Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, 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.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


In the United States, people will celebrate Independence Day on July 4. Fireworks, picnics, festivals, vacations, and get-togethers are on our minds as we gather for worship. 

Although this holiday commemorates the independence and birth of a new nation, the undercurrent of the day is one of interdependence; we would never have become the United States without collaboration and cooperation and sacrifice.

The Body of Christ is also a place where the gifts and talents of many come together to form a unified community that exists to be gathered, to be nourished in Word and Sacrament, and to be sent together into the world. We do not do this discipleship thing alone. If we mistakenly believe that we can, then we are doomed to sputter, fizzle, and burn out like a cheap firework. But, the more we collaborate, cooperate, and co-create the stronger we will burn and the brighter our light will be for a hurting and cloudy world.

In the movie, “Miss Congeniality,” there is a scene during the beauty pageant in which contestants are asked what society needs most, and each contestant responds predictably, “World peace” (which is also what I respond to my parents asking me what I want for Christmas and my burthday). And then Sandra Bullock’s character is asked the same question, but she responds, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators.” She smiles and the crowd looks back blankly at her. There is a long and awkward silence. Then she blinks and says enthusiastically, “And… world peace!” and the crowd goes wild with cheering and applause.

Wishing for “world peace” is so predictable and overused that it has become cliché, even the punchline of a joke (as I just proved). And yet, just about every human being on the planet genuinely does desire world peace. In fact, people deeply want peace in their hearts and lives, as well as in their nation, and ultimately in the world. 

The hope for peace expresses a universal desire that lies in the heart of humans, even if we sometimes disagree on exactlyhow to achieve it.


Isaiah 66:10-14
Isaiah gives us beautiful imagery for the salvation of God (which salvation is symbolized here in Jerusalem.) Seeing an infant deeply nourished and satisfied at the breast of a mother is one of life’s most delicate and precious events. And, the “motherly” imagery for God is impressive here.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Working for the good of all is the work of the church. It’s hard work, no doubt! Paul encourages us with a word that preachers do well to remember (especially on Monday morning) — “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.”

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Jesus is planning to make stops in several villages, so he sends in the scout team. Where will the people likely be receptive, and where will he encounter resistance?
No doubt, Jesus fully intends to be the Christ for any and all who will receive him—but the fact of the matter is, some folks are just more hard-headed (and hard-hearted) than others.

The “mission team” that is made up by the seventy is pretty pumped when they return—this strikes me as a fairly common occurrence as I’ve worked with groups who have taken time to get outside of themselves and go on similar trips and service projects over the years. Jesus is happy for them and shares in their joy—and also reminds them not to get too high on themselves. 

It is, after all, the power of God in them that has accomplished the miraculous.


This text has always helped me realize we are limited only by our unbelief, our insistence on our way or the highway, and our lack of creative vision. Sure, some days (or months or even years) are going to be tough even amongst God’s people. We face real and serious challenges as the church of Jesus Christ in a post-Christian culture. In many ways we are ill-prepared to climb the mountain in front of us, especially when we attempt to limit God or confine the work of the Spirit to our range of vision.

So in the face of challenge, on the downhill slide of despair, or on the brink of seeming disaster, what is a disciple to do? We are to tell the stories, to eat the bread and wine, the body and blood, and to be strengthened and equipped for the journey. We are stewards of all of God’s abundance, of blessings great and small. We have the distinct joy and delight of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near, that Jesus is present among us, and that the winds of the Holy Spirit infuse us with hope, mercy, and divine love. Yes, this is a day to celebrate. This is the day that the Lord has made, our names are written in heaven, and we are commissioned to share in turning the world around. Let us rejoice and be glad that we are on this journey together!

Mother Teresa spoke a lot about the concept of peace, but she always spoke about peace in a very practical and tangible way. She was interested in the things we can do here and now, the small things that really make a difference, in order to achieve peace. Peace was not an abstract idea for her; she once wrote, “Peace begins with a smile,” and later wrote, “All works of love are works of peace.”

