14 Sunday C: The Kingdom of God is at Hand

Fr. Jude Botelho:

We are reminded that the work of proclamation and salvation is a joint partnership with God. Each one of us called and invited to be sharers of the Good news. But while God chooses us, he does not depend on us to fulfill our mission on our own strength. He will not work without our consent nor is our fulfillment of our
mission dependent on our capability. He is at work in us! Let's rejoice that we are called to be His peacemakers in today's world! Have a 'peace-filled, peace-sharing' weekend! Shalom!

Today's first reading from the Book of Isaiah, was written after the Israelites had returned from exile, a very impoverished community, who had settled among the ruins of their former splendid homes, harassed by their powerful neighbours. Though they had got back their lands, they lived in constant fear of attack from their various enemies. There was no peace and now the prophet promises peace to these distressed people. This longing for peace was very deep in the centuries before Christ. Against this background of instability, upheaval, oppression and sin, the Jewish greeting of 'Shalom' peace, developed. But this peace was not the mere absence of strife but the deep inner peace which only God can give. Perfect peace was brought by the Messiah and he comes to us even now to bring us that deep inner peace.

Starving in a food store
Maria Janczuk was born in Poland and during World War II suffered privation, torture and hunger in a Nazi concentration camp. After the war, she lived in Leeds, England. On January 22, 1971 she was found dead of starvation in her house. She weighed only 41 pounds, and it was evident that she had been wasting her health. But her cupboards were full of eggs, butter, cheese and milk, which she hoarded. The policeman who investigated said, "It was like a food store." The horrors of life and hunger in the concentration camp had probably created a fear in her mind which probably remained with her through the rest of her life. She died of starvation, even though her kitchen shelves were stocked. There is an abundance of blessings, promises, assurances of peace, joy, strength, love, hope, salvation, eternal life and all that one needs in this life, in the Word of God. Do we believe and let God work through us and for us?
Daniel Sunderaj in 'Manna for the Soul'

In today's gospel Jesus reminds his followers that the kingdom of God is close at hand but the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying to them. They wanted to see signs of the kingdom. They wanted some visible power and pomp, they were naively thrilled that they had experienced power in casting out demons but they could not see the kingdom beyond. They could not believe that the coming of the kingdom could be experienced in the values of the kingdom taking over their lives and changing the existing structures of society. While it is true that the kingdom of God was realized with the coming of Jesus into this world, we can and still pray: 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. It is in this spirit that Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples, for the harvest is great. This group of followers, missionaries sent in his name, would experience opposition and rejection, but it was necessary that they persevere. Their  essential mission is to give to others the peace of Christ, to preach the arrival of the kingdom of God. It is essential to note that the substance of their ministry is a healing one, 'to cure those who are sick.' Our mission today is the same. If ever there was a time when we needed peace, it is this day and age when we are confronted by violence, insecurity, terrorism and uncertainty of daily existence. Many experience a feeling of helplessness and numbness in the face of what is paralyzing society today. The Gospel challenges men and women of today to be people of peace, to be peacemakers amidst the violence and uncertainty that confronts us.

The living Gospel
There is a story of a chaplain who was serving on the battlefield. He came across a young man who was lying in a shell hole, seriously wounded. "Would you like me to read something from this book, the Bible?" he asked. "I'm so thirsty, I'd rather have a drink of water." The soldier said. Hurrying away, the chaplain soon brought the water. Then the wounded man said, "Could you put something under my head?" The chaplain took off his overcoat, rolled it up and gently placed it under the man's head for a pillow. "Now," said the suffering man, "if I just had something over me -I'm cold." The chaplain immediately removed his jacket and put it over the wounded man to keep him warm. Then the soldier looked the chaplain straight in the eye and said, "If there is anything in that book that makes a man do for another all that you have done for me, then please read it, because I'd love to hear it." If my actions do not speak of gospel values, be sure my words never  will. What affects most people is often caught rather than taught. Indeed we are the only book on Jesus Christ that others may ever read!
James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and they are life.'

