Click here to view in a new window.
Click here to view in a new window.
We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.
Christmas , December 25, 2022
Explore Christmas Eve– A study of the scriptures, art and the meaning of the Christmas Scriptures.
Explore the Art of the Nativity How the Nativity has been viewed by artists
Rediscovering the love of God this Christmas- a one minute video from the Acts8Movement of the Episcopal Church
Unlikely Christmas Carols: Bruce Cockburn’s “Cry Of A Tiny Baby”
A post from teacher and theologian David Lose: “So maybe I shouldn’t describe this Christmas carol as “unlikely” in that Bruce Cockburn has explored the Christian story and theology, along with issues of human rights, throughout his forty-year career. But it may very well be unfamiliar to you. If so, you’re in for a treat, as the Canadian folk and rock guitarist, singer-songwriter’s beautiful retelling of the Christmas story blends elements of both Luke’s tender narrative of the in-breaking good news of God to the least likely of recipients – a teenage girl, her confused fiancee, down-and-out shepherds – with Matthew’s starkly realistic picture of a baby that threatens kings by his mere existence.
Here’s the link to a video with the words .
For more David Lose writing about the Christmas Eve and Christmas readings, check out the “Christmas sermon I need to hear.”
“Space in the Manger”
by Meghan Cotter. Meghan is executive director of Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that offers holistic care to the community’s street homeless
“Some time back, I watched a friend in need attempt to repair five years worth of disintegrating relationships. The library, a local gymnasium, a number of area businesses and even her family had cut off ties in response to her boisterously disruptive behavior.
” She’d picked up criminal charges—a few nuisance violations, a trespassing or two and an assault on an officer. At times, even the agencies trying to help her had been left with little choice than dismissing her from their facilities. But the more the community isolated her, the more volatile became her symptoms. She grew angrier and louder. Her self-appointment as the spokesperson for her homeless peers turned radical, even threatening. Feeling ignored and stripped of personhood, she waltzed into a church one Sunday, intent on being heard. Just in time for the sermon she rose from the congregation, rolled out a sleeping bag and unleashed a number of choice words to convey the plight of Fredericksburg’s homeless.
” The following morning, the church pastor faced a critical decision. In the interest of safety for his congregation, he too considered banning her from his church building. Instead, he made up his mind to find a way to help this woman. By the end of the week, she was hospitalized and taking medications. Within the month she had stepped down to Micah’s respite home, which cares for homeless individuals when they are discharged from the hospital. She realized how sick she really was, and a new person emerged before our eyes. She reunited with family, paid off fines, regained her driver’s license, became remarkably motivated to comply with doctor’s appointments. She set goals—seeking disability, but only temporarily, going back to school, earning a nursing degree and finding a way to productively address the needs of the community’s homeless.
“Christmas on the Edge” – Malcolm Guite
Christmas sets the centre on the edge; The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn, The fringe of empire, far from privilege And power, on the edge and outer spin Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars That edge a galaxy itself light years From some unguessed at cosmic origin. Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned A tiny seed unfolding in the womb Becomes the source from which we all unfold And flower into being. We are healed, The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb, For now in him all things are re-aligned.
Alexander Shaia – “Solstice, Shepherds & Your Animal Spirit”
Alexander Shaia is the author of Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation. A number of years we read the book together in Christian ed.
In this video he is talking about the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel. The video starts at the 2:42 mark to get to his main message:
You can read portions of the transcribed text here
“The text is really primarily about your life whenever your life is in the deepest night, when your life is in the deepest dark.”
“The Beauty of the Shepherds story in Luke is that it tells about the journey we make hearing deep in the night of our life an angel announce that there is a birth but that we have make a journey through the night to the dawn where we will see with our own eyes that fresh radiance born before us.”
A Christmas Message from Bishop Goff – “Where is this stupendous stranger?”
“So I invite us all to a spiritual discipline in this holy season and that is to spend ome time with someone you don’t ordinarily engage…maybe someone of a different generation either much older or much younger than you or someone of a different race or ethnicity, a different culture or religion, a different economic circumstance.
“Have a cup of coffee together or a meal together, talk and listen deeply. Look for the face of Christ in that person. Because as we come to really know a stranger in our midst we welcome Christ who was himself a stranger and we find surprising connections that we never imagined with other natives of this world God made.
Christmas Eve , December 24, 1968, at the Moon with Apollo 8
53 years ago on Christmas Eve we witnessed the moving reading of the first 10 verses of Genesis for the largest audience up to that time. They were told to something appropriate. The astronauts have reflected on the event. A newspaper friend of Borman tried to think of what to say and he could come up with nothing after a night’s work. His wife said (raised in convent in France) suggested, “Why don’t you start in the beginning” He said “Where?”. She said “Genesis in the Bible.” They reflected later – “Why didn’t we think of that.” Borman explained they tried to convey not happen stance but power behind world and behind life gave it meaning. As he later explained, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us-that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”
The full story is here
In Geertgen tot Sint Jans’ Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, we meet the prophet in the wilderness. A lamb keeps him company as John sits on a jutting rock by a creek, heavily cloaked, deep in thought. Although known for his fiery passion, here we see a different side of St. John: introspective, prayerful, meditative. The scene brings to mind Christ’s own time in the wilderness, a time of prayer, trial, and temptation right after he meets St. John at the Jordan. Could it be that John was preparing the way for the Lord’s own trial in the wilderness?
