I got to preach at Trinity Lutheran in Stillwater, MN this morning at the Drive-in. During the summer Trinity uses the space (about 60 seconds into Wisconsin across the river) for Sunday morning worship, every Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
It was pretty crazy preaching to a bunch of people in cars and people on picnic blankets and lawn chairs. It was pretty fun, and a real treat to preach for the first time at Trinity in this unique summer space! Here’s my sermon, centered around this idea that “God Has More for You”:
Good morning! I feel so blessed to be with you today at Trinity Lutheran Church at the Drive-In this morning. My name is Allison Siburg, Ministry Associate and Church Collaboration Developer. That mouth-ful of a title means 2 things – I get to serve the good people of Trinity, that’s you, by teaching in On Purpose ministries and Building Your Personal Theology. Second, I get to help Trinity imagine how it feels called to share its creative classes and ministries with other churches.
It’s really fun because I get to use my gift of connectedness and serve out a place of humility and thankfulness. See, I’m not from Minnesota, my home town is Issaquah, Washington, just outside of Seattle. I have family all around the Pacific Ocean, so living so far from the ocean is different.
But after going to Pacific Lutheran University, I felt a call to go to Luther Seminary and get my Master of Arts where I got to study & work with others around the idea of meaning and purpose (or, vocation) for people in the ELCA, the Lutheran church, and what that means especially for the young women among us, or more accurately, who are not among us at least this morning. My husband and I live in St. Paul and as seminary graduates we get excited about grace, nerdy facts in the Bible and discussing these as we sit in traffic. Since almost all our family is in Washington state, our friends we’ve met in seminary have become our second family. So when our friends ask us for help and favors, like to drive them to pick up a 1986 black Dodge Derango for a second ‘commuter car’ we usually say “sure, we can help”.
Last week as we drove back from the Burnsville Jeep dealership on a hot, hazy day, of course Timothy and I jumped into another conversation about God as we sat in rush hour traffic in Minneapolis. I told him the Bible story I was going to preach about today, and how I couldn’t get off this question of “WHY did Jesus send these specific 70 people?”
See, Jesus was not exactly the most popular person up to this point. His parents lose him in the temple when he’s a little kid, so they’re mad at him. Jesus gets kicked out of his home-congregation after his first sermon back there in his 30’s, so they’re all mad at him. Jesus gathers and sends out the disciples, and this team follows Jesus to a variety of places, they almost drown, but they do some pretty spectacular things too. Like, feeding the 5,000 together with just a few loaves of bread and some fish.
Then Jesus goes up a mountain and God proclaims “This is my Son, the Chosen one!” and suddenly a lot more people start coming around. By the time we get to Jesus talking to these 70 people, people all around the region have heard second- or third- hand about Jesus, and a crowd forms, out of curiosity:
Who is man we keep hearing about, this Jesus, who heals the sick, who welcomes children, who feeds the hungry? Who is this chosen one?
So we turn to what the Bible says about this point in the Book of Luke. In Chapter 10: verse 1,
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you…
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.”
Jesus sends out these 70 people to do God’s work in the world, and through this sending, God has more in store for the 70 than they might have ever imagined.
This is why this story gets me excited – because we are given no indication that these people are people unfamiliar with Jesus’ teachings or know the Old Testament by heart, if these people are all men or if they’re all women or if they’re a mix, if they’re older or younger, if they all know each other, or if they are strangers searching for a meaningful life that they’ve now found in Jesus. However these people have come to follow Jesus in his earthly ministry, we know that God has chosen them. Somehow these individuals felt moved to check Jesus out – what is this guy all about that people keep talking about?
At the turn of the century, this would be about 30 A.D., news traveled very, very slow – with no phones or email or even snail mail or UPS. Biblical scholars argue that these stories in the middle of Luke weren’t years apart – so for Jesus to create and gather this large of a gathering is pretty monumental.
In whatever manner these people found themselves following Jesus along a dusty, sandy, at times muddy of today’s Middle East, it’s pretty radical that they all found themselves here. We can ask “WHY are these people here” and “Why” all we want – but this is what Jesus chose to do. Jesus chose to address “seventy others” and calls them and sends sent them to share God’s grace and healing and forgiveness with the world. These individuals in some way felt called to live this meaningful life of having no sandals and no bags – and yet they were starting on a journey of purpose and meaning.
