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The Book of Mormon

Luke 10: 1-12

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10 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.

And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.

And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.

And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:

And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,

11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

The Book of Mormon
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It is a bit unsettling for me to have just heard the Gospel reading about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples two by two, in the same week that I went to see the musical show, The Book Of Mormon which is on in London: and in the first scene of which the eager young Mormon Elders are sent out, two by two, all over the world to knock on doors and share the Book of Mormon.

It is unsettling because you're not sure whether the musical is just sending up Mormonism or religion in general.

It reminds me of the story about a man who was just leaving home, late for work, when there was a knock on the door. He opened the door and there were two Mormons on the doorstep. It was pouring with rain and very cold and they looked pretty miserable, and asked if they could come in. Well, he was a soft-hearted chap, and so he said okay.

They came into the living room and he offered them a chair, and they sat down, and then there was total silence. After a bit he asked them: "So what happens now?" And the older one said, "we don't know. We never go this far before."

The musical The Book of Mormon is very funny but it is very rude and irreverent about Mormonism and its message seems to be that if you want to make a difference to peoples' lives, it's no good going on an ego-trip thinking you alone have the answers; you have got to listen to people, to speak to their needs and concerns, and adapt your story to their context.

In the Gospel story the seventy-two came back jubilant at their success, thinking they have all the answers, but Jesus brings them up short by telling them that what really matters is that they are part of God's larger purpose. They're not successful, Jesus says, because they have individually performed miracles or healed someone, but because they have made a difference to someone beyond themselves. That's the Christian formula for success and its very different to worldly criteria of success, money, material goods, consumption, celebrity - the "me first" understanding of achievement.

It is worrying when studies of young people today suggest that they are more narcissistic and ego-driven than previous generation, immersed as they are in the self-centred world of cell-phones, ipads and solitary electronic games, which make them less interested in giving their time to others of being part of something larger. I remember hearing about a girl who said that, unlike her sister, she was definitely not going on a sponsored volunteer programme to a developing country because "it had totally destroyed her sister's life."

When asked to explain what she meant she said "when my sister came back from Zambia she wasn't the same person: she changed the course of her life and upset everybody."

That seems to me like the best possible reason for going in the first place. She realised that she didn't particularly like the me-alone, me-first generation. She wanted to do something generous and positive with her life and to be part of something larger.

That's a normal part of being a Christian. So the question you should be asking yourself is "How eager am I to make a difference with my life?" Am I interested in the common good or just in me and mine? Would I be defined as successful because of what I've got - money, big house, prestigious job, possessions - or because of the difference I make, the time I give to other people, the compassion I show to others?

One of the young Mormon Elders in the show thought that what they were doing was all about him. It's all about me - he sang.

Christ calls us to make the focus of our lives something outside ourselves he calls us to be part of something bigger - more generous, more self-denying - to be part of His mission and in so doing to make God known in our lives, and to make a difference in the world.

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