Please contribute to my Sunday sermon. Keep reading … thanks!
I've returned home to the Philadelphia area for my longest stay in the area since moving to Virginia three years ago. And I'm amazed, and saddened, at the situation of the local economy. Living inside the Beltway, where government creates jobs even (and especially?) during depressed economies, I'm a bit insulated to the economic realities of the rest of the country. As I've driven around the Philadelphia suburbs and exurbs, I've passed more boarded up gas stations and restaurants, and seen more Dollar Stores, than I can remember seeing when I lived here three years ago. The situation isn't dire, for sure, but it is surely isn't that great.
"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." – Luke 10:1 (from this Sunday's Gospel reading).
I wonder what these seventy other followers of our Lord saw on their journeys. What was the condition of the people and the towns? How were the local economies? Did people have jobs? Was the harvest good? How were relations with the ruling Roman colonial leaders?
We don't know what the seventy saw on their missions, but we know that they reported with joy that "even the demons submit to us!" (Luke 10:17). We can assume that they healed the sick, as instructed by Jesus (Luke 10:9), and perhaps performed other miraculous acts.
What would seventy disciples see if they were sent into towns throughout our country? What kind of demons would they drive out of these towns, and of the people who live in them? Could this Sunday's Gospel text be read as a call to mission, to go out and cast out demons of economic depression and hopelessness? That's the direction I'm heading, I think.
Sunday is July 4, Independence Day, a fact that no preacher should ignore in preparing their Sunday sermon (but something that we needn't inappropriately embrace, either!). Can we preachers can use this text, on this national holiday and in these difficult economic times, as a call to serve our nation and our neighbors, to commit ourselves to working for jobs and opportunity, and to helping those who have neither.
Can you help with with my sermon? Please share with me stories of the local economy in your area. How are jobs? Are people optimistic about the future? What about high school and college graduates – how are they doing? Are there jobs for those new to the job market? What are the signs of hope in your neighborhood?
And what about your church? Is your church making efforts to help the poor or serve the newly unemployed? Is your church suffering decreased giving, and as a result being forced to change its ministries?