July 3

Go on your way

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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The Summer at Marsh chapel is a slower time of year – our weekly programming takes a hiatus in between semesters. We spend our time focusing on planning for the next academic year and continuing to worship together each Sunday morning. One of the regular opportunities we have for student engagement over the summer is during orientation sessions. BU is a large institution, which means each entering class is several thousand students. In order to accommodate the number of new students and give them and their parents the appropriate amount of information they need before they start their first year, there are several sessions throughout the summer where students meet other first year students, do team building activities, and go to sessions about student accounting, safety, and general college life. Our involvement during orientation is to welcome students and explain what religious life entails at the university. We offer information about the many religious life student groups we have and our times for worship and engagement at Marsh Chapel. This year, we’ve been doing this by setting up a table on the plaza and offering Marsh Chapsticks and candy to students. Honestly, results have always been varied when we do this. Religion isn’t necessarily a flashy draw to young adults. Most of the time people avert their gaze away from us when we make eye contact or say “Hello” but then walk hurriedly past.

If you’ve ever been in a position of engaging the general public to get interested in a cause, your place of work, or even just to take some free promotional items, you know what a challenge it can be. People are wary of strangers approaching them, as they should be in a lot of cases. Trusting someone you’ve never met before is difficult. Making sure they’re not trying to deceive or harm you should be a concern. When you’re on the side of trying to provide that information to people it’s even harder to get them to engage you. You have to be non-threatening. You have to invite them over and say “no problem” or “thanks for your time” if they say no to you. Your job is not to force them to listen to you, but to offer an invitation for engagement which they can take or leave.

If they do take up your offer to talk, you have to be willing to listen to what they say and offer your truth to them in a way that isn’t judgmental or coercive. If it’s information they want, then give them that information. If it’s deeper questions about what you do, try to answer that in a way they can understand. Every once in a while you make a connection – someone who is looking for a place of worship, looking for how to practice their faith now that they’re leaving home, or how to go about exploring new or different faiths. Those are the highlights, but more often than not we encounter folks who are sometimes even embarrassed to talk to us because, in their own extremely apologetic words “Sorry, I’m not religious!” The expectation that there’s going to be some sort of judgment from us as to whether someone is religious or not might seem difficult to grasp for those who are involved in our community at Marsh, but in the wider world the judgment for not holding the same beliefs can result in conflict.

As we’ve been exploring Lukan Biblical theology together for the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed Jesus rejected again and again. In the first story, even though Jesus has committed a great act of healing by casting out demons in a man marginalized by society, the community which had rejected the man does not accept Jesus either because they are afraid of the power he possesses. Instead of the man joining the disciples, Jesus tells him to go back to his community and show them what God has done for him. Jesus is rejected but he doesn’t let that stop him from continuing with his ministry. He deploys the man as an apostle, sharing the Good news of God’s kindom with the world.

Last week, at the beginning of our narrative, Jesus sends messengers to a village of Samaritans in order to prepare a place for him to stay. The Samaritans will not allow Jesus to stay as their way of life is so different from the Jewish way of life. In response, John and James want revenge on the Samaritans. How could they not accept Jesus? How could Jesus not be upset? Well, in fact Jesus was upset, but with James and John. They missed the point of what Jesus is trying to do in his ministry, share glimpses of the kingdom of God with those around him. And if people don’t accept it right away, then he moves on to the next village to proclaim his message there. Jesus teaches his disciples about his mission in the world, they follow him, but when left to their own devices, they often miss the mark of what it is they are supposed to be doing.

This week we transition from learning about what discipleship looks like to what it means to be an apostle. Now it is commonplace that people will often use these two terms interchangeably. However, they do mean different things. A disciple is a learner of Jesus. An apostle is one who is sent out by Jesus. The important thing to remember about this is that the two are not independent of each other. Exegetical scholar Brian Stoffregen notes “Discipleship without apostleship leads to stagnation. Apostleship without discipleship leads to burnout. A life-giving faith requires both: the inflow from disciplined learning and the outflow of being sent into the world with a message.” We are called to follow Jesus but we are also called to go out into the world and bring along messages of peace and God’s kindom. Disciples and apostles are two faces on the same coin, bringing the reality of God’s Kindom into the world by living out Christ’s teachings.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is ready to send out the seventy in pairs to each town as apostles, making the way for him as he will eventually reach each of these towns. Much like discipleship there will be hardship in being an apostle. They are lambs being sent out amongst wolves – the world around them will be hostile to their message. Not only that, but he tells them to go without any sort of supplies and to rely on the hospitality of strangers to survive in each town. They are at the mercy of those they encounter – they are not to conquer in the name of God, but to be welcomed in and show graciousness to their hosts by sharing God’s peace with them. Their goal is simple, to bring news and action of the Kingdom of God into reality for those they encounter. They announce a message of peace, which sometimes will then rest upon those who receive it and sometimes will not. He also indicates that they will possess the ability to heal others and have demons submit to them. These are powers Jesus himself has but as his representatives, they also possess them.

Despite the fact that they have these cosmic gifts, Jesus warns them about rejection and getting lost in their power. Again, they are to bring a message of peace. If their message is not received, they should shake the dirt off of their shoes and move on to the next town (sound familiar from last week’s reading?) They are also not supposed to get too caught up in the power that God has given them. Their power ultimately lies in heaven, in the faith they have in God, not in their ability to cast out demons or heal people. They’re not to revel in these abilities but instead continue doing the work of God’s Kingdom by bringing the love that God shows to the world through Jesus.

