Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Proper 9 (12), Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
July 7, 2019
Lessons: Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-9; Galatians 6:[1-6], 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people learn that vocational calling leads us to expect the unexpected ways the Holy Spirit moves in our lives.
Key Scripture: Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. – Luke 10:3
Imagine how Jesus’ first and closest disciples must have felt when he sent them out with such bizarre (at least to 21st century way of thinking) instructions. Do you think they had their doubts? Fears? Suspicions? At its core the situation is not that much different from what modern disciples are called to today. Like those first seventy called to serve in a most unexpected way, we too can expect the unexpected when God calls us to love and serve through our various vocations.
First of all, Jesus instructs his followers to pray: “So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands” (Luke 10:2b, The Message). Prayer is always the starting point; it’s the key way we connect to and communicate with the One who sends us out.
Next comes an imperative direction and a warning: “On your way! But be careful—this is hazardous work. You’re like lambs in a wolf pack” (Luke 10:3, The Message). Don’t spend too much time planning—just be about your work. We love to come up with programs and projects, but even the best laid and most well-crafted plans and training can end up being a deterrent to actually doing the work of ministry and letting our lives carry the message. The warning reminds us that being a fully invested disciple can be dangerous work; we may be called to walk among the “wolves” of the world. We are to be present and aware.
Jesus also instructs his followers to travel light—an admonishment that runs completely counter to our cultural messages and expectations. In short, don’t let your stuff bind you, bog you down, and prevent you from taking advantage of or responding to the unexpected joys and challenges of life and ministry. Quick! Call in Marie Kondo and The Minimalists for quick refresher course on how to live life light and joyously.
We also aren’t to force ourselves on others, Jesus says. Wherever you find yourself, be a presence of peace and let the light of Christ shine through you. Don’t feel that you have to flog folks with the good news or stridently proclaim a gospel with strings attached. If you are not well-received, let it go. Just be yourself, exactly who you are in Christ. Focus on your own spiritual growth first, trusting that others will see how the Spirit moves in your live and want that same kind of life for themselves.
Jesus also instructs us to be fully present in the now moment, not always having our antennae up in search of the next best thing or fresh opportunity. We are to immerse ourselves in culture while remembering who we are and whose we are. We are to be ambassadors of Christ’s peace and a healing presence wherever we find ourselves. No matter what work you are called to do, being fully present and yet willing to expect the unexpected puts you in a position to respond and live out your calling faithfully.
Finally, we can find hope and joy in the results and experiences of those first seventy sent out for faithful field work. They were able to do great things in the name of Christ, and they found great joy by being open to the unexpected. The key, Jesus reminds them (and us) is to all the more rejoice that we belong to God.
So do your work, faithful folk, and truly believe that you have been called in this time, this place, using your own gifts to shine light into the darkness and bring Christ’s peace to the world. Go out with courage, keep it light, and remember whose you are. Expect the unexpected, for the Spirit will lead you in some amazing directions in ways you could not orchestrate on your own. And this, beloved, is a very good thing indeed.
Give congregants time to share (have a wireless mic or two to pass around) how the Holy Spirit has used them and their faith in unexpected ways in their work settings. Sharing stories like these is not only inspiring to others, but it also helps us to equip one another and encourage us to be on the lookout for opportunities and to be responsive to the Spirit’s subtle promptings. You may want to “prime the pump” by having one or two people ready to speak. You could also do this in small pew groupings if that is more appropriate to your congregational culture.
Spend some time with the Epistle lesson and focus on how it complements and amplifies this week’s gospel lesson. Challenge youth to unpack how Paul’s instructions can be useful in their current primary vocational calling as students.
For example: How can we be people who work for restoration? What public witnesses in the news can you find for how other students are doing this (Note: Examples do not have to be overtly faith-based to be meaningful.) How can we be gentle and bear one another’s burdens? What does it mean as students to do our own work and not focus on the success or failure of others? How should we carry our own load? Paul says we are to stay the course when it comes to doing what is right, work for the good of all, don’t become hung up on the minutia of religious practice, and above all remember that we are new creations in Christ. How might this play out in the life of a student? How can we train now for living out our faith in our vocational callings—even if we’re not sure what we might want to do or be?
This week’s focus verse is Galatians 6:5 – …for all must carry their own loads.
Have a few small weights or small weighted backpacks with you. Tell each child that Paul tells disciples that we are to carry our own loads. In other words, we are responsible for our own work. When you travel, you take your own bag with you—whether it’s a backpack full of toys for the plane or a roller bag with your clothes in it.
The key take away from this lesson is that even though we carry our own loads, we are not alone. We have others to walk with us and encourage us. Use the backpacks or weights as an example. Have a volunteer agree to carry a heavy backpack down the aisle. As the child shoulders the pack (be careful that it’s not TOO heavy), tell them that everyone else is going to walk with them down the aisle to encourage them. Invite those in the pews to clap and encourage the child. Make a big deal of supporting and encouraging the bag-carrier.
After you are done, ask the child how it felt to carry that heavy load. Did it help to have others cheering for them? Did it make them forget how heavy the load really was? This is how our community of faith, our friends and family, and the Holy Spirit work to help us carry our own loads. Even though we must do the carrying through life—whether it’s a real load like the backpack or pain, sorrow, or difficulties—we always have access to help and accompaniment along the way. Our job is to also make sure that we are there for others. When we all work together, everyone’s load seems lighter and life is much more manageable. Finish with a prayer and blessing.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
We glorify God through our daily living and in our varied vocations. As stewards of the Gospel we expect the unexpected opportunities and challenges along the way. How are you remaining open to the unexpected?
Stewardship at Home
Jesus’ instructions to the seventy can sound both strange and daunting. Spend some time this week praying about and pondering how you can respond in your daily life as Jesus instructed his disciples. Talk with others if you can. Here are some starter questions:
- What “stuff” prevents you from “traveling light” through life?
- When do you most feel like a lamb among wolves?
- How can you offer Christ’s peace to others at work or in your daily encounters?
- When have you been given an unexpected opportunity to share your faith or challenge to your faith at work? How did you respond? Looking back on the event, are there ways you might respond differently after pondering this week’s gospel lesson?
- What do you need to better equip you to expect the unexpected as a follower of Christ?
2016 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2016/06/interdependence-day/
Photos: Renee Grayson, Art in the Christian Tradition, Gamaliel Espinoza Macedo Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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