people are sent out by Jesus, two by two. 70 is a symbolic number. In
Exodus, Moses was assisted by 70 elders and in Genesis 10 there is a
listing of all the nations of the world: they number 70. While all
the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell the story of
Jesus sending out the 12 disciples 2 by 2, only Luke includes this
story of sending out the 70 (which in some ancient manuscripts is 72,
but we’re going to just live with 70).
is possible that this feels a bit repetitive, since Luke says in
chapter 9 that Jesus sent out the 12 disciples in a similar manner.
However, there is something really strange about this story, MUCH
more interesting than the version a chapter before. That is, Jesus
sends out the 12 disciples in Galilee, the area that he spent most of
his life and most of his ministry. However, in chapter 10 he is in
SAMARIA, on his way to Jerusalem. He sends out these 70 people to
EXACTLY the communities that most people at the time found most
is possibly the most Jesus thing I’ve ever heard. He sends out this
massive group of people to places they’d be radically uncomfortable,
AND refuses them any comforts: they can have no purse or bag nor
(extra?) sandals. They’re on their own dependent on the hospitality
of people they’ve never met and are likely terrified of. They’re
told to go into people’s homes, receive their hospitality, and eat
their food and drink their drinks.
When he sent out the 12 in Galilee he didn’t bother specifically
telling them to eat and drink what they are given. This only happens
when he sends them out in Samaria.
remember, right, the Samaritans were so hated that people FREAKED OUT
at the idea that Jesus would receive a cup of water from one? The
Samaritans were so hated that the whole point of one of the most
well-loved parables is the unexpected twist that a Samaritan could be
the hero. (Ironically, and to keep things confusing, in the 2nd
Kings reading the word Samaria is used interchangeably with Israel.
That’s because it predates the first exile. That is, it was from a
time when Samaria, Israel, and Judah were all united, well before
the time of Jesus, Samaritans practiced faith differently. The
followers of Jesus were Jews, I think very traditional Jews, part of
a recommitment to orthodox practice sort of Jews. The Samaritans
were NOT CONSIDERED Jews (although that’s yet another example of the
bias itself.) To make this a bit clearer: good, deeply faithful Jews
at the time were very careful about what they ate, when they ate it,
and how it it had been prepared. That was part of how they expressed
their faithfulness to God. Being sent out into Samaria to be welcomed
into people’s homes as strangers and to EAT THEIR FOOD …. wasn’t
kosher. (giggle) Literally. 😉 But the story says Jesus sent out 70
people into Samaria anyway, and specifically told them to eat and
drink what they were given to eat and drink.
relates to the vision of Peter in Acts 10, where Peter has a vision
of God telling him to consume food otherwise thought unclean. The
fact that the stories reflect each other isn’t a surprise, as Luke
and Acts are really the same book by the author: Part 1 is Luke and
Part 2 is Acts (the fact that they are not one after another in our
Bible is an atrocity.) It does make me doubt the veracity of this
story, but only the “I don’t think the facts add up to be terribly
like to have ACTUALLY HAPPENED” way. I think the story reflects a
deep and abiding set of truths about God, about Jesus, about the
Jesus movement, and about breaking open barriers that would otherwise
divide people, and that’s WAY more important than it actually having
happened. However, as I find this story to be completely and utterly
delightful, I sort of hope I’m wrong.
back into the story as it’s own narrative again, Jesus
doesn’t just send them out to eat and drink. He sends them out to
and to give a message, “The
kingdom of God has come near to you.”
That message is the one that Jesus shares over and over again.
Really, the combination of healing and that simple message are the
THEMES of the Gospels, everything else is an expansion on those
Gospels are full of healing narratives, usually done by Jesus
himself. In our passage today though, we see the expansion of the
work from Jesus to his followers, a reminder that the expansion
extends all the way out to us. Healing, of course, takes on many
forms. It can be physical, emotional, or spiritual, and at times the
most appropriate healing is death itself. Our work as followers of
Christ is to participate in the healing, in a holistic way. This is
good, as not all of us are medical professionals, but all of us can
participate in healing ourselves, each other, and the world.
friend the Rev. Dr. Barbara Thorington Green suggests that the power
of Jesus to heal was located in his ability to really truly SEE and
HEAR people, and to LOVE THEM as they really are and show them how
loved they were. She suspects that much of what harms us would be
healable if we knew that we were seen, heard, and loved as we are.
