Two realms: “On earth as in heaven” – a phrase which speaks of the connection which exists between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm. We don’t just hope for a more heavenly-looking order, we call down the connection and order which already exists!
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
1 Cor. 4:12
We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. WE BLESS those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.
Some elements of the mission accounts in Luke 9 and Luke 10 stand out, because we recognise them. Both the Twelve and the Seventy-two would experience a measure of rejection – however good and even life-changing the announcement, some will not have ears to hear it. Coming in from a position of strength raises barriers; meeting over food and drink removes them.
These things are not too difficult to contextualise and bring into a non-Mediterranean world nearly 2,000 years later.
But there is here a different challenge which we don’t recognise so easily. We can skim over it as seeming irrelevant but in fact it finds five mentions at least, in the Luke 9 and Luke 10 passages. This is Jesus’ instruction to know and use the power of words expressed in the faith God gives, to bless and transform people and situations.
The word “bless” does not appear, but the result of all that Jesus is setting out here is to bring blessing. We bless by words (mainly) or actions that communicate God’s goodness, love and encouragement, in such a way that beneficial change follows the words. The effect is seldom immediate or dramatic, but in the same way that creating the right conditions stimulates plants to grow, so blessing is like bringing to bear the warmth, ‘water’ and light of God.
The disciples, both the smaller group and the larger one, were charged to go out and bless the villages, homes and individuals that they met.
It was usual in Jewish society to say “Shalom to this house!” as a greeting. We are more used to fairly routine greetings, although ‘willkommen’ and ‘bienvenu’ are rooted in the blessing that was normal in Celtic Christianity – words that bring God’s presence. Similarly ‘’goodbye’, a contraction of ‘God be with you’.
’Shalom’ was a greeting that brought God’s presence. Homes and villages of Jesus’ time were not as private as ours are. It was usual to have visitors, and cutomary to welcome visitors. That is perhaps why Jesus’ warning to those who were not wecoming is so pointed.
Saying “Shalom to this house” is clearly stated in Luke 10:5. Why did Jesus need to say this, as it was customary? Because He explained the process behind those words.
We think of earthly life and spiritual life as occupying two realms – earth and the heavenlies. One day we will be translated from one to the other. That is a big, disrupting, bereaving change which emphasises to us the separation between earth and heaven (or hell – a real possibility).
So we struggle with understanding, and living in, the connection between those two realms. Earthly life – traffic, commuting, family pressures, the NHS, government and politics, good and bad weather, terrorists and security forces – we understand all too well. The ‘unseen life’ tends to be assigned to a different box.
That’s wrong, because for us, as Spirit-empowered Christians, the two are very much connected. What we do on earth has a counterpart in the heavenlies. Angels are usually unseen, but active. The Holy Spirit prompts, leads, reveals and enables. God’s word is like a policy statement compendium which sets out how things happen. Who can come to God? How does it happen? What about when things go wrong? What are our responsibilities? It is all there, with worked examples. It can be read, thought about, prayed – and declared.
Back to blessing. It is clear that words spoken in the flow of faith from God have power to bring beneficial change – the removal of a mountain-like obstacles, or the release of life. Anyone can open the New Testament and see how the miracles associated with the ministry of Jesus go along with the words associated with the ministry of Jesus.
As we begin to see that the unseen realm and the visible realm are two dimensions of the same thing, we begin to see how God guides us into words and actions which bring His intentions. Our selfish-nature words and actions might not – in fact they might even result in the opposite effect. This is the world of curses and witchcraft, which at its simplest level is bad-mouthing, slander, gossip and the expression of bad intention.
Is that something common in our world? Who reverses it? Who is the salt and light that purifies? Who speaks love and grace and every good intention of our generous Father into the rather brittle and contentious world around us? You get the message…
FOR REFLECTION OR DISCUSSION
- The first disciples were empowered to bless and be ‘peace-bringers’ to the homes and villages they visited. To what extent are we empowered to bless?
Do we bless with actions or words? How do we bless in face to face conversation?
How do we bring about transformation by blessing in prayer?
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Nice’n’easy way in to the topic on the Blue Run
Dig deeper with Bible study on this topic on Red Run
Gain a ministry perspective (here) on Black Run
Compendium on Ghost blog
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