Der Vasken's Sermon on October 21, 2018

Oct 23, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to this interesting passage of the Bible:  "And when the day was complete, the Lord also appointed seventy-two disciples and He sent them two by two into every city and place where He was about to go."

This is a quote from a Bible reading that occurred earlier this month that I wanted to share today.  In this Bible reading, mention is made of an unusual number.  The number is seventy-two.  The number seventy-two is repeated somewhat often in the Bible much like the numbers forty or twelve or seven or three.  For example, according to the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, there were seventy-two branches of descendants that came from Noah after the flood.  On another occasion, the number seventy-two is used to tell us how many foreign languages were heard spoken at the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament.

And this same number is mentioned again in the Gospel of Luke.  It says, "The Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples whom He sent ahead of Him to every town and place He intended to visit." These are seventy-two people in addition to the original twelve disciples.  

  • So who were these seventy-two people?
  • Where did they come from?
  • What were their names?
  • What happened to them?
  • And why are they even mentioned?
No one knows for certain because they are never mentioned of again, which makes it strange that they are even mentioned at all.  So why are they mentioned and why is this number significant here?  The reason, in my opinion, is this.  They represent us.  We are all called to be the "co-workers" of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.  The calling of these seventy-two others is the calling of all of us to live out our faith.  It's essentially a call to live out the Ten Commandments, to live out the Lord's Prayer, to live out the message of Jesus Christ wherever our life leads us.

It's to face life knowing that we will encounter:

  • People, who are different than you and me;
  • People, who are hurtful;
  • People, who are self-centered;
  • And people, who place unreasonable demands upon us, but we are to love them anyway.
It's to know that even if we are good and our intentions are good, some people will say that our motives are selfish, but we are to do good anyway.  It's to know that, the good we do today, will be forgotten tomorrow, but we are to do good nevertheless.  It's to realize that, what we spent years building up, may be destroyed overnight, but build for Glory of God anyway. 

How often do we hear people complain that God "is not doing this" or "not doing that?"  How often do we hear people complain that God "allows loved ones to become ill," or "wars to rage on," or to blame God for every wrong in our world and in our lives?  We hear questions like: "Why doesn't God feed the hungry people of the world?" or "Why doesn't He provide homes for the homeless?" I hear questions like: "Why doesn't God help me when I fall down?" Or "Why can't I feel God holding me when I'm lost or afraid?"

This Bible reading addresses those very questions and it tells us that God has chosen to do something.  The number seventy-two, remember, represents us--the members of the faith.  It's through us that He has chosen to do something.  He has chosen to carry out His work in the world through the people of His Church.  Every Sunday our deacons remind us of this when, during the Badarak, they chant these words to the people of the church:  "Let us pledge ourselves and one another to the Lord, the Almighty God."  To pledge ourselves and one another to God means to pledge to do God's work in this world.  It means to make a commitment to live out our faith in ways that will make a difference in this world.

This idea comes directly from the Gospels:  "You did not choose me," said Jesus to His followers, "but I have chosen you to go and bear fruit in this world and your fruit will make the difference."  In other words, Jesus is telling each one of us, "I have a task that I need done in this world and I want you to do it."  That task may be to speak words of comfort or encouragement to someone who needs it or it may be to guide the young footsteps of a child placed in our care.  For each of us, the task will be different.

So this Bible passage is like a commandment to all of us that says:

  • When you see a need for teaching the uninformed, ask God to teach through you. 
  • When there is a need for love, let Him love through you.
  • When there is a need for understanding, let Him explain through you.
  • When there is a need for a gift, let Him give through you. 
  • And when you see a need for help, let Him reach out through your hands.
By meeting the needs of others, we're doing the work of God in this world.  And as we said during Badarak earlier this morning, may we always pledge ourselves and one another to the Lord, the Almighty One, because in the eyes of God, each one of us matters; each one of us has a role to play; and we're all in this together.

Amen.