Engaging the Word: Readings for 7/3/16 (The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

 

2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, an army commander is cured from leprosy, Paul tells us not to grow weary of doing what is right, and Jesus sends seventy disciples on a mission trip.

Cure of Naaman in River Jordan. Enamel plaque, c. 1150.

Cure of Naaman in River Jordan. Enamel plaque, c. 1150. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

2 Kings 5:1-14: After inheriting Elijah’s spirit, Elisha performed several miracles. He purified a spring at Jericho, multiplied a widow’s oil, brought a Shunammite woman’s son back to life, purified a pot of stew, and multiplied loaves of bread to feed 100 men, foreshadowing Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes. Our God was present then, and our God is present now—purifying us, feeding us, and breathing new life into seemingly dead-end situations. Our reading this week is about the healing of leprosy.

Naaman, an important army commander of Aram, suffered from leprosy. A young girl captured from Israel was serving Naaman’s wife, and told her that a prophet in Samaria (Elisha) could cure him. The visit is arranged by way of a letter from the king of Aram to the king of Israel. Naaman brought presents of silver and gold along with the letter requesting the king to cure Naaman’s leprosy. Because of this impossible demand, the king of Israel suspects the king of Arum is trying to pick a quarrel. When Elisha heard about it, he sent the king a message, “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” Elisha may also have meant this message as a sly rebuke at the king for overlooking his prophetic ministry. When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house, Elisha didn’t bother to come out, but sent a messenger to him saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” Naaman is highly insulted. He expected Elisha to do something showier than just tell him to wash in the Jordan. His servants persuaded him to give it a try. When he did, “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy and he was clean.” Our lesson ends here, but Naaman is converted and declares, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Psalm 30: Attributed to David, Psalm 30 is a wonderful song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance from a serious illness. According to the Oxford Study Bible, the superscription “at the dedication of the temple” was added when the psalm was sung at the Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) after the cleansing and restoration of the temple in the Maccabean era.

St.Paul by Nicolo Grassi (1682-1748). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St.Paul by Nicolo Grassi (1682-1748). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Galatians 6:1-16: In this week’s conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul offers guidelines as to how to relate to one another in community. If a brother or sister stumbles, we should gently bring them back into the fold. We should care, share, and “bear one another’s burdens.” Basically, Paul says we have to grow up—to grow into Christian maturity and take responsibility for the way we live our lives—to do the work God has given us to do without comparing ourselves to others. What we do will have consequences—the misuse of freedom leads to ruin, but using it well leads to eternal life. “So let us not grow weary of doing what is right…work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

Paul writes the conclusion of his letter in his own hand, probably to emphasize the importance of what he has written. He alerts his readers to the Jewish-Christians who want them to observe the law (which they don’t observe so well themselves), and to be circumcised—that it’s a way for his opponents to boast about their successful recruiting efforts. For Paul, these religious details have nothing to do with the new thing God is doing through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It means that we, too, have been crucified to the ways of the world and raised to a new kind of life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus sent them out two by two by James Tissot (1863-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus sent them out two by two by James Tissot (1863-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20: In this week’s gospel from Luke, Jesus appointed 70 (or 72—manuscripts differ) disciples and sent them out in pairs to every town and place that he would visit later. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves.” Their mission is urgent. They need to travel light, and not get caught up in chitchat. When they are welcomed into a house, they need stay there, eat whatever is offered, heal the sick, and say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But if they enter a town and are not welcomed, shake the dust off your feet in protest, and let them know “The kingdom of God has come near.”

“The 70 returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’” Jesus shares their joy, but cautions them not to rejoice in their own power—it’s really God’s power—but to rejoice that their names are written in heaven.

Our mission is no less urgent today. We need to pray that God will send even more workers—even us!—since so many do not yet know the reality of Christ’s love.

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