After this, the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons, submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” – Luke 10
I doubt any of has ever witnessed a challenge to the life of the Church as dramatic as the disruption to being gathered in worship that COVID-19 has created. We are anxious about how long this exile will last, pessimistic about the long-range effect on the Church, and just plain missing each other. But, in Luke’s Gospel, we find a parallel story that we can feel good about. Jesus chooses 70 of his disciples (roughly the average Sunday worship attendance of FCCW) and sends them out in pairs to be his emissaries. It must have been as much of a trial for them to be separated from their church community as our present circumstances are proving to be for us. What they learned from being distanced from their congregation can teach us a few things, though.
1. They learned how to be the Church wherever they were scattered, transforming every home they entered into a place of worship and a holy sanctuary. “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you;cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
2. Once outside the gathered church community, they discovered within them a potential for making a personal difference in the world that exceeded their wildest dreams. “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”
3. When they eventually regathered to worship in community, it was with an even greater pleasure than they had known before they were separated. “The seventyreturned with joy.”
4. Separation and reunion made them a more spiritually victorious community than they had ever been before, leading Jesus to say with confidence, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”