Thursday, 4 July 2013

In Fellowship

Warning:  Lord of the Rings reference ahead.

A long time ago (way too long ago), I wrote a short script for a skit telling the story of Jesus sending out "the seventy" (Luke 10:1-20).  Jesus sends seventy disciples out ahead of him to spread the Good News and lay the ground work for his own travels.  He sends them in pairs, telling them not to take anything with them and warning them that it's going to be a tough job, first, because there's so few of them and, second, because people aren't always going to be welcoming to them.

In my version, Jesus, clipboard in hand, is pairing people up and assigning them places to go.  Some people aren't happy with their destinations, but even fewer are happy when they find out that they can't take anything with them.  Even less are thrilled with Jesus' warning about what might happen.  "I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves," he tells them (Luke 10:3).

Let's review: tough job to do, no supplies for the job, not enough people for the job.  Anyone want the job?  Well, no, as it turns out.  In my version people are reluctant, to say the least.  Until one little boy says "okay, I'll go, who wants to come with me?"  "Jesus loves me and I want to share that with others," he says, "no matter what."  It was a cute moment, very Fellowship of the Ring-ish.  You know, when they have the council to decide that the ring has to go to Mordor to be destroyed, so they argue and in the middle of all that, up steps the little hobbit Frodo who says "I will take it.  I will take the ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way."

I wonder now if I missed the point, though.

Like so many of the observers in the stories we tell about Jesus, I was happy to focus on the power of Jesus, the miracles, the healings, the "authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:19).  But there's two features here that are just as important, if not more so.

First, Jesus sends them in pairs.   Everyone has a companion, someone has their back, there's someone to lean on, talk things through with, share the load. There's a team.  No one is by themselves.  Second, Jesus calls on them to rely, not just on each other, but on the hospitality of those who hear the message they bring.  So the relationships they build are key to the task Jesus gives them.  
Are we, in our churches, doing that today?  I wonder if we're empowering people to share their faith in a way that builds relationship.  Or are we providing an oasis away from life, a way to "get away" rather than engage.  I think we need both, in balance, but we need the team to not be exclusive, we need the team to be always welcoming new team mates.

After all, Frodo carried it, but he needed the Fellowship, even at the end.  Wait … does that mean this is Mordor?