Taking the risk!
Many stories of adventure begin because someone is dissatisfied with life. Whatever the hero is looking for, he knows that it is not where he is. Here is not enough. That puts where he lives under question. If someone tells you to seek for justice, the presumption is that justice is not here now. The seeker has to
make a choice: does he stay where he lives and learns to live with his dissatisfaction, or does he leave home and search for what he hopes to find? If he stays he will be incomplete, but if he goes he risks losing everything he has. That conflict is important because without it many people would never start off! Being dissatisfied can be a very constructive experience: it can move people to seek what is best. Often when our hero leaves home he is poorly prepared for the journey. The temptation is to take everything he can carry -including a parachute, just in case he has a spectacular fall! But if he takes everything he has, he will discover  only what he has already known. The radical challenge to leave behind the guarantee of shelter and support and set off without provisions is one that rings out in today's Gospel. And Jesus believes that his disciple can take the risk for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Denis McBride in 'Seasons of the Word'

The Holy Name of Jesus
St. Gregory of Tours relates that when he was a boy his father fell gravely ill and lay dying. Gregory prayed fervently for his recovery. When Gregory was asleep at night, his Guardian Angel appeared to him and told him to write the Name of Jesus on a card and place it under the sick man's pillow. In the morning Gregory acquainted his mother with the Angle's message, which she advised him to obey. He did so, and placed the card under his father's head, when, to the delight of the whole family, the patient grew rapidly better. In today's gospel, we heard the seventy-two other disciples, when they returned from their mission of preaching, joyfully exclaimed to Jesus, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through your name."
The disciples experienced power in the name of Jesus. We too can experience the same.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

Our Father applauding
The tuba player played his last note, as the percussion section tapped out their last rhythm. Then the conductor brought the entire concert band to a perfect ending. As I sat in the audience, a man in the front row leaped out of his chair, and began clapping and whistling. He had his gaze fixed on one of the players in the band. His delight in the band, and particularly in one person, was apparent to all. Before you knew it, others gave the band a standing ovation. You would think we were an audience in a concert hall in New York City. The truth is we were a bunch of parents at a small town high school delighting in our kids at their year-end band concert. The image of the dad, leaping to his feet, giving his child the standing "O" is embedded in my mind. Like many of you, I have been blessed to have a dad who has given me standing ovations throughout my entire life. For some of us though, the truth is we may not have had a dad who was cheering us on at  all our events. Let me encourage you by finishing my story about the concert. Well, right next to that enthusiastic Dad who started the standing ovation was an empty chair. My first thought was that "God could be sitting in that chair." He is leaping to His feet and giving applause and encouragement. He is with us when we wake up, and when we sleep, and He is with us when other people are not. He rejoices in you. And for all who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can all look forward to receiving the ultimate standing "O" from our Heavenly Father when we get to Heaven and He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Let your greeting be Peace!
Jesus sent the seventy-two disciples to proclaim peace. They were called to be peace-makers and peace givers. Heroic peace-makers, like Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, were inspired and sustained by their belief in the power of goodness to triumph over all the machinations of evil. Francis utterly disregarded all dangers as he crossed the lines between the Crusaders and the army of the Sultan. He believed that the way to justice was not through the use of superior power but the proclamation of goodness and brotherhood. Later in his life, when Assisi was rent asunder by the dispute between the mayor and the bishop, Francis did not dally with the rights and wrongs of the case but from his sick-bed he sent his brothers to sing of the blessedness of those who overcome wrongdoing by granting pardon. Gandhi drew strength and vision from the Sermon on the Mount and especially from the Beatitudes. He maintained this gospel faith unshaken even  when evil continued to rear its violent head. Anybody who attempts to take seriously the path of gospel goodness can expect to be tested by the backlash of evil. Martin Luther King likewise was constantly faced with the ugliness of discrimination, exploitation, and bitter memory that his opponents could come up with. Towards the end of his life he seemed to be walking more in his visionary land of peace than in the ugly society around him. Peace can be built only on the foundation of justice.
Sylvester O'Flynn in 'The Good News of Luke's Gospel'

God is calling us to be peace makers, peace givers! May we work in His name!
From Fr. Tony’s Collection: 

1)    James Bond and Jesus’ disciples.  

