This week’s readings from Luke (10:1-11, 16-20) and from Paul’s letter to the Galatians have a strong communal theme to them. Paul is all about the new community of God’s people created through Jesus, and Luke has Jesus send out 70 or 72 to continue the work of John the Baptist preparing the way.
Too often we reduce Christianity to me being saved by Jesus and that salvation is understood as me getting into heaven. And we use Paul to support that understanding. Yet that is nothing like what Paul was on about. His hope was in the promises made to Israel, the people of God, the promise of the restoration of all creation with the coming reign of God’s justice and peace. He had understood that the inheritors of that promise were those who kept Torah and who were circumcised. He found the teaching of the followers of this dead rabbi from Nazareth dangerous…until he met that dead and resurrected rabbi on the way to Damascus. Then he came to realise that circumcision and Torah did not qualify one to be a member of Israel. When you were marked by the peace and love of God then you became a member of Israel. And all were invited by Christ’s faithfulness to be so marked and to be such a member. He then set out to establish new communities that lived by God’s norms and that shunned the social, political and economic norms of his time, including Roman, Greek, and Jewish. Community was all important. Salvation meant being part of this new community, and living in God’s reign now.
Community was also important for Luke. He was writing his Gospel with his community in mind, although I am sure he knew that others would read it too. In this week’s passage Jesus sends out 70 (some texts say 72) to go to all the cities and towns he would want to go to as he journeys to Jerusalem. This is a big group of people. They are not doing this on their own. And he gives very specific instructions that in many ways reinforce hospitality customs of his time, but also seem to make it clear that where ever they were they were to accept the hospitality given, even if that was offered by Gentiles or Samaritans. He is creating new communities in this action. And they are to bring his message of peace. This message is at the heart of Luke; from the annunciation and birth narratives through to the resurrection appearances. Jesus comes to bring peace. The seventy were to take that peace out to the cities and towns.
We are to be communities of peace today.
So how are we communities of peace? Paul saw that the systems of his time would stop those communities being people of peace. What ways are we invited to let go of so that we might be people of peace?