Yet it’s easy to feel as if peace is totally beyond us, as if it is merely an abstract ideal or pie in the sky and nothing more than a cliché. We may even be tempted to despair of peace in light of the violence we continue to witness in our own nation as well as in places like Ukraine and other places around the world. But Jesus and the Gospels encourage us to never stop striving for peace. As we read about the 70 missionaries that Jesus sent out in pairs, we learn that Jesus’ followers already have the peace of Christ in their hearts. In fact, this peace is ours the moment we say “yes” to Jesus, and it is ours to give and share with others. Notice that Jesus says whenever you enter a house, extend your peace to all those who live there, saying, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is willing to share in that peace, then, he says, this peace will “rest on that person.” This passage, as well as other passages in the Bible, urges us to offer God’s peace to others. This is at the heart of our practice in the liturgy when we practice “passing the peace” to one another. We even hear echoes of this Scriptural injunction when the Celebrant says, “The peace of the Lord be always with you.”And the people respond, “And also with you.”

This passing of the peace is not just a nice and cordial concept for use in our worship and liturgy. This is actually our practice for taking Christ’s peace to the outside world wherever we go. Have you ever tried to bring the peace of the Lord to those you encounter each day? Just imagine the ways you could begin to practice “passing the peace” outside of church. Perhaps you practice passing the peace by simply smiling, as Mother Teresa described. Or by engaging in acts of loving charity. Or by saying “peace” to people as you pass by them, even if it is just a quiet prayer under your breath. 

  • What if we saw ourselves as missionaries and understood our missionary task to include bringing and proclaiming God’s peace wherever we go? 
  • How might that change our perspectives and our lives, as well as the lives of those around us?

And notice that, according to Jesus, not everyone will be ready to receive this peace–or even want it. Jesus says, “And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you.” Maybe you have experienced this: you smiled at someone and they simply scowled back. Or you tried to offer a peaceful solution to an argument, but your solution was rejected. On a global scale, the rejection of peace is actually quite alarming. But according to Jesus, regardless of whether this peace is accepted or not, we are still called to extend this blessing of peace to those we encounter, knowing it will return to us if rejected.

This is related to what it means when Jesus says, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Peace is evidence of the Kingdom of God in our midst and the Kingdom of God is indeed present, here and now. But here’s the problem: the peace that God has placed in our hearts can get buried and hidden underneath fear, impatience, shame, resentment, bitterness, or even hatred. In fact, it is not a coincidence that one of the results of the missionaries’ experience in this passage is discovering that they had the power and authority of exorcism, the ability to exorcise evil. Jesus says, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. Indeed, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy.” In Jewish tradition, snakes and scorpions were symbols of the sources of evil, not literal reptiles or arachnids. This passage is not a call to engage in snake handling, as some have interpreted it, but a call to engage in exorcising evil whenever and wherever we, as followers of Christ, encounter it.


As Christians who have accepted the peace of Christ into our hearts, we all have been given the power and authority to exorcise the evil in our world. The responsibility to exorcise sin and evil from our own hearts and lives is first and foremost, however. Wherever fear or hostility reign and threaten to control us, we are called to declare the peace of the Lord and to announce the presence of the Kingdom of God, which is one powerful way to dispel evil. We should never forget that God has come near and is with us. From there we can confront evil with the power of Christ’s peace that leads to acts of justice and righteousness.

And sharing Christ’s peace really can begin with something as simple and small as a smile. We can choose the smile over the scowl, even when others don’t deserve it. It was once confessed by Arthur Bremer, a serial killer, who had made the decision to commit mass murder followed by suicide one day, that his mind was suddenly changed because when he went to eat his last meal at a diner, “The waitress was friendly and smiled at [me]”. Her smile meant that no one died that day. Talk about the power of peace in dispelling evil.

The big audacious goal that is being proposed by Jesus and by Christians like Mother Teresa is that world peace really does start with us, with the peace of Christ in our own hearts, given to us by God and then extended to others. This peace can carry us out of fear and bitterness and into the blessed calm and sanctuary of God’s love and presence–God’s smile upon us. From there, we can spread this peace to others: our family, our neighbors, our nation, and yes, even the world. We can choose to bring the blessing of peace wherever we go. So let’s go do it!