James Bond according to M15 is simply unacceptable as a spy. At least that is what MI5 said. In March 2003, MI5--Great Britain's domestic intelligence agency--reported that characters like James Bond are too tall to serve as a spy in Her Majesty's Service because good spies should blend in with those around them. Since the average man is 6' tall or less, then the upper acceptable height limit for Great Britain's male spies is 5' 11" and for female spies, the upper limit is 5' 8". All the actors who have played James Bond in the movies have been 6' or taller. By MI5's current standards, none of them would have been qualified to serve as real domestic spies. A secret agent can't exactly keep his secret status if he stands out too much. ( - James Bond "too tall" to be a spy - Mar 6, 2004, International Edition London, England (Reuters). I doubt that Jesus chose his disciples on the basis of their height, do you? As he sent them out into the world, he certainly didn't seem concerned that they would stand out too much. In fact, he insisted that they should stand out as walking witnesses of Jesus’ good news -and that their mission could be dangerous.  

2)    One-man army for Christ:  

The story of St. Philip Neri, who earned the title “Apostle of Rome” in the 16th century, is an example of missionary zeal demanded by today’s gospel. Philip came down to Rome in the early 1500s as an immigrant from Florence and a layman. When he arrived, he was horrified by the physical and moral devastation of the city. Rome had been sacked in 1527 by the Germans who had left much of the city shell-shocked and ruined. The Gospel wasn’t being preached, and many priests and cardinals were living in open defiance of Christ’s moral teachings. Philip prayed to God to learn what he might do. He read the letters that St. Francis Xavier had sent back to Europe from India, where he had been converting tens of thousands, and Philip thought that God was calling him to follow the great Basque missionary to India, to give his life in proclaiming the Gospel. He went to his spiritual director and told him what he thought God was asking of him. The wise old priest affirmed his desire to serve and bear witness to Christ, but told him to focus his attention on re-evangelizing those around him: “Rome is to be your India!” This was quite a task for one man. But Philip, relying on God’s help, started — first as a layman, then as a priest — to convert Rome, one person at a time. He would cheerfully go to street corners and say, “Friends, when are we going to start to do good?” He developed various entertaining social and religious activities to give the people, especially the young people, better alternatives for their hearts and time than those offered by the debauched culture around them. His impact was enormous, and when he died in 1595, much of Rome had been reconverted. The same God who spoke to Philip almost five hundred years ago challenges each one of us this morning through the Scriptures, “Your parish and your family, your workplace and your parish are your mission.

3)    The definition of a good sermon:  

It should have a good beginning and a good ending and they should be as close together as possible. A sermon should be modeled as a woman's dress: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting. A rule of thumb for preachers: If after ten minutes you haven't struck oil, stop boring! A pastor was greeting folks at the door after the service. A woman said, "Father, that was a very good sermon." The pastor says, "Oh, I have to give the credit to the Holy Spirit." "It wasn't THAT good!" she says. A priest, whose sermons were very long and boring, announced in the church on a Sunday that he had been transferred to another church and that it was Jesus' wish that he leave that week. The congregation in the church got up and sang: "What a Friend we have in Jesus!" 

4)     Boring preacher:  

A man was walking a pit bull down the road. The dog got away, ran up to a preacher and bit him on the knee. Then the dog went across the street and bit a beautiful young woman. The owner was brought before a judge who asked, "Why did your dog bite the preacher?" The man answered, "I don't know! He's never done anything like that before." Then the judge asked, "Well why did he bite the young woman?  "The owner replied, "Oh that's easy to answer! Probably he wanted to get the taste of that boring preacher out of his mouth!" 

5)    Place of amusement:  

A pastor who was well known for the jokes he told during his sermons asked Park Benjamin, a famous humorist, why he never came to hear him preach. Benjamin replied, "Why, Sir, the fact is, I have conscientious scruples against going to places of amusement on Sunday."