Amy G. Oden, a Church History and Spirituality scholar, succinctly states what Jesus’ instructions are to the seventy:

“Jesus does not instruct them to argue, convince, or threaten if they are not welcomed. He does advise them to signal their moving on by shaking dust off their shoes (verse 11). In this way, they are not weighed down by rejection, or paralyzed with trying to figure out what they did wrong or could have done differently to produce a different outcome. Instead, Jesus invites them to move forward in the confidence of these two proclamations, “Peace to this house!” and “The kingdom of God has come near.”


Jesus sends the 70 out into the world and this should also be an invitation to us. First, we don’t know who the 70 are. It doesn’t say if they are a specific gender, because we know that Jesus attracted followers regardless of their gender, which means any person can do this work. Second, 70 is a lot of people! This isn’t some select group who can know and share this good news – it’s everyone! Also, he doesn’t expect them to get it right. We know from Jesus’ interactions with the disciples that they often still don’t understand what God or Jesus is up to, even if they are willing to follow Jesus’ teachings. These apostles are sent out with the simplest message and, if they trust in God, they will be able to share that message with others. The 70 apostles will make mistakes because they are human, and human desires are constantly in battle with what God wills for the world – that is the nature of sin.

The power of the apostles evangelism lies in God. It isn’t their responsibility to change what God offers to fit to the demands of the people. Instead their role is to embody God’s peace and to offer the knowledge that God’s kingdom has come near to the people they encounter. As Christians today, this kind of apostleship seems foreign to us. First of all, many of us in mainline protestant denominations, particularly in new England, cringe at the thought evangelism. Perhaps it’s because our culture has repeatedly told us that religion is something you do not discuss in polite company or perhaps because we are challenged by the ways some of our more evangelical brothers and sisters go about evangelizing. But evangelical, despite the connection with more conservative forms of Christianity in the United States actually means “those with good news.” It’s why Martin Luther preferred to use this term to describe his movement in the early years (before others started calling them “Lutherans”) during the protestant reformation, because it was a return to the good news, the Gospel, rather than the abuses of the Catholic church at the time. Jesus is calling the apostles to be evangelicals. We are also called to this task in sharing our experiences of God with others and listening deeply to their stories and experiences.

Despite this, often times evangelism gets corrupted into coercion. In fact looking at our current national situation, it would appear that this coercive type of Christianity has a grip on our national politics. Jesus doesn’t say to argue with people about being a Christian – he says to offer what God has offered and if it is not accepted, move on. The Gospel speaks for itself. Jesus isn’t a part of the powers that be, it’s why he’s constantly reminding the disciples and now the apostles that they are lambs among wolves. Christianity that comes to serve the interests of individuals is not Christianity, it coopts the message of the Gospel, which is to point toward the kingdom of God rather than the powers of individuals here on earth. When people use God as a means to oppress others, they are not proclaiming the Gospel. When they push their ideology on others without considering how it fits into God’s message of peace and what Jesus has taught about the Kingdom of God, it is no longer evangelism on behalf of God. The idea of forcing beliefs on others is not what Jesus instructs. Jesus is not here to declare revenge on those who reject him, he is in the process of establishing a new creation that radically transforms each and every one of us.

God doesn’t grant us dominion over one another – see Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We are to work together, not create divisions, in order to fulfill the Gospel. We are made new in Christ and in that newness of creation we develop new ways of relating to one another that look nothing like our human-centered hierarchies. Our mission is to invite people into this new creation; to live in the world in a way that is completely different than anything we can imagine. Our vision of a new creation helps others to become a part of something that is beyond our current comprehension.

It begs the question, how will we show up for God in the world in such a way that others feel welcomed to our community. How can we continue the tradition of brining the Kindom of God near to others that they will feel compelled to learn more? We should be good enough  apostles that we create new disciples, receiving the peace of Christ and experiencing the Kindom of God on their own to then share it with others. We do not to coerce but invite. Not oppress but to liberate through the gospel. Not to harm or conquer, but to share love and healing in a reciprocal relationship. Our conception of evangelism need not be forcing people to submit to the will of God, but instead showing through our actions, our invitations, our mere presence as a Christian that we welcome and affirm all people and encourage them to explore their faith without intimidation.

Going back to the beginning of this sermon, tabling for student attention doesn’t get easier as the years go by. But each year, nevertheless, we meet people, few in number, who find a home in Marsh Chapel. Maybe it’s on Sunday morning, in the choir, or during community dinner on Monday evenings. But what I will tell you is that for most of the students who come to our activities for the first time, they say “wow, how come more people don’t know about this?” That is a question that should stick with you. How come more people don’t know about this? And what can we do to help people recognize the peace offered here in ways that will encourage people to learn more? Marsh Chapel is not perfect, none of us are, but we help create places where students can be their authentic selves and connect to something larger than themselves. We might feel ill equipped to do this work, but Jesus shows us that you don’t need to have anything to be able to share his message with others except an attitude of humility and a willingness to engage people where they are. By living out our faith, by showing hospitality and grace to others, we continue Jesus’ commission to “Go on your way.”


-The Rev. Dr. Jessica Chicka, University Chaplain for International Students

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