Lectionary reflection for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
July 3, 2016
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. Luke 10:3-4
On July 4, the United States will celebrate Independence Day, marking its freedom from rule by England. Mostly it’s become a national holiday marked by barbecues, fireworks, parades, picnics, and relaxation rather than a review of history. Of course, the United States isn’t the only country to have a dedicated day to celebrate independence or other important national events. Click here for a listing of Independence and National Days.
Why is independence so important and why is it such a marker of freedom? Why do we strive to be free and on our own? It’s not always the best path to choose; just ask the disappointed and dazed folks in the United Kingdom following the recent Brexit Referendum to leave the European Union. Freedom isn’t free. In fact, it can be quite dangerous and costly in the long run.
Maybe we would do well to celebrate our interdependence instead–especially when it comes to our faith. Sure, we’ve been set free in Christ, as we certainly know freed from sin and death, but just as importantly freed to to live in community. We are freed into life, freed into relationship, and freed into love of God and neighbor. In short, we’re freed into interdependence. No longer are we to be lone rangers doing our own thing without regard for others. Yes, our freedom depends on our interdependence. We are stronger together.
In this week’s lesson from Luke’s gospel, Jesus sends out 70 others to go ahead of him, not alone, but in pairs. There is teamwork in this tough assignment. Jesus makes it clear that he is sending his disciples out “like lambs into the midst of wolves.” The going will be tough, and they will need each other’s company, encouragement, and support. And they don’t even get to pack a suitcase, much less any “heat” for protection against these wolves. They go out two-by-two to announce the coming reign of God, dependent upon the kindness of strangers who will share in their peace.
Of course, they don’t go without power. “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever reject you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me,” Jesus says. They’re even given the authority to tramp on the powers of evil (imaged as snakes and scorpions) without hurt. Even so, they are not to celebrate their own power, their own freedom to shake dust off their feet and tread on evil; they are to rejoice in their interdependence, that their “names are written in heaven.”
You’ll also find hints of this communal celebration of interdependence woven throughout the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 66 and in the story of Naaman’s healing in the alternate first reading from 2 Kings. The psalmist invites us to make a joyful noise to God and the interdependence of creation and God’s power to create and protect. Finally, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds his readers to “bear one another’s burdens” and “work for the good of all.”
It is so easy to be swayed by the promises of the powerful and would-be powerful, to hear their empty promises of gain and wealth and freedom. We are bombarded on all sides by loud and often raucous voices jockeying for position to be on top, to be the winner, and to stand strong and independent. Even though our national holidays are certainly worth celebrating and the abundance and bounty of this land worth giving thanks for, we must never forget that celebrating our interdependence in Christ is far more important. The kingdom of God has indeed come near, and in that reality is the freedom that truly is for everyone. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.
Here in the U.S. Independence Day falls on Monday. Some congregations still feel the tug to celebrate this event in Sunday worship, giving thanks to God for the freedom they experience. For those leaders who find this a bit disconcerting or misguided, consider lifting up the psalm this week in a fresh way. Use it as a way to remind people that our allegiance if first to God and that all good things come from God. Nations and rulers come and go (just ask the ancient Israelites, the Romans, and the Greeks), but the reign of God is forever and is among us in the form of Christ. Today that means Christ is with us wherever two are more are gathered in his name, when we gather at Christ’s table, the the word proclaimed, and in the waters of baptism. Consider enlisting your youth to make posters for each verse of the psalm (66:1-9) to decorate your worship space.
The reading from Galatians, especially verses 7-10, (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.) provide a good opportunity to talk about the importance of community in helping everyone to live better and stay focused on Christ and that which is good. The world can be a tough place to navigate on our own; the beloved community makes life better and more-fulfilling when we are at our best together.
This week’s psalm encourages us to make a joyful noise to God. Consider using the children’s version of the Chris Tomlin worship song “How Great is our God.” Click here for a YouTube video. Alternately, use “Awesome God.” Click here for a YouTube version. If you have simple rhythm instruments be sure to pass them out to increase the “joyful noise” factor. Remind the children to keep focused on God and sing praises at home, in the car, in worship, any time!
(Photos: jqpubliq, Ed Everett, and lambs.frances, Creative Commons. Thanks!)