Lectionary text for the sixth Sunday after Pentecost:
Isaiah 66:10-14: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her— 11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.
12 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. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
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. 2 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. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 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. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “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.”
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18 He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 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.” 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: Ordinary Time is a time for the Christian to learn, to grow, to explore the Christian story and remember the Churches mission. In the text from Isaiah, we clearly find feminine images to convey the intent of God’s sustenance. When a mother begins to nurse her newborn, she learns her breasts produce milk that flows just like the prophet declares, “like an overflowing stream,” Eventually, the flow tapers and is regulated by the baby’s needs. However, when the child cries, the mother’s milk will flow, uncontrolled! Clearly when we mourn that is cry over life’s sorrows, it is good to know that God’s comfort flows in similar fashion through those God commissions.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus commissions seventy, without designating gender, to go out to the places he intended to visit to reveal the presence of God’s kingdom in the world. I understand that if we allow the culture of that time to dictate our image of this text, then we would not expect to find women as part of the group. However, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus often disrupts the cultural gender barrier, setting the tone for a deeper meaning of the Christian story. What better season than summer, when the earth is burgeoning with growth, to outgrow our often narrow perspectives about women in ministry?
In this age, where church attendance is down and skepticism about the relevance of faith in one’s life is on the rise, it is important that Christians remember the Church’s mission and that the laborers are few. We are called to be witnesses of the love of God in the world. It will take individuals who love God made known in Jesus Christ to be flexible enough to accept all those they meet just the way they are. Some are confused or angry or depressed or full of grief and fear and guilt. They all need a follower of Jesus with the “spirit of gentleness” as Paul describes in Galatians 6, willing to “bear another’s burdens.” They will need patient sensitivity “flowing like a river” from the heart of one who knows Jesus, the resurrected Savior and the Holy Spirit come at Pentecost. Then know that no satanic force can withstand this presence or power!
The mission is not an easy. It is hard to labor in hot summer fields caring for tender plants. But, hope in the harvest keeps us moving forward. Hope tunes the hearts and voices of men and women, girls and boys to sing, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Blessed Ordinary Times!
©July 1, 2010
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