Seventy people are sent out in front of Jesus to prepare the way for His life-altering message, and to the best of our knowledge we know absolutely none of their names. Seventy of them, specially called by Jesus Himself, and their names have been completely forgotten. An impact was made by them, to be sure, but we know next to nothing about it. This thing we call ministry is evidently not for personal recognition of any sort, but only to prepare for Jesus to instill the ultimate Good News of hope and the fulfillment of new life.
And also in the next several hours we will celebrate because of many women and men who prepared a way of freedom that we will never fully comprehend; women and men whose names we do not know, ranging from a revolutionary war to escalating conflicts all over the world still today. In the grand scheme of the number from over two centuries’ worth, we know only a few of the people who served in the armed forces. Evidently such service is not for personal recognition, but instead for honor and sacrifice and a priceless dignity.
In the next several hours the yard of the church grounds will be filled with people, many of whom we will not know at all, and yet still just as cherished by Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who cherished the unknown seventy as much as the disciples whom we still recognize thousands of years later. It is the church’s job to make sure no one forgets that: no matter how little one is recognized by their neighbors, their community, their country, God knows them. God loves them unconditionally.
Sometimes we forget that in this nation of ours. We make this into a country of personal free enterprise, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, find personal happiness, freedom to achieve the American dream, to make a name for ourselves. But this isn’t supposed to be about personal recognition. This isn’t supposed to be about maximizing profit margins or perfecting stock options, or proving to the world how great we are because of personal accomplishment in the work place, or even through volunteering on the side. This life is meant to be about the same sacrifice those nameless seventy selflessly pulled off thousands of years ago, as well as the women and men willing to sacrifice their life for this country. This nation is built on the nameless, not just the soldiers, but their families and their hometowns, who played their pivotal role in shaping young women and men to serve a country filled with people whose names they would never find out for themselves.
Nevertheless, God knows the names. God knows them intimately. God cherishes them more than we can ever understand. God loves them to the point of sacrificing glory, power, and life on the cross, only to unleash the glory of everlasting life and the encapsulation of freedom far greater than any nation, including America, can offer: the freedom from sin and death forever. No country can ever top that.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thankful for this place we call home. That shouldn’t stop us from celebrating tonight or tomorrow night as fireworks burst in the sky, a symbol of the joy we should feel within our heart to be part of this nation. However, as those booms rattle the peaceful night, God calls us to remember the ones forgotten, the ones who will not be able to take part in any celebration of independence, because the noises and the flashes only immerse them into a tailspin of horrifying nightmares of their time in service.
The church is meant to be the community of safe-haven for everyone, including the ones who feel forgotten, who wonder if their life has made any difference at all, who endure lonely nights and heart-wrenching depression. God shaped and molded the church with them in mind. Jesus Christ lived and died as much for them as everyone else. The Holy Spirit is as much ingrained into their life as much as anyone else. Their names, their stories, their life has never been nor ever will be forgotten by God.
God never forgot the names of the seventy who were sent out ahead of Jesus. God never forgot the role they played in bringing the Greatest News of all time to life. And evidently God cared for them so deeply that Jesus sent them out not by themselves, but in pairs, for someone to be with them throughout the journey. That’s what God has in mind for us as the church, the ones who will walk with all children of God throughout their journey of faith, because absolutely no one should go through this life alone. No one should ever feel as if they are not loved. No one should ever wonder if God actually cherishes them. And so God continues to lift up the church to be that living precious reminder to all the ones who feel forgotten this night and throughout the year: to remind not just Americans, but children of God throughout the world, that Christ died, rose, and continues to live for them then, now, and forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon