The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9), 4 July 2010
Saint Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
A copy of the Gospel of Luke from the Codex Sinaiticus.
Sometimes it helps to learn a new word – and today’s word is “pericope”. The word, in Greek, means (that which is) “cut out” or “cut around”. It is a word that describes the readings in the Lectionary because they have been literally cut out of their context. The blessing of a pericope is that it allows us to focus on the reading in a deliberate kind of way. The danger of the pericope is that we lose the context of the reading, limiting our interpretation of it to the verses that are preserved for us. It is helpful when studying the lectionary to look at the pericope and its place in the scriptures, and especially in the Gospels how it is treated by the other Gospel writers, or whether it appears at all. Here is a good link to an on-line version of the Bible that you can use while studying these readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/index.shtml.
Another concept for those who wish to study the scriptures is the notion of the Q Source. “Q” stands for the German word Quelle, which means, “source”. The hypothesis is that both Matthew and Luke depended on an earlier source of Jesus sayings, which material is not found in Mark. We will discuss some “Q material” when we get to the Gospel for this morning.
Thus says the Lord:
"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her--
that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious bosom.
For thus says the LORD:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants,
and his indignation is against his enemies. "
Jerusalem is the seat of so many things in the Jewish mind. It is the seat of the temple and of kingship, and it is also the seat of tragedy. Like every other urban center in the Ancient Near East it was the scene of siege and destruction by Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. Thus it is the seat of tragedy as well, and it is in this guise that Jews, whether in exile, or in diaspora, remember it. This is the psychology of the reading from a later Isaiah, whose audience remembered a destroyed and conquered Jerusalem. Rabbi Berel Wein puts it this way: “Therefore the words of consolation are couched in the remembrance of Zion and Jerusalem, destroyed but yet remembered and rebuilt and eventually restored to their previous glory and status. Tragedy is never the last act in the human drama.” So it is that this Isaiah pictures Jerusalem as either a mother or a nurse, a stand-in for God’s own consolation. It is not only comfort that obtains here, but the promise of prosperity as well.
Breaking open Isaiah:
1. What tragedy have you known in your life?
2. How have you been comforted in those situations?
3. Is there a place in this world that comforts you?
The Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Psalm 66:1-8 Jubilate Deo
Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.
Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! *
because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name."
Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.
He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.
In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.
Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
In Psalm 66, the psalmist revisits the mighty acts of God, and counts them as the reason for the praises of all the nations of the earth. It is a cosmic view, that is rooted in the creation stories, and in two specific stories of salvation (see verse 5). The first is the crossing of the Red Sea (see Exodus 13:17 – 14:29) as Israel moves from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. The second is a recounting of the first, although at a different location. Here the crossing is at the Jordan River as Israel actual crosses into the land of promise (see Joshua 3:15-17). The image is of a God who creates, protects, and does mighty acts. These engender the praises of Israel.
Breaking open Psalm 66
1. When in your life have you praised God?
2. What “mighty acts” have you seen God perform in your own life?
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.
Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised-- only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule-- peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Vincent Van Gogh – Sower with the Setting Sun
Paul continues his discussion, contrasting the “spirit” and the “flesh”, and using the metaphor of “sowing” as a way of seeing how life either in the flesh or in the spirit is lived. In the paragraph that begins, “See what large letters…”, that we Paul makes his arguments about flesh and spirit physical. He makes an example of his own physicality and then goes on to comment on another fleshly aspect – male circumcision. Paul acknowledges that he is in the flesh, but the question for Christians is what do I do with the flesh of my own being. The example of circumcision is not about the physical act, but about whether or not Christians need to comply with the Jewish ritual law. Paul argues against it – and argues, really, for a new flesh. He sees himself as a part of a “new creation” whose flesh is caught up into the spiritual. The need for the old laws has gone away.
Breaking open Galatians:
- What part of your life is a “new creation”?
- What are your thoughts on your own spirituality?
- What part of your life is “deep in the flesh”?
Saint Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
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.'
"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
In this reading, Luke reports another tradition about witnesses being sent out. We read the first in Luke 9:1-6, (a recasting of Mark 6:7-13), and now a section based on the Q tradition (see notes above). There is some dispute in the various versions as to whether it was 70 or 72 who were sent out. The numbers seem to be tied to the 70 elders who assisted Moses (Exodus 18:21), or to the 72 disciples listed in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Torah). What Jesus tries to communicate to these deputies is the urgency of the situation (“Carry no purse, no bag…”) so much so that even the normal hospitalities (“greet no one”) are set aside. The one greeting, namely of peace (“Peace to this house.”) is Luke-talk about the blessings of salvation, and a sign of the nearness of the Kingdom of God.
When the deputies return, they are excited about the powers and authority that they have been give, but Jesus quickly directs them to have joy in something else. Jesus witnessing of Satan’s fall from heaven, begs the question of who should be there – in heaven. Jesus reminds these new disciples that their joy should not be in that which they can do, but that their “names are written in heaven.” Satan is not there – but they have the promise to be there.
Breaking open the Gospel:
- What gets in the way of your witnessing about your faith?
- Do you ever witness to yourself about your faith? Do you have some kind of internal converstion?
- What does it mean to have your name “written in heaven”?
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.