It’s the time of year for graduations. Across stages large and small, multiple individuals will be celebrating the completion of school: high school, college, and graduate school.
The thought brings up memories of our own graduations, moments when we knew a task had been completed. We can remember, walking across the stage, receiving the sought after reward, and knowing we were done with this stage of life. This feeling of accomplishment is true of other stages of life as well, beyond graduation. Leaving a job. Moving from a city after many years. Retirement. Even death of a loved one. All moments that end a certain stage of life.
Then the question becomes, what’s next? What do we do when a task is done and we need to move on to something new? How do we respond when our identity, which was wrapped up in who we were, is suddenly questioning how to live in a new reality? What do we do when we are no longer a student, no longer employed, or no longer a resident of a particular zip code?
Perhaps Jesus gives us an answer in Luke 10. The chapter begins with the reminder that “after this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself intended to go.” In many ways, this account mirrors the sending of the twelve one chapter earlier in Luke. Jesus had been training the twelve apostles: mentoring, teaching, and guiding them into his ambassadors. They had been specifically chosen and set apart for ministry. Then Jesus sent them out to the surrounding towns to announce the Kingdom of God was near. Yes, they healed the sick and performed some miracles, but mostly they announced that the reign and rule of God was at hand. A reign and rule of God that was not just about going to heaven, but had real life ramifications. It affected every aspect of life. Work. Family. Hobbies. Politics. Economics. Everything. It meant voting had to change. How money was spent had to change. What activities we engaged in had to change. Caring about the poor and outcast had to change. The apostles were sent to invite the world into an alternate way to live from the dominate culture. But it wasn’t a weird way, it was actually the best way. It was the way that led to peace for everyone.
That’s what happened in chapter 9, but now in chapter 10 Jesus isn’t just sending the trained ministers who had completed leadership training into mission. Jesus is sending seventy-two regular, average disciples into ministry. Jesus is inviting all of us to not only live under the reign and rule of God, but to invite others to live under the reign and rule of God. Jesus is inviting you and me to announce that the Kingdom of God has come near, and if we want to solve the problems of the world, it’s not through government, social media, or running away to start a commune. It’s changed through inviting the world to live under the reign and rule of God. There’s an urgency to the call, because the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. There’s an urgency because living under the reign and rule of God is truly a life or death decision. It’s the difference between being at peace or being in war. And the message is not just for the trained, elite in ministry. The call is for the average disciple to announce the Kingdom. That’s both terrifying and empowering all at the same time. But that’s the message.
So often, when we reach milestone moments of change in life (graduation, retirement, changing zip codes,…) we speak of it in the past tense. We are graduating from. We are retiring from. But it’s not from, it’s to. We’re not graduating from high school, we’re graduating to mission. We’re not retiring from a job, we’re retiring to mission. Each stage of life is a call to mission; to join God in announcing the Kingdom has come. Each stage of life, each completed task, is preparation for a new mission field. God has allowed you to graduate so that you’ll be better prepared to announce the Kingdom. God has allowed you to move so that you’ll be better prepared to announce the Kingdom. God has given you whatever opportunities are before you, not for your own pleasure or advancement (although that at times is a wonderful side benefit), but so that you will be better prepared to announce the Kingdom of God has come near. The message is urgent. It’s what we’ve been prepared for.
For some crazy reason, God has chosen to work through broken humans to announce the Kingdom. That’s terrifying, because personally, I know how inadequate I am. It actually seems like God made a pretty unwise decision in choosing to work through us humans. Yet, it’s also empowering knowing that God entrusts us, broken humans, with the task of announcing the Kingdom. It’s up to us. The world is desperately waiting for our lead.
So, whatever stage of life you find yourself in, whatever task you are completing or starting, hear the words of Jesus. Enter the town or village, eat what is set before you, heal the sick, and announce the Kingdom of God has come near.