Throughout Luke and its sequel Acts, there is a heavy emphasis on repentance.
Throughout American Christianity, there is a heavy misunderstanding of what that is.
We too often reduce repentance into a personal, individual effort to turn over a new leaf, a
spiritualized new years resolution telling God we’ll try harder and do better next time.
Sometimes we even mean it; but that’s not repentance; at best, it is a symptom of it, at worst, a perversion.
Repentance is far more total than a change of behavior; it is a fundamental teardown and
reconstruction of the way we view everything.
Repentance is a paradigm shift, a complete re-orientation, a bulldozing of everything we know and believe, replaced with a whole new reality, a completely different story.
Martin Luther repented not when he realized that he was a sinner—he knew that only too well—but when he realized that God was not an angry judge but a loving father.
His whole life took on completely new meaning and color and freedom and direction and joy. All because God was not out to get him like a compliance officer but out to get him like a lifeguard in a tidal wave—going after him not to punish him but to rescue him.
The beautiful surprise of who God is changes who we are.
Who God is prompts the Blind Beggar blog to invite us as a church to repent.
(This means thinking collectively rather than individually, which I think for us qualifies
Like many others, the author aims to shift the foundational mindset of congregations from
maintainence to mission:
A few examples:
1. In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, How many visitors have we attracted? The missional congregation asks, How many members have we sent?
2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won't do it. The missional congregation says, If this will help us bless and touch someone outside of our faith community, we will take the risk and do it.
3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, How will this affect me? The majority of members in the missional congregation ask, Will this help align our activities around ... the mission of God?
4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, We have to be faithful to our past. The missional congregation says, We have to be faithful to our future.
7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The missional congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.
9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The missional congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.
11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, How can we get these people to come to our church? The missional congregation asks, How can we go and be engaged with these people?
This last question is the one Jesus addresses today.
He is shifting the paradigm from twelve disciples to seventy apostles: from a small group
of students to a large network of sent ones.
They don't follow Jesus; Jesus will be following them.
They aren't bringing people to their church; they are bringing God's kingdom to them.
Repentance is a paradigm shift, a complete re-orientation, a bulldozing of everything we knowand believe, replaced with a whole new reality, a completely different story.
They are sent as lambs into the midst of wolves: not safety first, but kingdom first, and
with an invasion strategy used by no kingdom ever.
It's all a total change of mindset, approach and direction, because the message is so jarringly
different and new.
Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house!
Whether received or rejected, say, The kingdom of God has come near.
There is no mention of judgment: the world has more than enough of that already.
There are no instructions for evaluating worthiness or offering critique.
There is no culinary or cultural agenda: eat whatever is set before you.
There are no provisions for threat or violence or retaliation or come-uppance, only a
return to the way things were before: my peace returns to me, your dust returns to you.
The only message is gift: here is peace, health, and a visit from God.
Here is free, unfiltered, undeserved grace, not because of who you are or who we are, but
because of who God is.
How will this approach keep the lights on and the building secure?
It won't, but those things aren't as important as the wellbeing of those around you.
People are more valuable to God than property.
Peace, not protection, is priority one.
A stranger's new life is more urgent than an apostle feeling safe, because the kingdom of God
has set his face to Jerusalem and will not be diverted from his road to the cross.
Nothing will hurt you, this doomed messiah promises the lambs he sends into the teeth of wolves.
The storm is just Satan falling from heaven as your kindness rocks the worlds.
But don't celebrate this.
Don't fall into the worldly trap of tracking sales and rejoicing at results.
Repent, think differently, remember the message you are sent to embody and proclaim.
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Rejoice not in the changes you pencil in but in God's love for you written in ink.
You will succeed, you will fail, you will be welcomed, you will be rejected, you will
connect, you will be misunderstood, you will receive hospitality and criticism, you will
live, you will die.
And nothing will hurt you.
Your peace will not be lost.
Your future is secure.
Satan falls from heaven but your name remains.
God's unshakable love for you endures it all, and so does God's love for those down the road.
They need to know.
Go show them.
Go tell them.