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Coaching and the Sending of the Seventy
Taking up something new is always exciting. My first instinct is to set off directly with the enthusiasm of an amateur. Sometimes, we seek a coach to help us but then we discover that all that looked so simple from afar is much trickier and will demand more of our energy and patience than we imagined. Take, for example golf, what could be simpler? A ball and a club. You just hit the one with the other and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ you are on your way to a green blazer. My coach though, many years ago, had lots of advice. Firstly, how do you hold the thing? There is a special grip. I was reminded this week that it is called the “Vardon” grip after the golfer who first used it. You must keep your left arm straight, your legs apart, your weight over the ball, head down, take a full backswing, follow through, swing with the hips, don’t look up, and whatever you do not try to hit the cover off the ball and there is more, much, much more.
Now Jesus is coaching the seventy. He appoints them so that they may go ahead to prepare the towns that Jesus will go through on his way to Jerusalem for his arrival. His first instruction is to “pray.” He says to them “Ask the Lord to send labourers”, he reminds them of the dangers of ministry: “You will be lambs in the midst of wolves,” but they are to trust in God. Do not rely on yourselves, take no purse, no bag, and no sandals for God will provide. He explains that they must remain focussed and keep their eye on the ball. Do not greet people on the road, Jesus says, and this is often because these greetings would be lengthy, tying people up for days and so distracting them from their mission. They are to pursue their task and not waste their time. On entering a house, they are to bless it and whilst there must eat and drink what is provided. This is an interesting point, prefiguring the arguments about the food laws, for the seventy will include Samaria and the Gentile area in their travels so may be presented with an unacceptable diet for Jews. They are to be contented with their lot: “Do not move form house to house,” in search of more comfortable lodgings. Cure the sick in the town and preach to them.
Jesus sends the seventy out with all this preparation and they return with joy, because they have accomplished what they were sent to do in Jesus’ name.
There is, you know, a joy in managing to put all the golf coach’s words to good use, getting it all together and sending the little ball with a satisfying click a hundred yards on the right trajectory in the right direction. However, this is far outweighed by reading and listening to our true coach; the words and teaching of Jesus. The joy of studying the Gospels and then going out to put it all into practice.
So, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.