6)     Abraham Lincoln 
Abe put it rather strongly but effectively, when he said: "I do not care for cut-and-dried sermons. When I hear a man preach I like to see him act as if he were fighting a bumblebee. 

7)    Albert Schweitzer

the missionary doctor and Nobel Laureate, was born in 1875 in the region of Alsace, an area claimed vigorously both by France and Germany. Schweitzer was always attracted to scholarship and to his father’s ministry in the Church as pastor. He earned degrees in Theology and Philosophy while at the same time serving as a curate for a small congregation. And he kept that small ministry even when he was teaching at a prestigious university and writing a foundational work of theology, Quest of the Historical Jesus, in 1905. Schweitzer also achieved renown as an authority on the music of J.S. Bach. An organist of international repute, he produced a great edition of Bach’s works and wrote a six-hundred page study of the composer. One day he chanced upon a notice in a magazine describing the need for doctors in Africa. And so he decided to leave behind all his accomplishments and answer the call. His friends and colleagues thought he was mad. But his mind was made up. He earned a medical degree with a specialty in tropical diseases and presented himself to the Paris Missionary Society which sent him with his wife to the area of Africa now called Gabon. Within months he had designed and built an African-village-style hospital. He tried by his work as a missionary doctor to relate Christianity to the sacredness of life in all its forms. He followed strictly the guidelines for the preaching and healing mission Jesus gave to the seventy-two disciples as described in today’s gospel and became one of the great Christian missionaries of the twentieth century.

8)    The story “Picture of Peace” by Catherine Marshall.  

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture on peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture too had mountains. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace. Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? “Because,” explained the king,“ peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be in calm in your heart. This is the real meaning of peace.” This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Lk 10:1-12, 17-20) tells us about the mission of the seventy-two disciples who are called to be peace-bearers and peace givers. (Stories for the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray)  

9)    Kim the missionary:  

A true story told by Father Ray. A couple of months ago, a man from our parish, Kim by name, came up to me and said, "Fr. Ray, please say an extra prayer for me. I’m giving a talk this afternoon to some high school teenagers at a public school, which my nephew attends. This year his class has been having ‘motivational speakers’ talk about how they have overcome the obstacles and difficulties they’ve faced in their lives. My nephew asked me to come and share my story." Fr. Ray said to him, "That’s a public school, you know. Do you plan to tell them everything?” He asked that question because he knew Kim’s story. Kim’s stepson had been murdered, his stepdaughter had died of cancer a week after she graduated from high school and his wife had been killed in a car accident. Prior to these tragedies Kim had lived the life of a pagan and hadn’t even been baptized. In the midst of the terrible sadness caused by these tragic events, however, he had opened his heart to God and embraced the Catholic faith. So Father Ray knew that if Kim were going to tell them everything—including the part about the Church and sacraments—the officials at the school might not like it. So Fr. Ray repeated the question, "Do you plan to tell them everything?” Without hesitation, Kim answered, "Absolutely!" Fr. Ray then told him, "Then I’ll definitely pray for you – and if you get arrested for mentioning God, Jesus and the Catholic Church in a public school, I promise to come and visit you in prison!”

Kim gave the talk. And what happened? The young people loved it! They thought it was so great that they voted him "the best speaker of the year," and asked him to return in the fall to tell his story to the whole school! This current incident illustrates the deep hunger for God still present in this materialistic world, and shows that young people like to hear authentic, sincere, witnessing to Jesus Christ. Into day’s Gospel text (Luke 10), we are told that Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples into the towns he was planning to visit, to prepare people for his arrival. The disciples were to do this by proclaiming the good news of God’s love and salvation and by healing the sick. This is what Kim did for those high school students! He healed the sick of heart by his words of witness, and he helped prepare some of them to receive Jesus Christ more fully into their lives!  

