Sunday, July 4, 2010

“Bearing Burdens”

Galatians 6:1-16
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

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.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised — only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule — peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

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. 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. 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. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, '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.' Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

A Message from the Pastor
Today’s gospel story is a mission pastor’s dream. What an opportunity it is to use it. After all, look at us today. There are about twenty of us. We know we need to grow. And, here, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.” What an opportunity for the mission pastor to share with the community of faith details on how to grow a mission.

However, I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about. I don’t think this story today is about that. A mission community, like all communities of faith, is organic. God created communities of faith; he created us, just like he creates vegetation and creatures. Organic systems grow “automatically” if they are healthy. So, the question is not HOW we will grow a mission, but what would we do to prevent a mission from growing? Our story today has some insights for that question.

Notice that Jesus begins by saying to them that he is sending them like lambs into the midst of wolves. We are being sent by Jesus into risking ventures. No, we won’t be eaten alive, but if we answer his call, we will be out of our comfort zones. We will be “pushing the envelope.” And, we will not depend upon ourselves. That’s why he said not to take a purse, bag, or sandals. And we are to remain focused on why he is sending us – not to talk with anyone along the way. We are to accept the people the way they are – we eat whatever they set before us.

I think the subject matter for today’s reading is humility. After all, life is about God, not about us.

Think about what happened when the disciples came back. They were ecstatic. They were overjoyed. They told Jesus that even the demons submitted to them. It was all about them. Jesus indicated that there was something much more important. What they needed to celebrate, even though power and authority were given to them, was the fact that God knew them, walked with them, empowered them, and guarded them. Again, it’s all about God.

Paul has much the same thing to say in the second reading for today.

Listen to what he has to say as he suggests to his readers/listeners to restore a person who has offended you with gentleness. He suggests we bear one another’s burdens because that is the law of Christ. It is a way to love one another as Jesus has loved us. In that way, we are to test ourselves in what we do, we are to examine ourselves, our motives, and the way we act.

In all of what Paul writes in today’s reading, he also focuses on the priority we have. His focus is on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because we are baptized into a death like Jesus, we are crucified with him, then the world is crucified to us and we to the world.

Let me share a personal example of what I think Paul is saying to us as we live a life in humility. It has to do with bearing one another’s burdens.

Several years ago, in South Carolina, I was co-chair of a task force that studied the role of gays and lesbians in the church. That issue has always been highly sensitive and emotional. I came to that task force with my own ideas and agenda. I was, what might be called, the revisionist. The other co-chair might be called orthodox. We each selected participants, individually and jointly. As we began to meet, we started listening to each other. Without placing a label on it, we began to bear one another’s burdens.

I’ll never forget one experience I had. The other co-chair and I were driving around. He was behind the wheel. I was on the passenger side. As we talked about the issues, he shared his concern that if the church went “too far,’ he would have to deeply consider his ordination vows and his ability to remain with the church. I had never thought about it. My thoughts and perceptions on this issue did not change. My agenda did.

Part of that group was a lesbian and an ordained minister who was to extremely orthodox. The ordained minister died of a heart attack while we were active with the task force. The woman said to me, “He didn’t like my life style, but I knew he loved me.”

As we celebrate the independence of this country, it might be a good time to discuss this subject. The secular world, as we know it in this country, is highly polarized politically. There is little middle ground. It has even entered into the religious arena for there is now coming under question whether there should be a separation of church and state.

In all of my life, I have been taught and have heard that there are two things we never talk about in the community of faith: politics and money. Yet, those two things affect all of us each day of our lives as we live our human journey as spiritual beings. We all have our concerns about what is happening in our world.

You and I can’t change the world. This small mission cannot change the world. But what would happen if those who believe that the government needs to do more to shape how we live would bear the burden of those who believe the government has gone too far and is creating an uncontrollable debt? And, if those who are concerned about the level of debt our country has would bear the burden of those who believe the government should do more?

What would happen, if those who believe we need to be more flexible in affecting the lives of undocumented immigrants would bear the burden of those who believe we need strict laws, including the sealing of our borders. And, if those who desire stricter rules bore the burden of those who believe we need to be flexible?

What would happen if those who believe we need to do more for health care bore the burden of those that believe we have gone too far? And, what if those who believe we have gone too far, bear the burden of those who believe we have to do more?

We aren’t going to be able to change the world. But I think that people would sit up and take notice of who we are as children of God if we demonstrated how Jesus wants us to live in humility and recognized that life is about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some people might begin to grasp that the reign of God is drawing near. We, ourselves, would begin to experience that the reign of God has drawn near.

No comments:

Post a Comment