the basics. So why would we think being a disciple of Jesus Christ is any different? Having a good, honest faithful heart, as we heard last week, is just the beginning—our faith education is leading us somewhere. Once the seed is planted in good soil, it needs to be nurtured with more prayer and study and worship and service. And like anything we end up doing well, being successful at, the more we learn and practice, the more we grow and improve. If most of what we learn and master in life comes step by step, why would we think being a disciple of Jesus Christ is any different?
Like the Twelve and the 70, we, too, have a job to do. We are the Body of Christ, you and I, and as such, we have spiritual power and authority to use on behalf of the kingdom of God. We are sent out “two by two” (or more) to prepare the way for the Lord—to take his great good news of God’s love and forgiveness wherever we go, in word and in action. We can’t fulfill this calling—we can’t be faithful followers of Jesus—without continuing to learn and a good measure of courage. And Jesus doesn’t send us out alone—elsewhere in scripture he tells his disciples that he will be with them always. Our challenge is trusting that and being willing to take the risk of stepping out in faith, knowing that he not only prepares us, he goes with us and before us.
One of the things I know about my dad is that he was fearless. He didn’t talk much about his faith, but everyone could see it in action. He had work that led him to India of all places—and later in his life into poorer neighborhoods where an electrician wouldn’t share the time of day because he trusted what he had learned and trusted that his service was needed. As Jesus sent the 70, as Jesus sent my dad, Jesus sends us into the world that needs to hear good news and needs our service, too. So this week, practice that a little. Take the invitation that you have in hand, pray for Jesus’ help and leading, and ask someone to come to church with you next week. Be brave. Be fearless. Step out in faith. Know that you are ready to do this because Jesus has prepared you and he goes with you always.
GROW IN GRACE: STEPPING OUT IN FAITH