Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, July 7, 2013:

Complementary Series

Isaiah 66:10–14

Psalm 66:1–9 (4)

Galatians 6:[1–6] 7–16

Luke 10:1–11, 16–20

Semicontinuous Series

2 Kings 5:1–14

Psalm 30 (2)

Galatians 6:[1–6] 7–16

Luke 10:1–11, 16–20

Whenever I'm part of a church that's trying to figure out how to repair the building, I think of this passage, of this early mission that Jesus gives his followers.  He doesn't say, "Go and build a building.  Make the sanctuary look like this, and have an education wing with classrooms that your pre-school can use during the week.  Make sure to have a kitchen so that you can have pot-luck dinners with ease.  Make the bathrooms handicapped accessible, and have one bathroom that's not gender-specified so that transgender people will feel at ease.  Have diaper changing stations in both the male and female restrooms.  Have this kind of playground equipment."

Jesus doesn't tell his followers to sit and wait for people to come to them.  He sends them out.  And notice that he doesn't send them out in big groups.  He sends them out in pairs.  It's good to have a companion on the journey, but Christ knows that if too big a group goes out, they won't reach out to the inhabitants of the towns they travel to.

He sends his followers out with very little.  They don't have first aid kits.  They don't have money or even a change of clothes.  They depend on the people they will meet for hospitality.

In so many ways, this approach is brilliant.  It will force the followers to meet new people.  Their hunger and desire for safe shelter will motivate them.  You can't stay insulated from the population if you travel with very little.

Jesus recognizes the danger.  He has instructions for the followers who will meet hostility.  They are not to stay and argue.  They are to keep moving.

What does this passage have to say to modern Christians?  Here my English major self takes over.

What if Jesus wasn't speaking literally?  I know, I know, we have the book of Acts which shows that the early followers took this passage literally.  But we suspect that the early followers often misinterpreted Jesus.  What if we're being too literal here?

English majors know that when a journey appears in a work of literature, it's often a metaphor for the journey of life.  What if Jesus used this metaphor to show us how to move through our lives? 

There's the message of simplicity, which we get in many of our Gospel texts, along with the reminder not to be too attached to worldly goods and worldly acclaim.  And there's the message of community, the value of having some like-minded friends beside you.

If we interpret this passage metaphorically, we're still not able to escape the evangelism message.  We still need to deliver the good news that God loves us, that the perfection of creation has begun, the Kingdom is breaking through. 

I think of this idea each year as I witness Vacation Bible School.  I see children who aren't interested in church as grown ups offer it, but who LOVE Vacation Bible School.  I know more than one parent who goes from church to church so that the child can repeat the wonderful experience of VBS.  I know children who love VBS so much that they bring their closest friends.

What would happen if we felt about our faith the way that children felt about VBS?  Would it be easier to go out into our communities to tell people what's going on behind our church walls?

And if you're feeling that spiritual dryness that we all feel every so often, that aridness that makes it hard for you to imagine taking on this mission, maybe it's time to introduce some water to your spiritual landscape.  That water will be different for each person.  Maybe you need more time for spiritual reading.  Maybe you need to sing.  Maybe you need to take a few more minutes each day for prayer.  Maybe you need to get back to nature.  Maybe you need some creative time.

Or maybe you just need to be patient and remember that you're in a down point in a cycle.  At some point, the wheel will turn and you will feel the presence of God again. 

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