10)  Travel guides:  

Savvy travelers about to embark on a trip often prepare themselves by consulting the appropriate experts. A wealth of helpful information can be found in the form of travel guides which are readily available at any local library or bookstore. Therein, amateur tourists and veteran globe-trotters alike, can become familiar with what there is to see and to do in their chosen destination. Maps of the region aid in planning travel routes. Charts of average temperatures and rainfalls, addresses and telephone numbers of tour operators, timetables for buses and trains, calendars of special events, tables of the monetary exchange rate and listings of local museums, galleries, post offices, markets, banks, etc., all prove helpful to those who wish their travels to be uneventful and worry-free. Many guide books also include a region by region description of the most important and interesting sites to visit as well as a brief survey of the history of the area and a profile of personality of the local residents. Budget-minded or financially-strapped travelers usually appreciate the travel-guides’ recommendations as to the price ranges of various restaurants, hotels and motels. Some guides contain descriptions and recommendations as to the local cuisine and certain gourmet specialties. Many also provide a brief dictionary of important words and useful phrases to facilitate the travelers’ efforts at communication. A few of the more detailed travel books even offer tips concerning certain mores and cultural sensitivities of which the average tourist may be unaware. More oftenthan not, those who avail themselves of such information enjoy more pleasant and memorable travel experiences. In today’s gospel, Luke has featured Jesus detailing a list of travel tips and information of avery different sort; while this advice may not compare to that which is included in a Fodor’s or a Michelin or any other such guide, it is nevertheless valuable and necessary for every would-be disciple.(Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez) 

11)   There is a funny story about two young Mormon missionaries

who were going door to door. They knocked on the door of one woman who was not at all happy to see them. The woman told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close and, in fact, almost magically bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it and slammed the door again with the same amazing result--the door bounced back open. Convinced that one of the young religious zealots was sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a third slam. She felt this would really teach them a lesson. But before she could act, one of them stopped her and politely said, "Ma'am, before you do that again, you really should move your cat." 

12)  When Someone Is Drowning:  

There was an interesting story in Readers Digest sometime back by Elise Miller Davis titled, "When Someone Is Drowning, It's No Time To Teach Him How to Swim." Ms. Davis tells of sitting near a swimming pool one day and hearing a commotion. A head was bobbing in and out of the deepest water. Ms. Davis saw a man rush to the edge of the pool and heard him yell, "Hold your breath! Hold your breath!" Then a young lady joined him, screaming, "Turn on your back and float!" Their voices caught the attention of the lifeguard. Like a flash, he ran the length of the pool, jumped in, and pulled the man in trouble to safety. Later, the lifeguard said to Ms. Davis, "Why in the name of heaven didn't somebody holler that one word--Help? When someone's drowning, it's no time to teach him how to swim." Do you understand that there are people in our community who are barely staying afloat? Families are disintegrating, young people are becoming chemically addicted, and middle-aged people are facing life-crises that would blow your minds. What they need is good news of Jesus from zealous missionaries and pastors and committed Christians.
A. Greeley:
 Once upon a time a mommy and a daddy were preparing to take their two children for two weeks vacation in the country. They had, as do most mommies and daddies these days, a sports utility vehicle (SUV). They figured that they would travel light. For two weeks you don’t have to bring the whole house, do you? Since the SUV was big, it was easy to pile things into it. First of all, they packed clothes. Because you can never tell what you might have to do or where you might have to go at the Lake or what the weather will be like, they didn’t really pack any more things then they would need for, let us say, a trip to Paris. Moreover they wanted their kids to look their best. So they packed comprehensive wardrobes for them too. You can never tell what might happen on a vacation, can you? Then there was the matter of toys and similar stuff. The weather might be bad so they had to pack enough toys to keep the kids happy if they were imprisoned in a cottage for two weeks. But the weather might be good, so they had to pack enough toys that the kids wouldn’t be bored on the beach.  Then each of the kids had their favorite toys without which they could not survive. Did I forget the family dog? Eventually the SUV was fully loaded and there was room for everyone except the mommy and the daddy. So they rearranged things. There hardly was room to breathe in SUV. When they got to the lake, they had to unpack all their stuff. When their vacation was over (as alas vacations tend to be) they repacked everything to drive home. Then when they arrived home they had to unpack everything. No one was talking to one another for three days.
1)    It's a startling fact but true –  

Jesus and politicians have a lot in common. This no doubt comes as a surprise to those who regard politics as a dirty business, or who think of politicians essentially as liars, and who believe steadfastly that politics and religion don't mix. Nonetheless, Jesus and the politicians have a lot in common.
When you think of it, politicians get elected by promising us something better.  President Reagan was elected and then re-elected by asking the public, "Are you better off now than four years ago?" The first time, the people answered, "no," and elected Reagan for the promise of something better. Four years later they responded "yes" to the question and elected Reagan for another term in hope for an even better four years. 

