Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30; Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-9; Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Narrative Lectionary: Series on the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:17 (Matthew 22:34-40)
Our first selection in the Hebrew scriptures follows the rise of the prophets, with the continuation of Elisha’s story in 2 Kings 5:1-14. You may recall that at the end of 1 Kings 19, Elijah was appointed to anoint a new king of Israel as well as a new king over Aram, and Elisha as prophet in his place. The commander of Aram’s army, Naaman, suffered from leprosy. The servant of Naaman’s wife, a young Israelite girl captured during war, told Naaman’s wife that the prophet in Samaria, Elisha, could cure Naaman’s disease. The king of Aram sent a letter to the king of Israel, but the king of Israel had no idea what he was talking about and freaked out that perhaps Aram’s king wanted to find a reason to go to war. Elisha told Israel’s king to calm down and have Naaman sent to him. Elisha then sent a messenger to Naaman, who had arrived, and told him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times and he’d be cured. Naaman was angry. He’d come all that way for what he expected, a flashy miracle, and instead was told to wash in the dinky river of Israel? There were nicer rivers in Damascus! But his servants advised him that if he had been told to do something difficult, wouldn’t he have done it? If it’s simple, does that mean it won’t work? Naaman took the advice of his servants, and washed seven times in the Jordan, and was healed of his leprosy.
Psalm 30 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance. The psalmist celebrates that God rescued them from their enemies, saving them from death. They praise God, who continues to be faithful, even in times of difficulty. Deliverance and joy will come, for God remains true. Even during a time of crisis, the psalmist could not be despaired for long, for joy will always come. The psalmist refuses to be silent because God always remains faithful.
The writer of Third Isaiah uses feminine imagery for both Jerusalem and God in this passage of hope after the return from exile. In Isaiah 66:10-14, all will find comfort and satisfaction in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem the way an infant is satisfied by their mother’s milk. God will comfort the people the way a nursing mom comforts her children. The people will flourish as a people nurtured on God’s milk and will be strong against their enemies.
Psalm 66:1-9 is a call to worship. The song reminds the people to give glory and praise to God, the one who brought them out of oppression into freedom (reminiscent of the song Miriam sings with the women of Israel after the Exodus). The psalmist praises God for their awesome deeds, and reminds the people that God is the reason for their survival and safety.
The Epistle readings conclude the series in Galatians. Paul gives further instructions to this church that was divided on how to welcome and accept Gentile believers. In the first six verses, Paul calls upon the church to bear one another’s burdens, but all are responsible themselves for their own actions in how they live out the word of Christ. Paul reiterates the lesson from last week’s reading: those who live in the ways of this world, the flesh, will find those ways are dead ends. The way of Christ, the way of the Spirit, leads to eternal life. Paul encourages the church to work for the good of all, especially the family of faith which includes Gentile believers. One last time, Paul reminds the church that belonging to Christ is about faith, not about circumcision—and that controversy ought to be over because everyone in Christ has become a new creation.
Luke 10 points to the ministry of Jesus as it grew beyond the twelve disciples. This time, Jesus appointed seventy to go out into the world and carry nothing with them, they were simply to rely on other’s hospitality. They were to go where they were welcomed, to eat and drink and have fellowship, and where they were not welcome, they were simply to shake the dust from their shoes as a sign of protest and move on. All who wanted to know God would listen to them. When they returned, they shared stories with Jesus of how even the demons submitted to them, and Jesus declares that Satan had no power over them. Nothing evil could overcome them, for the authority of Christ was with them as they ministered among the people. This authority was recognized by others in their action of hospitality.
The Narrative Lectionary concludes its series on the Ten Commandments with a single verse: Exodus 20:17. The first four commandments were about worship of God, the next five commandments the basics of how to love their neighbor, but this final commandment goes beyond the simple acts of not killing, not lying, etc. God commanded the people to not covet—to not desire what other people had. That commandment is the crux of the ten commandments because everything else comes from a memetic desire to want what others have, including the worship of idols and other gods. Cain killed Abel because Abel received a blessing Cain did not. All violence and murder and adultery comes from this idea of desiring what others have. Instead, we are to remember that everything comes from the one God. All we have is from our God, and we have enough.
The second selection is the same throughout this series: Matthew 22:34-40. In Matthew’s account, Jesus was teaching in the temple and was challenged by different groups: first the Sadducees, and then the Pharisees. This was common practice for rabbis to debate each other. The Pharisees had one of their lawyers ask Jesus which commandment was the greatest, and Jesus replied with part of the Shema, the call to prayer: to love God with one’s whole being. Jesus also included “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” from Leviticus 19:18, which other rabbis in the first century also lifted up. Jesus then stated that on these two commandments hang the law and the prophets—in other words, the entire meaning of the Bible collected at that time.
All authority and power is in Christ, who thus gives us authority and power to declare God’s reign and to live into it. No worldly authorities can have power over us in that capacity, and that includes religious and political and societal figures and teachings. No one else has the authority to declare the reign of Christ is at hand because Jesus already claimed it and gave us the authority to declare it. Jesus gave us the authority to love one another and to share the Good News, to cast out evil and to lift up good. Whether others believe or not is on them, not us. Naaman couldn’t believe how simple it would be to be healed, but he had to learn to trust the word of God through the prophet Elisha. Paul taught the church in Galatia that they must carry their own loads, and while they should bear each other’s burdens, when it comes to living into Christ that is on each of us. We cannot save others, it is Christ who does so, but we do have the authority to live into Christ’s reign and declare it is at hand, in word and deed.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 66:1-2, 4-5, 8)
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing the glory of God’s name,
Give to God glorious praise!
All the earth worships the Lord,
We sing praise to our God,
Sing praises to God’s name.
Come and see what God has done,
God’s deeds are awesome among us.
Bless our God, O people,
Let the sound of God’s praise be heard.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, You have given all power and authority and dominion to Christ Jesus and laid it before his feet. Christ is the head of the church, and we are the body of Christ. We confess that we have not used our authority wisely. We confess that we have twisted it into an abusive, imperial, colonizing force, instead of the liberative message of Christ, in which we are free of the sins of this world. We have used the authority of Christ to have power over and dominate others, instead of the authority to bring freedom to the captives, to let the oppressed go free, to declare the year of our God’s favor. We have failed to live into the Good News. Forgive us, O Christ, and remind us that we must shake the dust of the world off our sandals and instead accept the radical hospitality You have opened for us to live into Your reign. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, siblings, children of God, to declare the Good News and proclaim the time of God’s favor upon us all. This is the time to say “I love you,” to one another. This is the time to seek forgiveness, reparation and restoration. This is the time to say, “I forgive you,” to those who are making amends. This is the time to work for healing and justice. This is the time, because God has called us for such a time as this. Go and share the Good News. Amen.
Holy Spirit, as we pass the Solstice, we are reminded that You keep on turning the universe, the solar system, the earth, and us. As we revolve, we evolve. Bless us in this time of transition, as summer draws nigh in the north and winter in the south, may we look upon the last half of this year with gratitude, and to the future with hope. May we notice the shifts Your Spirit is moving us and adjust our paths accordingly. May we seek what fulfills and nurtures us into the second half of this year. Holy Spirit, breathe deeply into us, and prepare us for what is to come in the turning of the year. Amen.