Luke 10 See, I send you out as Lambs in the midst of wolves.

Fr Alec
Sunday, July 14, 2013 - 9:30am

I sometimes think it’s a good job that Jesus didn’t live in the age of Risk Assessments. One can imagine only too easily an officious bureaucrat tapping him on the shoulder:


‘Excuse me, Mr…um…Jesus, have you considered the threat posed by wolves to the ovine community? I hope these wolves will be muzzled, and supervised by a properly-trained handler.  And whilst we are on the subject, I assume you know that the Agricultural Labourers’ Directive, subsection 3a clearly specifies that harvesting should only take place when appropriate numbers of personnel are available?  Furthermore, we may be forced into legal action in the future if you attempt to send out your disciples without appropriate funding, clothing or footwear…’


…and so on. We can become too used to hearing the challenges that Jesus set his disciples for us to take on board the risks involved. Last week we considered all that the Kingdom of God required us to leave behind- the urgency and importance of God’s call. This week we turn to face the risks that lie ahead. Jesus wants us to take risks in his name. To throw ourselves, as he did, on the mercy of an unmerciful world.


It is telling that, in sending out the Seventy, Jesus uses the language of Harvest. A harvest of course is time-dependent. It cannot be done until the appropriate time, but when that time arrives, every available pair of hands is called upon to join in the work. It becomes an urgent necessity, in which the labourers take part however ready they may feel.


But it’s interesting too, is it not, that Jesus does not simply tell his followers not to worry about their scarce resources, but actually commands them not to take money, or a bag, or shoes. He sends them out as beggars. It is important that they are vulnerable.


I had always supposed, when I read this passage in the past that there was a rather wistful, protective note to Jesus’ words when he said:


‘Behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves’


Yet reading it again, it seems now to be more a matter of identity. Being vulnerable is an important part of being a Christian. He is saying:


‘You must choose to be a lamb, and not a wolf. There will be a cost to this discipleship, but so be it.’


Being dependent on the kindness of others is characteristic of our mission. The rest of the world can hedge themselves about with the protection that money and property will afford, but something very different is required of us: An openness to the world – the removal of the boundaries that distance us from others.


If you have ever hitch-hiked you will have learned this lesson. One rapidly becomes aware, as the rain soaks through one’s inadequate clothing that one is vulnerable- one is taking a risk. Yet I can think of no other way in which I would have spent hours in the company of lorry drivers, discovering what charming and sensitive people they can be. This is an encounter that doesn’t happen if I am sealed away I my car.


We need to embrace what is obvious. Obvious from scripture, and obvious from experience, that God doesn’t call people who are perfect. He doesn’t call us because we are the finished article. He grabs us by the scruff of the neck, and says ‘You’ll do!’ and sets us to work at the harvest.


There is a tremendous freedom that comes from this. Like snails we carry our home around on our backs. We have received the Holy Spirit of God- the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Wherever we are, Christ is with us always. Whom

ever we come across, whatever the circumstances, we can say ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you.’

The Franciscans live according to this idea. A mendicant friar is deliberately without property. He is a beggar for Christ. When he receives from others, he is offering them the opportunity for generosity. The opportunity to discover something new about themselves - to meet Jesus Christ in another person and to discover Him afresh within their own good instincts.


There is a special message here for us at St Mary’s, and I think it is this: God’s harvest is a shared responsibility, in which we must all play a part. Together, we share in Christ’s royal priesthood. God has blessed each of us with gifts which we can offer up in his service. It is the responsibility of all Gods people to go and make disciples. All that is required is that we overcome the fear of rejection, the fear that the world will not listen to the words we speak or receive the gift we have to offer.


That is by the by. We are not responsible for whether others receive the gospel of Jesus, but we are responsible for whether or not they hear it. What matters is that we can say to the World, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’


Go forth as lambs among wolves, but know that your shepherd is with you always.