17 The seventy returned with joy.
At the end of the service the congregation is sent out to their ministry in daily life with the words, “Go in Peace. Serve the Lord.” I know that for many of us these are just code words for “We’re done. You can pick up your stuff and go.” Kids race for the playground or the goodies at coffee hour. Others look to connect with friends. A few have jobs to do putting away the communion ware or packing up the flowers for the donor. The ushers walk through to pick up abandoned bulletins. The sound techs are putting away the microphones. Most people think church is over, when in truth it’s just beginning.
The true worship of God happens during the week. It happens in the meals parents provide for their children, in the kindness shown to neighbors, in the quality of the work we do during the week (Does it serve the human community? Is my neighbor’s life enhanced by the product or service I may create or sell?). It happens in the way spouses love and respect one another. It happens in the concern we show for those in need. God is worshiped by the witness we make to the love of God. God is served by our service of one another.
The service of God happens when the seventy go out and herald the kingdom as agents of healing in the world. At the end of the week they come back with joy at the service they were able to render – at the work God was able to do through them. The demons submitted. Grace was added to the world. Light shown in the darkness. The Spirit of God laid claim to human hearts. Prisoners were set free.
It ought to be that we come on Sundays in the joy of our week’s service. We come to give thanks for God’s work in the week, to sing praise, to offer prayers, to rejoice that we are citizens of heaven and to savor the mystery and promise of God’s holy table.
I know that many come beaten down by the week, and Sunday serves to lift them up and set them back on the path. I am happy that it does that. But it would be nice if we came back as from a mission trip buzzing with joy and saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”