Jesus and politicians do have a lot in common. Not always, however. A little girl asked her mother whether all fairy tales began with, "Once upon a time." "No," replied the mother. "Today most of them begin with 'If I'm elected.' "Jesus made promises, but not like that.
Was Jesus, 2,000 years ago, promising something better? Indeed he was. He said he had come to bring in the kingdom of God, the rules of God's righteousness in the world. For 900 years, Jews had been hoping for a restoration of the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. For 500 years they had been longing for an end to foreign tyranny and a return to prosperity and freedom. And in Jesus' time the longings and expectations were at an all-time high…

2)    When your kids are driving you crazy, there are two default responses.

One is to declare a universal “NO”-- 

-- No, you cannot jump off the roof.

-- No, you cannot drive two hundred miles to a rock concert with someone you just met online.

-- No, you cannot see what happens when you put a whole cantaloupe in the microwave and hit “5 minutes.”

Sometimes “no” IS the right answer.

 But the other automatic parental default is, surprisingly, the polar opposite. Need to get restless and rustling kids out from underfoot? “Go out and play!”

The directive “GO out and play” removes children from the world they are trying to manipulate and orchestrate. “Go out and play” is parent-speak for “Drop all the other stuff and just go explore life and enjoy the world.” It is, basically, the big YES!

“Go Out and Play!” is life’s big “Yes!” 

From our first Christmas-tree extravaganzas, we all fondle and foster a love of “stuff.” We want to accumulate and accommodate. We want the good stuff and the even greater stuff. We always want more. More what? More “stuff.”

 It is a hard thing to hear, then, today’s gospel text. For in this third “sending” story in which Jesus gives his missionaries instructions for the road, he tells his trusted troubadours of the kingdom not to take any “toys” with them. No “stuff.”

They are not to pack up any “extras” as they undertake their journey. They are not to bring extra money, extra clothing, extra sandals. (Yes, even in the first century, shoes are different than packing other stuff!) In twenty-first century terminology that means no “game boys,” no platinum cards, no Tom Ford Tuscan Leather cologne, no Prada leather handbags, no back-up Prince Harry blue suede shoes. All those accessories only downplay what Jesus told his disciples to bring with them, what Jesus had entrusted to them — his anointing and authority, and the message of the kingdom of God.
3)    The Kingdom of God Is Here 

The main message of these 72 workers is the simple declaration “The kingdom of God is near.” Dallas Willard once said that when he was a young boy, rural electrification was taking place throughout the United States. For the first time ever, tall poles popped up across the landscape of the countryside with huge electric wires strung from pole to pole to pole. But initially at least, not everyone trusted electricity and so not a few rural families opted (for a time) to not hook up. They heard the messages of the electric company of how much easier life would be with electric washing machines replacing hand-cranked wringers and electric vacuum cleaners bringing to an end the old practice of hauling heavy carpets outside to have the dirt beaten out of them. They heard these promises but did not trust or believe them.
So in a sense, Willard wrote, you could have said to those folks, “My friends, electricity is at hand!” But if they opted to not tap into that power that was running right over their heads, then the nearness of the power would do them no good. Maybe the message of the kingdom’s nearness was like that. With Jesus in the world, the kingdom of God was near, at hand. All the goodness and glory and power of that kingdom was right there, but if they kept it at arm’s length, it would do them no good. Their lack of participation did not weaken the power of the kingdom. But it did land them in an unhappy (and unnecessary) spiritual situation of staying in the dark when the light of the world was right there.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

4)    Seeing the Kingdom 

One of the worst things that can be said of people is that greatness passed by, and they did not recognize it. Yet in the words of Henry David Thoreau:

The morning wind forever blows;
The poem of creation is uninterrupted;
But few are the ears that hear it. 

