August 3rd, 2014
Part I-Entering Houses
Luke 10:1-12 uses the understanding of a stranger who receives hospitality. It’s important here that those who go two by two are the ones who receive hospitality and the gracious goodness of those who live in their community. Luke repeats the command to enter and stay, along with the parallel command of eating what is set before them, indicating this entering and eating lay at the heart of his message. Those sent are not to enter just for some coffee and conversation; they are to stay in the same house and not jump from place to place.
Several things seem important:
First, understand, those being sent, in terms of our situation, represent the churches seeking to make sense of their situation, as boundaries are broken and the Spirit is doing things over which we have no control. In this Luke 10 setting the location of the “church” if you will, is in the homes and at the tables of the people in the communities, and the stance of the “church” (its posture or position) is that of recovering her, hospitality, actually her communities that is, gracious hospitality. (So then, what is happening here.. is at least part of the command not to carry extra provisions that make us independent and, then, never in need of hospitality of the other.)
Second, this is not, it seems to me, a hit-and–run event…there is a strong sense that these disciples stayed with the people for quite some time. Entering the house would not carry the same meaning that it does for us (entering single-family dwellings)….. “House” here should be understood as “household,” which meant not only an extended family but an economic unit. The implication is that, in some way, the “church” is to go in such a way that it enters, indwells, and joins the social and economic rhythms of the household (so then, now we have the meaning of the strange comment in verse 7 that the “worker deserves his wages”) …This is so much more than a door-knocking excursion to evangelize or invite a neighbor to a special event or service. …This is about entering deeply into the life of the other on his or her terms, not our own…thus the ”eat what is set before you.”
Third, these disciples are not to run about from place to place looking for just the right kind of people to be with. It would seem that Luke is aware of the belief that the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome, which attacks many. …But here, staying put among people is a critical element to being a gospel people and rediscovering the gospel for ourselves. There is no room given here for an understanding of meeting with only my own kind or being drawn to those who share my values and my politics. Our neighbors across the street or next door could be from any part of the world today, and chances are they don’t share our worldview. This, right here is where we are being invited to plant ourselves in the local, making a commitment for the long haul. This is not a get in and get out mission in an attempt to get our kind, those who look and think like us into our church. …And it seems to me that for Luke the long view, one of commitment, is a prerequisite to engaging the question of what God is doing in our world.
This is a very different way of going about discerning God’s purposes from the usual ways where people who share all the same values, have known each other for a long time, you know, who can finish each other’s sentences, …there is something wildly radical and different happening here.
So, what does all this say about our local flocks and the crisis of identity faced by so many of the churches in America? …What might be the implications for the kind of transformation that people are eagerly seeking right now? …Luke is reorienting the past few decades in his time to invite these Gentile Christians into a new way of understanding and imagining the Gospel and God’s purpose.
So, could it be that God’s Spirit is inviting us on a similar journey? That we, Ridgecrest and all the churches in America, are being called to reorient ourselves, to be converted all over again in a way that may be more radical than the 16th Century Reformation. …In our days of confusion, and boundary-breaking, we are called to practice becoming like the stranger who needs to be received as a “guest” and welcomed to the table of others who may be very different from us.
Our calling is to enter into their homes, dwell among them, and stay with them for quite a period of time without any plans to take off if they or their ways don’t suit us. This is going to mean learning how to actually listen to people without making them objects of our goals and desires.
…It’s going to mean a readiness to inter in to a conversation with the others in our community, seeking to listen to their stories and conversations in a genuinely human engagement. This is going to feel very strange and disrupting for many Christians, even, or maybe especially those in church leadership, because it will mean we are no longer in control of the conversation. God’s Holy Spirit is. …This kind of engagement will not be about getting something from the other or deeming the other a potential customer for our “holy sales pitch.” Instead they are to be the other in a relationship with Jesus through us.
And this leads to another element of what I think Luke may have been communicating to these Gentile Christians whose world was being turned inside out. He wrote that part of Jesus’ instructions was to eat what was set before them.