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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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The Power of 70!

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

November 18, 2018

Numbers 11:16-35 & Luke 10:1-12, 16-17

70! That’s the number of faithful people God appointed to work with Moses in leading the Israelites through the wilderness. As we heard in the group reading this morning, the people of God were struggling on their wilderness journey. God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. You’d think they would be rejoicing about not being beaten and abused as slaves. But no, they longed for the "good old days."

Even though God supplied them with manna each day, they wanted more. They wanted meat. Moses was at his wits end trying to figure out how to satisfy these people, so he brought his frustration to the Lord. God realized Moses needed help, so he appointed 70 faithful people to share the load. He sent his Spirit upon them, equipping them and empowering them for service. Going on a journey of faith is easier when there are others to share the load.

70! That’s the number of faithful people Jesus appointed to go out and spread the good news. In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus knew that his time on earth would soon be coming to an end. He knew that others would need to pick up his mission of love and salvation where he left off. So, he appointed 70 faithful people to be his ambassadors.

He sent his Spirit upon them, equipping them and empowering them for service. They headed out in pairs, two-by-two, to share the good news. They did all the things Jesus did – healing the sick, casting out demons, serving as God’s hands and feet bringing God’s love to the world.

As Jesus sent the 70 out two-by-two, he told them to pack really light. Bring no money, no suitcase, no cell phones! Just bring this message "Peace be to this house." Receive the hospitality of others. Eat whatever they set before you. Not everyone will welcome you, but don’t worry about them. Just shake off the dust and move on.

I’m not known for packing light. When I’ve gone on mission trips to Tanzania or Mexico or even South Dakota, my bags are stuffed with everything I think I need 2

for the journey. I find it hard to imagine going anywhere with nothing but a message of God’s peace. What courage that must take! How vulnerable that must feel! Imagine the trust it takes to depend fully on God and rely the hospitality of strangers!

But what stories those 70 had to tell when they returned! As the 70 stepped out in faith to share God’s love, they experienced how powerful God’s love really is. Our scripture tells us "The 70 returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’" They are pumped! What a rush! God really is powerful, and God’s power is flowing through them. When you are doing God’s work amazing things can happen through you. As you trust God, God shows himself to be trustworthy. As you commit yourself to God’s work, God’s Spirit shows up and works through you to accomplish God’s purposes.

These 70 people went out making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus had taught them. Through the witness of these 70 people, the good news of God’s love and salvation was eventually shared with the whole world.

Those who came to faith through these 70 people went on to build hospitals, orphanages, schools, and churches – tangible ways of spreading God’s love to the world. Through the witness of those 70 people, ultimately the good news made its way across the ocean to Almelund, Minnesota. Through the witness of those 70 we have come to faith.

70! That’s the number of faithful people who make up the average worship attendance in ELCA churches each Sunday. Not 700 or 7,000 but 70!

Through many gatherings of 70 faithful parishioners, God is worshipped and glorified in Lutheran churches across our nation each week. Through those many communities of 70, God’s work is done in our day. People are baptized, and confirmed, married and buried, and Holy Communion is shared. The good news of God’s love and salvation is preached in word and deed.

As those many groups of 70 share their resources, together we do God’s work of loving and caring for the neighbor. As wildfires rage in California, God’s people are bringing comfort and hope. As refugees are fleeing violence seeking safe harbor, God’s people are there welcoming them in love and care. As people struggle with 3

the challenges of life, God’s people are there so that the homeless are housed, the hungry are fed, the orphans find loving families.

70! That’s about the average number of faithful people who gather for worship at Immanuel each week. It is easy to think of ourselves as small in number and limited in resources. We find ourselves worrying about the future, longing for the days when we had 70 kids in Sunday School, or 70 youth in Luther League, or 70 women in circles. But as we have seen time and again, God can do amazing things through 70 faithful people.

Might it be that 70 is just the right size for God’s mission? 70 people can all know one another’s names. 70 people can know one another’s gifts. In a group of 70 there is a good mix of gifts, and everyone’s gifts are needed. Some can cook, others can care for the building. Some can preach and others can teach. Some can knit prayer shawls others can count offering. Some can make music, others can make a new website. Each person has a special place because each person has something important to contribute. Each person is loved and valued for who they are. You don’t get lost in a church of 70 people, you get welcomed.

In a group of 70 we know one another’s stories. We know one another’s heartaches, and challenges. We’ve lived with one another through grief and suffering, we share one another’s hopes and joys. We are community. We are here for one another, helping each other through the tough stuff. We bring hot dishes to those who need them, sit by one another’s bedside when we are sick, pray for one another when prayers are needed, offer a word of consolation when we are grieving, care for one another’s kids, and even harvest one another’s crops when the situation calls for it. We do what is needed to be there for each other in times of trouble.

If more people want to join us, they are most welcome. There is always room to welcome more, as we did this morning with Brandon, Alyson, and Adalynn. But let’s not underestimate the value of those who are already here. As we are on this journey of faith together, having 70 faithful traveling companions is a real blessing. We should not underestimate the power of 70!

God has called us together, his 70 faithful people here in Almelund. God has given us his Spirit. God has charged us with spreading his message of love, and salvation, and peace to our neighbors. As we live into our calling, trusting God’s Spirit to guide us, we, too, have stories to tell of God’s work among us. 4

Stories of blessing bags filled with gifts that warm the heart and are good for body and soul. Stories of clean water for a village in Tanzania, where people no longer get sick or die from drinking contaminated water. Stories of families in need, being blessed with generosity. Stories of growing in faith, day-by-day, one’s whole life through, being nurtured through the ministry of this congregation from baptism to eternity.

We have an important message to share. Jesus loves you. God has forgiven you all your sins, through his son Jesus. God wants you to be part of his family now and to eternity. God wants you to share in the peace that only he can give.

Jesus’ reason for sending the 70 out there was that "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." That is just as true today as it was when Jesus first said it.

Many seeds of faith have been planted. Those seeds have been growing and the fruit has been ripening. Can you imagine a field full of crops, just ripe for the picking, with no one to pick them? What a waste it would be if the crop spoiled on the vine!

Through our words and actions, God’s power works through us. As we trust God to lead us, to speak through us, to use us as his hands and feet, God’s message of love and salvation is brought to the ends of the earth, even to this remote outpost known as Almelund.

Let us live faithfully and courageously into God’s mission. Let us open our mouths to share our faith stories. Let us open our hands to share our gifts. Let us embrace our role as the 70 faithful people God uses in this time and place to bring in his harvest of souls.

Amen!