I find the gospel lesson appointed for this holiday weekend both encouraging and discouraging as we prepare to share worship with our neighbors at Episcopal Church of the Advent this Sunday at 10:30am. In it, Jesus appoints seventy of his disciples to go out into the surrounding communities to bring healing to the sick and to announce the reign of God come near. They are sent in pairs with the words, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” It sounds like a prediction that you’ll all be at the beach or traveling for the holiday.
Our surrounding community, Logan Square, is surely a neighborhood with a plentiful harvest ready to be gathered in. There are more than enough new residents pouring into our zip code for twenty churches, much less two. It’s interesting, as our congregations prepare to worship together, to ask how we may have been sent out as a pair to reach out to our new neighbors. But the more relevant question, at least to me, is the one about mission.
Jesus tells the disciples to “eat what is set before you, cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Do we know what has been set before us? Do we know what hurts and ills our new neighbors are carrying in their lives? Do we know what would sound like good news, like the reign of God come near, to the people who live even next door to us? The gospel for this weekend begins, “the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead…”
So the questions isn’t, “who’s coming to church this Sunday?” It’s, “where are we being sent after church this Sunday?”