They were living out what I call a ‘vocation’ – which means something in your life that you feel called, with everything in you, to serve your neighbor with your whole self, your gifts and your warts and all – that’s a vocation. This can look like a job that gives you a sense of purpose in the world and satisfaction, a role in a relationship that gives you a lot of meaning and significance – even your identity as a citizen or as a volunteer can be a vocation. We are called by God to live lives of purpose with all that we are and with our gifts for the sake of the world.
It’s in this way that I think that God had more in mind for these 70 people. They might not have been remarkable enough to get their details told in the Bible. But God had more for them, God wasn’t finished with them yet , and God called them to follow Jesus, two by two, and tell the world, what God has done for them.
This idea that God had more for these 70 people is a theme throughout the Bible. God refuses to give up on people all over in Scripture – just a few chapters earlier in Luke, Mary, questions God’s call for her to be the Mom of the Son of God – no pressure. And yet God says – NOPE – God has more for you, and the angel says “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…and you will have a child” –
In the Old Testament we see again, and again, the people of God says “No, God has blessed me, but really, I’m good, God isn’t doing anything else for me, I’m good.” Job says “curse the day I was born!!!” as his family dies – and you know what? In God’s stubbornness, we read that Job lives “And Job died, old and full of days.” I can almost hear God laughing!! Saying – you think you’re done, but I have more for you. I have more for you, and I am not done working amazing things through you.
The Bible tell us of countless people who God said to them “I have more for you.” As people drawn to a God who lifts up the lowly and brings down the privileged and the mighty – we are held by God’s promise that God continues to have more for us. There is no stopping God in God’s activity in the world in our communities and our individual lives. God said “I have more for you” and God says today “I have more for you.”
As a young person living 1,500 miles away from where my family lives, holidays can get complicated. Maybe some of you can attest to this, but when you have a mom, a dad, a mother-in-law, and a father-in-law, all loving you SO much – spending time with them can be a joy but also anxiety producing because there just never seems to be enough time.
Two Christmas’ ago when we were about to leave for Washington for Christmas, I asked my husband’s boss at the time, (the solo pastor, Pr. Fred, at their church in Ramsey, MN) – How am I going to get through this week – between scary flights and going home for only a week and making everyone happy?
For those of you wiser than me, you know the answer is – you can’t make everyone happy, even in your family – at best you can make one person happy, truly happy: yourself.
Pastor Fred looked me square in the eye and said ‘Allison: What happened the last time you flew home to Washington?’ I said, we went home, visited both sides of the family as usual, and flew home and went back to our daily lives in MN. He said ‘What makes you think that God won’t bring you though another trip home?’
As I was cramming for finals at the time, I realized then, and it’s only clearer now – you can learn as many big Christian or religious words as you like – but if you don’t understand the core of God’s grace being love and being freed from self-defeating voices in your head & in the world – then you’ve missed the point.
I was being called to trust in God’s message that “God wasn’t done with me yet.” God’s grace and God’s love in the world is not limited to my ability to control ‘how it’s going to go at home over the holidays, at work, at school’. We are not held down by our fear of failure or fear of not being loved, or our fear of having nowhere to go in life:
God says to you today: “I am not giving up on you – others might have given up on you, you might have even given up on yourself, but God is here today saying “I have not given up on you” God says, “I have more for you.” We cling to God’s promise that God is still active and alive in our lives and through our vocations – through the times we serve our neighbor, whether it’s through our gifts or through our stories of brokenness.
At the core of God’s call, is the call to point out God’s activity in the world – where the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods are given shelter and food, where the powerful are brought low and truth is heard. We live out our vocations for the sake of our neighbors, here and all over the world because we are free by God’s promise to show up in this world.
As we look at the 70 followers that Jesus sends out into the world, we see ourselves in the crowd. You might be one in the crowd, but you are one in a million in the eyes of God. You are a child of God – loved for your whole self, and a gifted person whom God has so much more for. God has more for you.
I can imagine that when Jesus said “You will go in pairs” that the 70 looked around and thought “Am I with that guy? Or is she my partner? Is he?”
Expect to be surprised by how God shows up in the faces of your neighbors around you.
Expect to be surprised by the fact that no matter who walks with you on the journey, God will call you to be more in this world through your vocations and sense of purpose.
Because God isn’t giving up on you, and God has more for you.