I was invited to speak at the historic Hawaiian church, Kawaiaha’o Church, on July 7. It was an honor to be with their congregation and share this message. You can listen to me deliver the sermon or read it below.
Where do you belong? To whom do you belong? These are the kinds of questions with which we live all our days—from childhood to our elder years.
Back in 1998, when my son (our oldest) was 3, we were in Japan, hoping to land a job, after finishing my course of doctoral studies. To make a long and tumultuous story short, our perfect picture and almost certain plans for a future in Japan came to a surprising and crashing halt. We were living out of suitcases, staying with relatives for a few months in Nagano, Japan, until we decided we should return to the States. One day during our long wait my son said to my wife: “Mama, let’s go home.” My wife later cried as she shared his words with me: “We have no home.” No home in the States where I am from, or England where we lived the past three years while I pursued my doctoral studies, or Japan where she is from. But we did have one another…
A few weeks ago, my elderly and widowed mother in Illinois shared with me how much she misses my father and how hard it is to be in transition: having moved from their home of many years to a smaller place, where he would eventually die as a result of cancer. My mother shared with me that what brings her comfort now is that no matter the setting Jesus is her home…
In Luke 10, we find that Jesus and his kingdom are his followers’ home, even in the midst of uncertain and difficult journeys. The disciples were living out of suitcases—perhaps empty ones. They had no home. All they had was him, but they found in due course that he was ultimately all they needed.
In Luke 10:1-24, we find that Jesus sends them out on mission to go before him into all the towns and villages where he would go and proclaim the good news of the kingdom embodied in him (Luke 10:1).
As we will soon see, there is nothing about his followers to brag about. Jesus brags about his Father’s grace in revealing the kingdom’s mysteries to them (Luke 10:21). It is the one who sends them who gives them their significance: his disciples find their significance in relation to him. Given who God is and who we are, we dare not speak for him. But given that God sends us out in relation to Jesus and calls us to speak the good news of the kingdom, we must speak!
There were so many places to go in such little time. As they set out, Jesus calls on them to pray for more workers: the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few (Luke 10:2); the need is so great and the time is so short. Jerusalem and the cross are getting closer and closer as Jesus quickens the pace. The Lord tells his disciples not to take anything for the journey, but to depend on God and the people of peace who will welcome them on their way (Luke 10:3-9). Jesus tells them to bless those who bless them, for the kingdom of God is near in his coming (and he is coming soon!) and to warn those who don’t welcome them, for the kingdom of God is near in his coming (Luke 10:8-12).
We see here in this passage how desperate his followers are for him. They depend on Jesus’ word and find their identity in relation to his call on their lives and his promise to take care of their every need (cf. Matthew 6:33). How dependent on the Lord are we, or do we look to find our security outside his call and promise to care for us?
What is most striking to me about this passage are the comparisons and superlatives Jesus makes.
Jesus is not some pop psychologist who sets everyone at ease by telling them “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Jesus is no prosperity gospel preacher who tells people to give to others, even to God, simply to get. Rather, he is a fiery prophet who condemns the inhospitable. He tells his contemporaries that it will be better for wicked Sodom on judgment day than for the town that does not welcome Jesus’ followers who are identified with him. Sodom’s wicked inhospitality pales in comparison with such townspeople’s rejection of him and his followers (Luke 10:12).
Just like Sodom over inhospitable places whose people do not welcome Jesus and his followers, it will be more tolerable for pagan Tyre and Sidon on judgment day than for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum where Jesus performs miracles but to no avail. The people in these places reject Jesus and his message. Even Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if confronted with the miracles Jesus performed in the midst of these other places. Anyone who rejects Jesus’ followers rejects him, and anyone who rejects Jesus rejects his Father. That person’s fate will be most severe (Luke 10:13-16).
Are we like the people of Tyre and Sidon, or worse, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, when confronted with Jesus’ miraculous presence? Depending on how our lives answer that question, the outcome could be unbelievably wonderful or catastrophic.
The disciples return and are ecstatic as they share with the Lord that the demons submitted to them in his name (Luke 10:17). Jesus is not amazed, but rather matter of fact as he receives this news. He is not surprised. He’s been there and done that many times before; in fact, he’s done even better: he is there when Satan is cast from heaven like lightning. No wonder he has the authority to give them power over serpents and scorpions and Satan’s brood (Luke 10:18-20). But still, what should amaze his followers most is that Jesus has displayed his authority by writing their names down in heaven as their eternal destiny! This is where their hope should reside!
What defines us-casting out demons of whatever kind in Jesus’ name or being called and secured by Jesus? So often, I fear that I use Jesus for power encounters, getting my high from his power and anointing and benefits rather than from Jesus who truly benefits us. How I long to long for him from whom love and power and goodness flow. How I long to find my rest in him!
In closing, I wish to thank the church family here at the distinguished and historic Kawaiahao Church. There are no doubt many people who come through these church doors who long to experience the Aloha spirit that you have so graciously extended to my family and me this morning. Many who enter this memorable church may have homes, but don’t have anyone with whom to share life or who welcomes them home or who remembers them. Thank you for sharing your hearts and church home with all of us who visit here. I will never forget it. May all who enter here taste the Aloha of heaven and through your grace and care for them come to trust in Christ Jesus and journey to their eternal home.
This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.