To God & My Country

Fr. Devin Rodgers

Every August my Scout Troop would head to Seven Ranges Scout
Camp for a week. As part of the camp, we were required to take a few merit
badge courses. If you are at all familiar with scouting, you will know
there are several mandatory merit badges. These include swimming,
first aid, lifesaving, and other necessary skills if you are to grow into an
accomplished Boy Scout. You need to earn all 21 to obtain Eagle Scout.
There are also unrequired, auxiliary merit badges. These relate to crafts,
hobbies, and skills.

Not wanting to spend my week learning how to splint a broken leg or
perform CPR, I opted for the more crafty merit badges that did little to
advance me in rank. Instead, I took up basket-weaving, leather-working, and bugling. I may not be able to lifeguard, but I can weave a nice basket or wake you up in the morning with some rousing bugle calls.

I never made it to Eagle Scout, but in addition to being able to weave
baskets, I did learn a lot in scouting.

Most of all…Be Prepared!

I still have my scouting handbook as well. This handy tool laid out
necessary scouting skills. It taught you how to be a productive citizen.
On a very practical level, it taught you ‘outdoorsmanship’.

I used it to unsuccessfully navigate a compass and a map. If we were out on a hike together, I could probably also tell you which water sources were safe to drink and which ones would make you violently ill in case you needed to fill up your canteen. Be advised I never tested this.

Our scout master often reviewed the camping checklists with us prior to
heading to campouts or hikes. He’d run down the list of necessary
outdoor items.

“Sleeping gear…check.

Pocket Knife…check

Fire Starters…check

Bug spray…check

At least 20 pairs of socks for a three-day outing…”

You get the point.

When setting out on a long hike or camping trip without the right tools
and skills, being unprepared is sure to lead to a poor experience.

Our journey in ministry is not all that different.

Be Prepared! Although, Jesus’ preparation looks altogether different
than my troop leader’s.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus appoints seventy followers to head out on a
mission trip – a hike with a Godly purpose. Before they set out on the
the road he goes through some instructions and directives to ensure that
their mission is successful AND in line with the message they are
proclaiming.

He is candid with the seventy.

“This is going to be a difficult journey for you. You are like lambs sent
into the midst of wolves.” He continues, “Take nothing with you. Rely
on the hospitality of strangers. Proclaim a message of peace with you
wherever you go. If it’s not accepted, shake the town’s dust off your feet
and move on. Express gratitude and receive what is given to you.
Minister to those you meet. Proclaim God’s Kingdom.”

I’m glad I didn’t have Jesus as my scoutmaster for camping trips. He
orders them to take nothing with them! Sorry, disciples–no extra socks.

But Jesus doesn’t send them out ill-prepared. He gives them all that they
need to reveal the Kingdom in every village they enter.

They don’t need the ordinary tools and packing list because this
mission is altogether different. It’s simultaneously in this world and
contrary to the way the world functions.

The preparation is brief: have a traveling companion, a message of
peace, and faith that the kingdom of God is close at hand. God will
move the hearts of others to provide for you. Relying on God is the only
means of success anyways.

One might expect that this sort of mission trip would be hugely
problematic for the 70.

First of all, this type of journey would be incredibly dangerous.
Traveling without any means, on dangerous roads, into unfamiliar
towns is not the sort of hike I’d like to venture on. It really would not be
all that different than setting out backpacking with an empty pack and
no food or water.

It’s likely this led to a great deal of fear for the seventy.

And so, one might expect some of the 70 to abandon the mission. The
stakes were too high. Maybe some considered sneaking additional
materials along with them. Perhaps a few of them were just hoping to
make it back alive.

Yet, ministry if we are to follow the call of God is about taking risks, and
it is almost always sure to push us just beyond the limits of our comfort
zone.

However, they were met with immense success. The followers come back
and describe the miracles they were able to perform on their journeys.
“Lord, in your name, even the demons submit to us!” They are filled
with joy! They are deeply content and satisfied. This is an inner joy of
the soul.

This joy is a result of their spiritual transformation and the healing of
those they meet when the Kingdom is revealed.

Joy comes from a direct encounter with the fullness and completeness of
God.

This, particularly after rolling out our brand new strategic plan last
week, should bring us hope for our own ministry.

What if we thought of ourselves as ministry scouts? Scouts who are
prepared with what Jesus has given us, out searching for the kingdom of
God with what God has equipped us with.

We are the 2022 version of the original seventy. These words are for us
today.

Hear Jesus’ words, “The harvest is plentiful; the laborers are few. I am
sending out two by two, lambs into the midst of wolves. Bring nothing
alongside you for this mission. Share and accept peace where you find it.
Where you don’t find peace, accept this and move on. Cure the sick. Say
to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is Near.’”

This provides a solid foundation for the mission of the church.

But here is what excites me about this specifically for St. Alban’s.

It’s about community, our scouting troop if you will.

We are given one another for the purpose of carrying out the mission
God has sent us on, but we are not merely given to one another because
one person has skills in one area and we need them in order to get work
done.

Followers of Jesus aren’t just warm bodies filling roles, they are a vessel
for the Holy Spirit to flow outward from.

Christian Community is also not about compiling skills and resources
either. Organizing a crew with the right sort of merit badges and tools
does not make for a successful mission-focused church.

How often have you heard in the church,

“If only we had…”

I’m guilty of this myself. Truth be told I’ve often prayed for a graphic
designer, maintenance person, or any number of other professions to
come into our red doors and join the church. We cannot approach
ministry from this perspective as it undermines what everyone has to
contribute. All are necessary for the mission, and God uses all people’s
vocations for holy purposes.

The community through which the Holy Spirit flows enables us to find
deep satisfaction and joy in our ministry.

It is no coincidence that Spiritual transformation shows up in our
mission statement and a major area of emphasis in our mission planning
is fellowship and hospitality. Spiritual transformation and the revealing
of God’s Kingdom come from relationships with God and others.
Without this mindset, we are simply fulfilling much-needed services, but
there is nothing that separates our work from the work of secular
organizations.

It’s inspiring to see glimmers of this preparedness happening and
deepening. In our post-COVID parish, we’ve seen new ministries begin
including a Creation Care ministry, children’s worship opportunities,
expanded musical offerings as well as reinvigorated opportunities to feed and grow food for others.

We also have to remind ourselves…WE ARE STILL LAMBS BEING
SENT INTO THE MIDST OF WOLVES. It’s incredibly disheartening
to see the social issues plaguing our country. It’s even more
disheartening to see American Christianity behind and rightfully
blamed for so much of this divisiveness. The disenfranchisement with
the church is real, and it’s not unfounded. We need to be honest about
that.

And…we have to remember that one of our biggest assets that we have
to offer is the joy that comes with healing, curing, and extending peace to
a hurting world of wolves. This spiritual, deep-seated joy reveals the
Truth because it is of God and from God.

Are you ready? Despite having skills…despite having resources…despite
having everything the world tells us we need to be successful, we can set
all of that aside and listen to the voice of the One who is sending us to
Scout for the Kingdom of God.

Be Prepared. You already have all you need. You will do miracles and
rejoice at What God can do with us on the path that lies ahead.

On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty
To God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Oath