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Mission of the Seventy, Luke 10:1-12

Jesus' disciples had left their vocations to follow Jesus. They could no longer rely on their work for income. To continue in the ministry of Jesus, they would need to be paid in food and shelter, if nothing else. When Jesus sent them on this mission, he told them not to bring provisions more than they needed - anything that could either be a distraction, slow them down, or put them in danger of being robbed. So when they entered a town, they were charged with proclaiming the good news of a loving God. In return, they would need food and shelter. "The laborer deserves to be paid."

There are many things we can take away from this text. Today I want to lift up pastors and paid ministers. Your pastors have earned Masters Degrees; some even Doctorate Degrees. They have paid tens of thousands of dollars to earn degrees that put them in vocations that do not pay what they are worth. Most congregations are struggling to get by and cannot afford to pay their pastors in money what they deserve for their efforts. 

Most pastors put in at least half again the hours they are paid; some twice as many. They are always on the clock. They do pre-surgical visits at 5 am, meet parishioners for breakfast at 7, show up in the office at 8, work all day and through lunch writing sermons and prepping to teach Bible studies, they visit shut-ins over the dinner hour, and then stay for 7 pm meetings that last until 9. They work weekends, holidays, middle of the night. They do not take all of their continuing ed or vacation time. They counsel people with relationship struggles, mental illness, addiction. They manage finances, staff, building maintenance, stock supplies. They cook Lenten soup suppers and bring bars for funeral lunches. They unclog toilets and clean sacristies. They wear baby spit-up and wipe drool off parishioners with dementia. And all of these things are a labor of love. They do these things because they love you and they love God.

Maybe you can't afford to pay your pastor what they would be paid in the private sector with the education and commitment they have earned. But you can "welcome" them. Often they are not welcomed. They answer nasty emails written in anger about things email authors don't have all the information about. (The kind of information they must keep confidential, but if you knew, it would shake you to the core.) They get phone calls at home at 10 pm to answer questions that could be asked tomorrow. They have to fight for their own raises. They are challenged when they want to move the hideous painting that was donated by a beloved parishioner 63 years ago.

Here's what you can do to "welcome" your pastor. Let them know you appreciate them. Give them time and space, especially during holiday seasons (Lent is the worst, by the way). Offer to do some of the things they don't need to be doing. (Can you organize the sanctuary clean-up day or the Rally Day celebration? Could you copy and fold bulletins?) Rally the troops to offer raises, more vacation time, or other benefits before they have to ask for them. Volunteer to babysit their kids or watch their house when they travel. Encourage them to travel. In fact, buy them a trip, if you can. Give them gift cards for Christmas. (Find out where they like to eat - don't assume you know.) Ask them what they need and then give it to them. Be kind, understanding, forgiving. They are not perfect. They will mess up. They know it. They don't need you to point it out. Don't rip on their sermons. You have no idea how much of their soul they have poured into each and every one, nor do you know what a vulnerable experience it is to preach with your heart, mind, and soul.

Your pastor is the hardest working person you know, for the least amount of payment or recognition. Make this Lent a season of appreciating your pastor, and in doing so, you might just find a whole new appreciation for the one thing your pastor loves above all else - God.

Text:

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. 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. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.