Every one of us here this morning has at one time felt that morning wind blowing by; every one of us has been privy to that uninterrupted poem of creation. Yet how many of our ears have really heard it; how many of our eyes have truly seen it? What is preventing us from seeing the kingdom of God and letting it into our lives?

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons,
5)    A Brave Life among Roses 

Francis Meilland dedicated his life to raising roses. He knew each plant intimately. As he strode through the nursery he came across one very special rose. "Ah, this one," he said, "this one," as he rubbed the particularly glossy leaf with a finely serrated edge. It was a masterpiece, unlike anything he had ever seen. Of all his plants, this one was sensational.

Meilland was anxious to give his precious rose a name and continue to work in his nursery but the year was 1939 and the threat of war hovered over Western Europe. His only hope was to preserve the precious flower from eminent danger. Soon thereafter, Nazi Germany had occupied northern France and were moving toward Paris. Waging blitzkrieg, the Nazis attacked one town after another spreading defeat and disaster everywhere.

With little time to spare Meilland took cuttings from his beloved plant and methodically packaged and shipped them throughout the world. He had no idea if they would survive. He could only hope. On one of the last planes that left France just before the Nazis gained control of the airport, one of his precious cuttings, cushioned in a diplomatic pouch, was destined for the United States.

Four long years passed. Meilland received a letter that one of his cuttings had reached a rose grower in Pennsylvania. It was ruffled and delicate. The petals were of cameo ivory and palest cream, tipped with a tinge of pink. His rose had survived. Later, on the very day Berlin fell to the allies, there was a special ceremony that took place in California. To honor the occasion, white doves were set free. After many years the fragile rose had survived the war and now received a name. It was called "Peace."

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. We are sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves. We need few resources to be faithful followers. All we need is guts.

Keith Wagner, It Takes Guts, adapted from Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Of War and Roses

6)    Amazing Accomplishments

At the conclusion of a very successful capital funds campaign in a church, a wise leader from the congregation said to the pastor, "Isn't it amazing how much can get done when we don't care who gets the credit?" 

David R. Cartwright, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Guided by the Spirit, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

7)    One of the Secrets to Success 

Andrew Tobias, the financial author put it this way. Go down any day to the waterfront, and you will find a crowd of unhappy people. Someone will be having trouble getting the motor on their yacht to crank. Someone else will be scraping barnacles. Another will be repainting. Things just don't make you happy. Property brings problems. It is like an alligator that takes a bite out of your pocket every time you turn around. Don't be burdened by too many material things. As you go through life, one of the secrets of success is to travel light. 

8)     Forerunners 

A forerunner prepares the way for one who is to come. John the Baptist clarified his own role and witness when he declared that he was preparing the way for the coming of one mightier than he. He was not the one of whom the Scriptures spoke, but he was important to the one who was soon to come.

When the Billy Graham Crusade comes into a city, besides being spiritually rewarding, it is an impressive undertaking because of the manner in which organizational details are carried out. Pastor Larry Powell describes one of Graham's crusades that came through Little Rock Arkansas. He said, night after night, things moved along without the slightest hitch, so far as one could tell. Vehicles moved smoothly upon city streets, parking was uncomplicated and orderly. Getting in and out of the stadium was remarkably simple. Seating was casual and made easy by polite, easily identifiable ushers. The worship services themselves included a massive volunteer choir, excellent special music, well and effective personal witnesses, challenging sermons by Dr. Graham, and the invitation to respond to the leadership of the Spirit. Counselors were available for those who chose to respond, there was follow-up on new converts, and local pastors were notified for weeks following the crusade about individuals who had indicated a religious preference. The Billy Graham Crusade accomplished a great work for the kingdom of God. But underline this one thing: without long months of preparation by the crusade team who had come as forerunners, the record would read quite differently. Having met with the team, I can confirm that they were excellent representatives for what they were promoting, proficient at what they were about, and assumed a tremendous personal responsibility for the success or failure of the mission.

