Watching for the Morning of July 3, 2016
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 9 / Lectionary 14
I watched a James Bond move last week and learned that the designation ‘00’ was given to agents after two kills – when they have proved their hardness of heart. Maybe we need a designation for agents who have brought God’s healing to two lives and proved their tenderness of heart. Stirred, not shaken.
Sunday centers on Luke’s account of the sending of the seventy. Earlier, Luke had recorded Jesus sending the twelve ahead of him to heal and proclaim the reign of God. Now Jesus sends “seventy others.” The reading contains Jesus’ familiar phrase that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” and the injunction that they are sent “like lambs into the midst of wolves.” The mission is urgent (don’t pack a bag) but God will provide through the hospitality of those who are “sons [and daughters] of peace.” Where they are welcomed, they should heal the sick and say, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” And where they are not welcomed, they should “shake off the dust” as a warning of God’s judgment for “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me.”
As a new king coming to claim the land sends out representatives to prepare for his arrival, dispensing his benefactions and warning those who resist – so the followers of Jesus are sent. And they return with joy. The realm of Satan was falling.
Our other readings on Sunday pick up the themes of deliverance and joy. The text from Isaiah contains a promise of that day when Jerusalem is restored and the world brought to peace. The psalmist sings God’s praise for his work of deliverance in the exodus from Egypt. And our reading in Galatians comes to its final chapter where Paul urges the community to remember that we will reap what we sow – urging them to sow to the Spirit (the new creation, the reign of God) and not to our “flesh” (the passions and desires of our fallen nature).
The mission of the seventy is not just for the seventy. It is the mission of the church, of the people, of each and all of us. “Having gifts that differ” we are sent as heralds of the kingdom, bearing the gifts of the kingdom. There are plenty of contentious, divisive, and angry voices rending lives and the body politic. But Christ has his agents, bringing healing and life.
The Prayer for July 3, 2016
whose heart is ever searching
to gather your world to yourself,
help us dwell in your mercy
and make us faithful in our calling to bear witness to your love;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for July 3, 2016
First Reading: Isaiah 66:10-14
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” – A song of Salvation containing the promise that the nation, broken by war and exile, will be restored.
Psalmody: Psalm 66:1-8
“Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth” – a song of joy at God’s deliverance, recalling the exodus from Egypt.
Second Reading: Galatians 6:1-16
“Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.” – Exhortations from the closing section of Paul’s letter contrasting those things “sown to the flesh” (our “fallen” nature, our innate self-centeredness) with what is sown to the Spirit.
Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
“”The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” – Jesus sends out seventy as heralds of the reign of God and instructs them about their mission.