Building Relationships

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
July 24, 2022
Luke 9:1-9

Sermon recorded at Mayberry Church on Friday, July 22, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

Have you ever thought of yourself as a “Little Jesus?”  What if I suggest that’s what we are to be? As a part of Christ’s church, we become Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. We carry on his mission of love and sharing his grace. This task was first given to the 12 disciples and has passed down through the centuries to us. We’re going to learn today about the first time Jesus sent out the disciples to do his work. 

Not in it to win it

We are called to make a difference in our world. As followers of Jesus, we live by different values than the world. As Andy Stanley, in his newest book proclaims, the church is not about winning. Jesus didn’t set out to win the world. Instead, he gave his life for the world, and calls us to also sacrifice for the good of others.[1] It’s not about winning, but about showing Jesus’ love in our lives and everyday encounters. 

Too often we use terms like “winning the world for Christ.” In the late 19th Century, the student volunteer movement for missions set its goal as “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” While a noble goal, it is too easy to think the burden is upon us. While God uses us to display a new way of relating in the world, or as the founding documents of the Presbyterian Church state, “to exhibit the kingdom of Heaven to the world,”[2] we’re not in a competition for victory. The victory belongs to Jesus already. Let us call ourselves to worship.

Before the reading of scripture

Since their calling in the 6th chapter of Luke,[3] we have seen how the twelve listened, learned, and observed Jesus. This was in preparation for the moment they would assume the work of Jesus on their own. At the beginning of the 9th Chapter of Luke, they’re given a trial run.

While our reading today focuses on the 12 disciples, Luke points out that there were more than 12 disciples, including some women.[4] However, the 12 take on special significance. These learn from watching Jesus as he teaches and ministers toward those in need. While they remain Jesus’ disciples, they are to begin to take on a more active role in sharing Jesus’ work in the world. Eventually, eleven of the twelve will become Apostles and responsible for taking Jesus’ teachings to the end of the world.[5]

Disciples in the Ancient World

The concept of disciples gathering around teachers was well-known in the ancient world. Centuries before Jesus, the Greeks had developed such a relationship between teachers and students. Plato was a disciple of Socrates and remained so even after his teacher died. He would always be a disciple of Socrates, even when he had his own disciples or students, who attended his Academy. 

Aristotle was one of Plato’s disciples, but he, too, developed disciples of his own and taught then in Athens’s Lyceum. Other Greek thinkers gathered their own disciples. A disciple is to learn from their teacher, their master, and then apply their learning in the world.[6] As we’re disciples of Jesus, we should be doing the same.

Read Luke 9:1-9

Backpacking: Traveling Light

One of the things I appreciate about backpacking is how such travels puts everyone on the same plane. Rich and poor, you’re all the same once you get a day’s walk into the woods. Ironically, the one who can get by with the least has a much richer experience than the one who tries to drag everything inside a backpack. Carrying a 70- or 80-pound pack, as I’ve seen some do, is absurd. It might be okay going to war, but if you’re out to enjoy God’s creation, such a pack will only slow you down, hold you back, and exhaust you. It is hard to enjoy the view of the mountains when you have that kind of burden. 

Grandma Gatewood

One of the legends to have hiked the Appalachian Trail is Emma Gatewood, better known as Grandma Gatewood. She first hiked the entire trail in 1955 at the age of 67. She would hike it twice again.  Along the way, she carried a few clothes, supplies, and a little food. She took a shower curtain for when it rained. A denim bag served as her pack. She was the definitive an ultra-light backpacker. Because she took so little, she often depended on the generosity of strangers for food.[7]

The disciples traveling light

Jesus sends the twelve out across the landscape and has them travel very light. They don’t even have a staff, which is okay because they’re not taking anything extra with them. A staff is good when you need a third leg to help you balance, such as when you have a heavy pack.  Of course, a staff is also good to discourage angry dogs and to push snakes out of the path. For those, I suppose the twelve had to depend on God or a good neighbor.

Depending on God and Stranger

The twelve carry no food, no money, no extra clothes…. Jesus’ purpose is two-fold. He wants the disciples to learn how to depend on God and on the goodness of others. Furthermore, by having the disciples depend on the goodness of others, Jesus forces them to meet and encounter others along their way. What a better way to get to know someone than to share a meal. Jesus sets up the disciples to emphasize personal relationships and not to be burdened by stuff.[8]  

 No hedging of bets

Going out into the world with nothing, the disciples cannot hedge their bets or provide themselves a social safety net. Perhaps another reason Jesus has the disciples to go without money is another of our human traits. He knows if the disciples wait until they had enough money for their mission, it would be like us waiting to have enough money to have children. Few of us would ever get to the point where we felt we had enough. This is urgent business, and the disciples need to hit the road. 

Modern hobos

Several years ago, I picked up a book in a bargain warehouse about modern day hobos.[9] The book was written by this one hobo who often traveled without a ticket by rail. Sometimes he’d even fly to a distant city to ride a particular scenic line though the mountains. Occasionally, this guy and his friends would encounter real hobos, but they generally kept their distance. 

I wondered what the real hobos thought of them. After all, these were all successful and professional men. They used cell phones to communicate with each other about the best car to jump aboard or how to avoid the railroad police. 

Another thing separated them from real hobos. A real hobo might cook his stew in a tin can over a fire. When they got hungry, they’d jump off the train, pull out a credit card, and rent a room in a hotel. After cleaning up, they’d go out for a nice meal. Such abilities set them apart. 