Because we have named the name of Christ, you and I are forerunners of the coming kingdom.  

We pray for the grace to be good representatives of what we proclaim, proficient in our witness, and assume a personal ownership in the ultimate victory.

Adapted from Larry Powell, Blow The Silver Trumpets, CSS Publishing Company
9)    How to Pack a Backpack 

Backpacking has taught me the value of traveling light. One seasoned hiker explained it this way. Prepare for a hike by making three piles. The first pile should contain only those things you absolutely cannot live without. In the second pile put the things you would like to have but don't have to have. Then in the third pile, put all those things that would make life on the trail a lot more comfortable but which you could get along without. This is where you put the light weight hammock, the camp chair, and your extra clean clothes. Now, discard everything that is in piles two and three, pick up the first pile and head for the woods. That is what Jesus is advising his disciples to do in today's lesson. Travel light. Don't get bogged down with too many things.

N. Fred Jordan, Jr., Keys to Success, Hickory Grove United Methodist Church

10) Real Evangelism

If we are going to be effective in reaching people for Christ we are going to have to start showing people that we really care. Evangelism and missions must be relational in nature. There is no record of Jesus walking up to someone out of the clear blue sky and saying: I am the Messiah and then him beginning to show his care for them. No, he showed his care for them first and then he revealed himself to them.

A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can't swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there were several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident. The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be alright. 

The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately jumped into the water and began swimming all around the drowning man saying: Now just watch me swim. Do as I do and you will be alright. The person next to him happened to be a member of the INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH. He looked upon the drowning man's plight with deep concern. He yelled out: Now, just hold on friend. Help is on the way. We are going to establish a committee and dialogue your problem. And then, if we have come up with the proper financing, we will resolve your dilemma. 

The next man on deck happened to be a representative of the school of POSITIVE THINKING. He yelled out to the drowning man: "Friend, this situation is not nearly as bad as you think. Think dry!" The next man on board happened to be a REVIVALIST. By this time the drowning man was going down for the third time and desperately began waving his arm. Seeing that, the revivalist yelled out: Yes brother, I see that hand, is there another? Is there another? And finally, the last man on deck, was a REALIST. He immediately plunged into the water, at the risk of his own life, and pulled the victim to safety. 

My friends, the harvest is plentiful, but the WORKERS are few. We need realist in the church willing plunge into the water and go to work. 

11) Relationship Evangelism

There is an old story told about a man by the name of Ali Facid. He had a small farm and a family. One day, the story goes, a Buddhist priest came by and said to Ali Facid: You know, there are valuable stones called diamonds, and if you get one of these you could be a wealthy man." Ali Facid went to bed that night, but the words of the old priest haunted him. He was so obsessed that he felt that he must find him one of these diamonds so that he could become a ruler. He sold his farm, put his family out to neighbors and went out to find his acres of diamonds. Months passed. He was broken in body and spirit. His funds were gone. And at the Bay of Barcelona, he threw himself into the water, never to walk this earth again.

Meanwhile, the man who bought his farm bent over one day and picked up a little stone. He laid on the mantle that night not knowing what it was. A few days later the old Buddhist priest came by and saw it and exclaimed:
“Ali Facid must be back from his search.” 
“No,” came the response.
“Then where did that diamond come from?”
The farmer replied: “I was out plowing in the garden and found it there.”
And from that very garden, came the jewels and diamonds that today adorn the crowned heads of Europe.
In Ali Facid’s own back yard there were acres of diamonds and he didn’t know it.
He threw his life away in a search for that which was under his nose the whole time.

Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke is a story about that hidden treasure.  It is a story about a treasure more valuable than money, gold, or diamonds.  It’s a treasure that is around us all the time.  How often do we miss the very treasure that God has put right before us because we are unwilling to open our eyes and see His mighty blessing? 

This treasure is not only under our noses, but all around us.  Sadly, many people go through their entire lives, and die, sad, broken, and beaten, because, much like this story’s character, Ali, they could not see the treasure in front of them.