Risk and reward.

Signpost for Sunday 20th. October 2015: Isaiah 35:1-6; Acts 16:6-12a; 2 Timothy 4:5-17; Luke 10:1-9.

Luke alone records Jesus appointing and sending out of the seventy messengers. Both Matthew and Luke have Jesus sending out twelve on a similar mission. They were to be completely dependent on the people to whom they were sent: no money, no spare clothing, no food, no spare pair of sandals. Their message was so urgent that they were not to delay on the road from one village to another by spending time in (typically protracted) greetings when they met other travellers. They were to stay in one house in any village they visited, accepting hospitality, but not moving from house to house: in other words they were not to take more than they needed, they were not to engage in merely social activities and their work was urgent. Their message was that the kingdom of God was near. The process was risky: Jesus called them lambs among wolves, a phrase which suggests both danger and helplessness.

He sent them and they went. We do not know whether they were enthusiastic about their mission, but they were certainly enthusiastic when they came back. (Luke 10:17)

Luke also tells us, in Acts, about a journey which Paul and at least Timothy made. The passage begins with a rather understated phrase; they went through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia; this was a journey of some 300 kilometres, presumably made on foot. Luke himself appears to have joined them in Troas. Luke tells of the sea journey past Samothrace, an island with a mountain about 1000m. high, which was a well known nautical reference point, on to Nea Polis, and on to Philippi.

A business woman from Thyatira, who sold purple cloth, was one of the first converts. (Thyatira was a town in the region which had been part of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, and the dye used in the manufacture of the cloth made there was not the very expensive product of the murex shellfish but was produced from the madder root. Lydia may not have been her proper name but she was probably called a shortened form of The woman from Lydia.) She was obviously successful, since she had enough space in her house to invite Paul and his companions to stay there.

As I read these accounts of the memories from the early days of the Christian faith I wonder how the Church managed to become an institution which, though there are a few risk-takers, seems to be concentrated on buildings and organisation.



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