Think about riding an open car over a particularly cold pass in the Rockies. Instead of continuing to freeze, they get to warm up in a hotel’s hot tub. When you travel like this, you don’t exactly open yourself up to make friends with the real hobos.

Taking the easy way out

As humans, we often take the easy way out. Knowing this, Jesus sends the disciples out in a manner that forces them to depend on God and others for their safety and comfort. 

Furthermore, Jesus wants the disciples to appreciate what is offered to them. When they come into a village and someone opens their home, they are to remain there until they move along. They’re not to accept a better offer, say from the owner of the villa upon the hill with the swimming pool. Accepting such an offer might offend their earlier host. Sent out in this manner, they to be grateful for what they’re offered. 

Biblical Hospitality

I should say something about the New Testament concept of hospitality.[10] It’s not throwing a nice party for friends.[11]Anyone can show hospitality to friends. But when such hospitality is shown to a stranger, that’s special. 

As the disciples learned from their master, they’re to now trust him as they participate in the expand his mission in the world. Their assignment is to utilize word and deed as they expand Jesus’ ministry. They have learned Jesus’ true nature, now they’re to share it with the world.[12]

The word spreads to Herod

Interestingly, Luke doesn’t tell us of their success, just that they went out preaching and teaching. Instead, he lets us know that Herod, the ruler, has his ears to the ground. He knows something is up and begins to ask questions. “It can’t be John,” Herod thinks. “I’ve beheaded him. Is it another prophet?” And how many of them? It’s no longer this one guy I’m hearing about, they are all over the place, in different villages at the same time. 

We’re told that Herod wants to see Jesus. This Herod is the son Herod the Great whom we’re told in Matthew’s gospel, killed a lot of babies to do away with Jesus.[13] Herod Jr. is neither as cruel nor as capable of a letter as his father.[14] He expresses an interest in seeing Jesus, which he will do, but only during Jesus’ trial. Herod only wants to see one of Jesus’ miracles, as if he’s a traveling magician. Jesus refuses and so Herod and his soldiers mock Jesus before sending him back to Pilate.[15]

In a small way, the disciples begin to build the foundation upon which the church would be built. The word gets out through their preaching and mercy. Not only do the masses hear about Jesus, so does the ruler in the land.[16]

The task of the 12 has now become ours. We are to share the good news. While we’re not always equipped to heal like the twelve, we are able to offer hope and encouragement as we walk with others on their journey toward healing. 

Doing our part

Think about how you might do your part. Who do you know that you might reach out and invite out for breakfast or a cup of coffee and spend some time seeing how they’re doing? Who might you offer to help, to show the agape love of a disciple? We make the world better one disciple at a time. Discipleship is more about one-on-one relationships than big crusades or campaigns.[17]With whom might you develop such a relationship? Who can you reach out to know? Invite them to church with you and to Sunday brunch afterwards. Build relationships!

Like the disciples, we’ll never be fully prepared. Instead, we step out in faith and trust God to give us what we need so that Jesus might make a difference in someone’s life. Trust God and build relationships with others. The twelve did it and so should we. Amen. 

6:29 AM this morning. Sunrise with fog in the valley

[1] Andy Stanley, Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2022). For my review of Stanley’s book, Click here.

[2] Presbyterian Church USA, Book of Order, F-1.0304.

[3] Jesus had called disciples earlier as in Luke 5:1-10, 27-31, but in Luke 6:12-16, he specifically calls “the Twelve.”  

[4] See Luke 8:1-3 or my sermon on the text at   Luke also mentions the 70 whom Jesus later sends off 2 by 2. See Luke 10:1-12.

[5] The one missing of the 12, who did not become an Apostle, is Judas. 

[6] For an insight into the various discipleship schools of Greece, see the opening chapters of Arthur Herman, The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization (New York: Random House Paperbacks, 2014). 

[7] See Ben Montgomery, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014). 

[8] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2015), 262. 

[9] William T. Vollmann, Riding Toward Everywhere (HarperCollins, 2008). 

[10] Fred Craddock, Luke: Interpretation, A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1990), 121.  For one of my sermons on hospitality from Hebrews 13, see

[11] Jesus emphasizes this point in the Sermon on the Mount. “And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 6:47. 

[12] Edwards, 260.

[13] Matthew 2:7-18

[14] Edwards, 666.

[15] Luke 23:7-12.

[16] Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Eerdman, 1983), 267-8.

[17] Edwards, 262.

8 Replies to “Building Relationships”

  1. The sunrise picture is beautiful.
    I went backpacking once with my husband and brother here in Nevada. In one of the cooler months we spent the day hiking at Mt. Charleston. It was beautiful up there surrounded by all the trees.

    1. I’ve never hiked on Charleston, but did the Ruby Crest trail (south of Elko) and have spent a several night trek in Great Basin National Park.

  2. The sunrise in your part of the world looks pretty darn good, Jeff. Thanks for sharing your inspirational message. Much appreciated.

    1. Thanks, Matt. We have the most incredible sunrises, which are always just east of Buffalo Mountain (the one you see) but the light upon the mountain before the sunrises is incredible.

  3. Your modern hobo story makes excellent food for thought, especially in our attitudes towards those to whom we might be reaching out in mission.

    1. I love trains, but I have always paid for a ticket… And I feel there is something wrong about playing hobo, but I think it does show how we approach others makes a difference.

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