The work of healing, then, is also the work of loving – work we are
all called to do whether it is easy or hard for us.
see, to hear, and to share love with a person is also known as the
work of LISTENING. Listening is a profoundly healing act. This
isn’t just something that Jesus could do. It is passed on to us
along with the rest of the work of the Body of Christ. If you’ve
been playing along with my sermons over the past year or two, you may
already know that I’m excited about Nonviolent Communication as a
means of grace.
communications is a system of both listening and speaking meant to
bring healing and wholeness into the world. It
is an act of love with power.
It happens in 4 parts, whether it is an act of listening or of
speaking. When it is an act of listening, a person practicing
Nonviolent communication: listens for observations of what happened
(which may involve asking some questions), then listens for feelings
about what happened (this may also involve some questions, or even
making some guesses), then listens to what the person’s deep need is
that connected the experience itself to the feeling that emerged
(yes, yes, this too might involve questions or guesses), and finally
seeks to understand what the person would want in order to make life
more wonderful after being heard about the experience, the feeling(s)
and the need(s). This last bit is listening for a request. Often the
request is really just to be heard!
wonder if the work of healing that the disciples and the 70 were sent
out to do had to do with deep listening and thereby sharing the
wonder of love itself. I’ve seen that work system, rather well and
Nonviolent Communication Theory, there is a concept of universal
human needs. One of the lists of these needs includes 90 of them,
under the categories: connection, honesty, play, peace, physical
well-being, meaning, and autonomy. All of us have all the needs, all
the time, and this theory suggests that what we say and do is always
related to getting our needs met. Some of the ways we seek to get
our needs met are more effective than others, and some cause less
harm than others. Knowing our needs, and making direct requests tends
to help us get the needs met, and do it without impeding anyone
else’s capacity to met their needs!
may also be helpful to note that not all needs are equally important
to everyone. For example, I have noticed that a lot of what I do is
about meeting my needs to contribute to the world, experience
efficacy, and keep things in balance. Everyone else probably has a
different subset of needs that they tend toward most strongly.)
Also, FYI, we are offering another class on Nonviolent communication
this fall! Stay on the lookout for more information.
can see listening like this (and nonviolent communication) in the
Hebrew Bible text, if we read into it a little bit. The Israelite
slave girl observes
that Naaman has leprosy. She seems to feel
sad about that, and finds in herself a need
to contribute to his well-being. So she suggests (this is an
indirect form of a request)
that he might find healing through Elisha. She seems to be
suggesting that her life would be more wonderful if his was as well!
And she is heard!
think the most interesting example of nonviolent communication comes
when Naaman gets a response from Elisha to “’Go,
wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and
you shall be clean.’“ That’s what happened (observation), and he
feels ANGRY. It turns out his expectations weren’t getting met. He
expected to be healed in person, something he very well may have
associated with being RESPECTED as an important person. So, I’m
thinking his need TO MATTER wasn’t being met!
his servants heard him, and heard him well, they were able to respond
to his need and help him reframe the possibilities. They helped him
meet his need to matter in how they listened to him and responded to
him, and that freed him up! Once his need to matter was being met,
he was able to give the washing in the River Jordan a try.
in this story, people do a lot of good listening (and some good
speaking) that ends up making a big difference:
slave girl listens to the issues of her masters – and with a tender
mistress listens to the advice of her slave.
spouse listens to the advice of another spouse.
king listens to a general.
king listens to a prophet (that almost NEVER happens in the Bible).
then the general listens to his servants, and to the prophet.
in all, this whole story is extraordinary, more so in the listening
than in the healing that ensues. Repeatedly
people listen to others who would normally be considered below them,
and are blessed by the wisdom imparted.
It is a case where listening to seemingly strange advice leads to an
unexpectedly good outcome. Namaan’s listening is imperative to his
healing. It allows others to bless him with their knowledge and
wisdom! He was able to receive the gifts they wanted to give him
because he listened to them. They were able to give him the gifts he
needed, because they listened as well.
the gift of prayer itself, which is (among other things) the
experience of being listened to with love by the Holy One’s Own Self,
and the ways we are gifted by being able to be listened to by each
other, there are many opportunities for healing in our lives.
Assuming the veracity of the sending out of the 70, I still don’t
really know what they did. But I rather love the idea that they
might have been listening to people and thereby connecting them to
the love of God! It could have been very healing for everyone
involved, especially when it happened across boundaries that weren’t
supposed to be crossed!
Ones, as you leave this place, I hope you will find ways to listen:
to each other, to strangers, to others you meet along the way, to the
Holy One, and to the deepest part of yourselves. The gift of healing
is as close at hand as our ability to listen. May we practice well.
July 3, 2016