One day as we were dwelling in Luke 10 at the Seabeck gathering, I stopped on the “70” — or as some manuscripts report, “72.” One explanation of this textual error is that a scribe somewhere along the line “corrected” it to read 72 instead of 70 because it was associated with Numbers 11, which also features a group of 70, from which two were missing — or not.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men who are recognized as elders and leaders of Israel. Bring them to the Tabernacle to stand there with you. I will come down and talk to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also. They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone.
As the narrative unfolds, the elders gather in the tent, God’s Spirit rests on them, and they prophesy. Two men, Eldad and Medad, stayed back and did not gather in the tent with the others… but God’s Spirit also rested on them, and they too prophesied. Joshua told Moses to make them stop prophesying, but Moses replied, “Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.” (MSG).
Our hypothetical scribe would have thought that the inclusion of the two people who missed the “commissioning service” would yield 72, not 70. It doesn’t actually matter though. The observation I was applying from Numbers 11 to Luke 10 was the way in which God calls and sends us. Even those on the “outside” are not forgotten by God, and are commissioned in the same way as those who are gathered. In a sense, no matter who’s in the room, God sees who he wills. In planning the Seabeck gathering, it was hoped and prayed that God would bring together those who he wanted to draw into this particular formative conversation. Nevertheless, Numbers 11 reminds us that God is active outside the meeting in just the same ways as he is inside it, and that as we seek orientation and direction together, we also seek together with those who are dispersed.
With that image in mind, I’ve been taking notice of a few people who were not at the Seabeck Missional Order gathering, yet who are (spontaneously?) writing on the same topics and themes as we discussed there, and on which some of have been writing since. Prominent overlapping themes would include Luke 10, shalom (people of peace), peregrinatio (purposeful wandering), and a common rule (set of practices). If you’ve been reading here at all in the past two weeks, you’ve “heard” me comment on all of these themes (and if you haven’t, you should poke around my recent posts).
Mark Berry has a post up on [Shalom], and I’m happy to say my Hebrew isn’t so rusty that I can’t tell the word in his title is shalom… but that’s an easy one (though I’m not going to work out how to get the Hebrew font to display like he did!). In a very brief post, he quotes Walter Brueggemann from Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom, “The origin and destiny of God’s people is to be on the road of shalom which is to live out of joyous memories and toward greater anticipations.” Yeah, I know. He even relates it to Luke 10.
Paul Fromont has been at it all week, really… and from just the titles to his two posts, Sitting at a Luke 10 table in Cyberspace and Blogging as Wandering – Cybermonks and Missional Orders you’ll recognize themes from around here this past week as well. Beautiful quote: “Contemporary bloggers, like Celtic monks of old, relate as a loose, geographically dispersed network of wayfarers united by shared interests, needs and journeys. They keep alive a sense of common purpose and shared dreams, through the interactivity of writing ‘letters’ …personal friendships, and occasional visits.”
This brings us to Rowland Whitehead, who muses on Missional Order or Community, and lands in basically the spot where our Seabeck conversations did. It isn’t missional order or community; the two are essentially one and the same. He also mentions the notion of an “order” as “elite”, which brings us full-circle. In a sense, those who sign onto an “order” are a bounded set… but the call to do so is open to all in a fashion that makes everyone “elite”… which essentially renders the term meaningless as it fails to be a distinctive. Perhaps as Rowland implies, the “elite” are made up of those who undertake the mundane daily practices of living in relational community together, praying together, and keeping step together… is it all sounding familiar?