Lectionary Reflection for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2013
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. Galatians 6:9-10
Just as the ripe fruits and fresh vegetables of summer are filling farm stands and markets here in central Pennsylvania, so this week do our lectionary readings offer an abundance of possibilities for preaching and teaching. This is a fine Sunday to speak of stewarding the good news, to acknowledge the abundance God provides, to celebrate the joy of Christian community, and to lift up the importance of interdependence in the Body of Christ.
In the United States, people will have just celebrated Independence Day on Thursday, July 4. Fireworks, picnics, festivals, vacations, and get-togethers will be fresh on the minds of those gathered for worship. Although this holiday commemorates the independence and birth of a new nation, the undercurrent of the day is one of interdependence; we would never have become the United States without collaboration and cooperation and sacrifice.
The Body of Christ is also a place where the gifts and talents of many coalesce to form a unified community that exists to be gathered, to be nourished in Word and Sacrament, and to be sent together into the world. We do not do this discipleship thing alone. If we mistakenly believe that we can, then we are doomed to sputter, fizzle, and burn out like a cheap firework. In contrast, the more we collaborate, cooperate, and co-create the stronger we will burn and the brighter our light will be for a hurting and cloudy world.
Paul’s instructions to the believers in Galatia include bearing one another’s burdens, to carry their own load, and to work for the good of all. As new creations united in the cross of Christ, we can truly celebrate Interdependence Day any time we gather together. Our communities of faith should be oases in the parched desert of this world, places where all can find a welcome and the support and mutual care of fellow believers. Without our Lord we are nothing; without each other we lack meaning and mission. But united in Christ we become a strong, powerful body ready to open our arms and heart to all we encounter.
We are limited only by our unbelief, our insistence on our way or the highway, and our lack of creative vision. Sure, some days (or months or even years) are going to be tough even amongst God’s people. We face real and serious challenges as the church of Jesus Christ in a post-Christian culture. In many ways we are ill-prepared to climb the mountain in front of us, especially when we attempt to limit God or confine the work of the Spirit to our range of vision.
So in the face of challenge, on the downhill slide of despair, or on the brink of seeming disaster, what is a disciple to do? We are to tell the stories, to eat the bread and wine, the body and blood, and to be strengthened and equipped for the journey. We are stewards of all of God’s abundance, of blessings great and small. We have the distinct joy and delight of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near, that Jesus is present among us, and that the winds of the Holy Spirit infuse us with hope, mercy, and divine love. Yes, this is a day to celebrate. This is the day that the Lord has made, our names are written in heaven, and we are commissioned to share in turning the world aright. Let us rejoice and be glad that we are on this journey together!
Consider using peach baskets or other farm market baskets to collect the offering during the months of summer. Take every possible opportunity to speak of God’s abundance–abundant grace, abundant love, abundant mercy, abundant creation, abundant blessings–you get the picture. Why not have a Harvest Moment each week where volunteers take a minute or two to talk about how a ministry or mission is bearing fruit. Whenever possible highlight a collaborative ministry where you are involved with other congregations, groups, or partner organizations. Together we are stronger, and through our interdependence we can do so much more than we could ever do alone. Post summaries, pictures, and/or video clips to your church website.
When you gather with your youth, read the gospel lesson together and reflect on how Jesus does not expect us to do this whole discipleship thing alone. Instead, we are expected to journey together. Talk about how your youth group can support one another when the going gets tough. What resources do you have as a group? How can the congregation support you on the journey? How can you contribute to the Body of Christ of which you are a part?
Have the youth partner up; depending on the relationships and dynamics of your group, you can assign partners, allow the youth to choose their own, or draw a random partner. Encourage partners to pray for each other throughout the week, to check in, and to hold each other accountable as disciples. Encourage the youth to be creative about setting some discipleship goals, to bring stories back to the group, and to pray for the congregation and for the church leaders.
Be sure to start your time with a celebration of blessings (WOWS!) and recognition of prayer needs and/or difficulties faced (POWS!). Use this process to help cultivate a culture of gratitude and abundance.
Jesus sent his disciples out together, and he instructed them to travel light for a reason. Too much stuff gets in the way! Invite two volunteers to illustrate this principle, especially if you live in a place where this is the season for vacations. Have one volunteer pack for a week’s vacation at the beach, and encourage that person to pack “heavy.” He or she should walk up the aisle burdened with excess baggage. Have another volunteer pack for a week’s vacation hiking where everything must fit in a single back pack. The hiker has everything he or she needs for the journey–shelter, clothes, and food. The vacationer has a lot of “stuff” but not even a bed or food in all those bags. Help children to see that when we travel a little lighter we are better prepared to meet challenges, to take advantage of opportunities, and to get from point A to point B without wasting precious time and energy hauling stuff we probably don’t even need. Part of traveling light involves trusting in God’s abundance for our provision. End with a prayer for all who are traveling and for the children to remember to travel light trusting in one another as part of the beloved community and in God who provides abundantly.