Just as St. John might invite Christ into the wilderness, he also prepares the way for us to venture into our own wilderness. In the wilderness of our lives, we thirst for God’s grace the most. In our daily dry existence, any quick quench tempts us, even as we know that our thirst runs deeper. In the wilderness, St. John prepares the way by prayer; his struggle there is not against the corrupt king, but against the desire of his will. Before he preaches repentance and calls for justice, he prays and ponders his utter reliance on God. And even in the midst of this spiritual struggle, he finds that God’s grace already holds him; he is seated by a life-giving stream, and the lamb curls up close by, both symbols to demonstrate God’s presence.
In these days of Advent, we experience the already and the not yet. We are in the wilderness, yet the life-giving grace of God is always and already there. At the same time, we still await the fullness of glory, the ultimate quenching of our thirst. May our own lives of prayer prepare the way of the Lord within us as we await his coming.
The Reformation began Oct. 31, 1517
Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31, alongside All Hallows’ Eve, in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities. It is a civic holiday in some German states.
It celebrates Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg in Germany on Oct. 31, 1517. The event is seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.
There are some questions of fact. The event was not publicized until 1546 by Philipp Melanchthon and no contemporaneous evidence exists for Luther’s posting of the theses. At the time, it was common for scholars to post their debate points on the door where people could read them. Copies of Luther’s theses and his fiery follow-up sermons were mass produced on a relatively new invention the printing press.
Luther’s movement began as a criticism of Catholic practices, not to split off from the Catholic church. Sinners could buy God’s forgiveness by purchasing an indulgence. Luther preferred justification by faith. He also wanted people to read the Bible in their own languages and not just in Latin
The Reformation led to the split from one Catholic church to Protestant ones. There are now nearly 45,000 Protestant denominations around the world, including mainline Protestants, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and more.
It has been seen as the most significant event in Western Christian history and mirror in which we measure ourselves today. Many of the differences that promoted the reformation have been solved – indulgences, justification by faith and having the Bible printed in multiple languages. Others such marriage of priests, same sex marriages are still divisive. Will they be able celebrate communion together ? That may take another reformation.
Here is an impromptu performance after the 11am service on Oct. 27, 2019 of part of Luther’s famous hymn. He wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529:
5. The English Reformation extended from this event which created the Church of England, the ancestor of the Episcopal Church. Henry VIII was made Supreme Head of the Church by an Act of Parliament in 1534. The country was still Catholic but the pope’s power had been ended. By the time of his death in 1547, the Lord’s Prayer was said in English in the English Bible (written in English) and the monasteries have been dissolved. The first prayer book was in 1549 in the time of Henry’s successor Edward. Read More
“The Vestry needs your pledge by Oct. 24. From the Sept 26 sermon, “When I fill out my pledge card this year, I’m going to try to remember that all that I have is a gift—as Richard Rohr says, “It’s all a gift!” –and that I can share my financial gifts freely with not only St Peter’s, but with many other groups as well, the groups that are doing what I would consider to be God’s work out in the world.”
Stewardship is … Everything I do after I say, “I believe.” Stewardship is our thankful and intentional response to the question, “What is God calling me to do with the gifts God has entrusted to me?”
Why pledge ? The pledges are the major way to support what St. Peter’s values – food distribution and meals in our community, education, outreach to those in need, Christian education and fellowship for all.
We are stewards, caretakers of God’s gifts. Everything we have was a gift from God, and God asks us to use it all for God’s purposes. Generosity flows naturally out of our gratitude for the gift of love, family, and life itself.
Stewards promote the Shalom of the Kingdom: blessings of life, health, growth, harmony, justice, abundance, fulfillment, joy, praise of God
In the church, we are stewards of the good news of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.We are called to share that good news with new generations. But we live in a world where sharing that news is becoming ever more challenging. In order to share the good news, we need financial and other resources.
Our worries about stewardship tend to focus on money. But stewardship is all about mission. It’s those gifts which help St. Peter’s ministries thrive – food distribution and meals in our community, outreach to those in need, Christian education and fellowship for all.
Convince people that the church is doing God’s mission and that it will truly transform our lives and our communities … and each of us is an integral part of that mission … heart, mind and body … and the money will follow.
Stewardship is …
+ Sharing in God’s mission with a glad, generous and grateful heart.
+ Transforming lives in our community.
+ Prayerfully responding to God’s call.
+ A deeply spiritual matter.
+ Something that blesses the giver more than the receiver.
Stewardship is discipleship; it is a complete reorientation of our lives toward God, who calls us through Jesus Christ.
Stewardship thoughts from Canterbury Cathedral
This week Canterbury Cathedral iin south England is celebrating their first Generosity Week between Sunday Oct. 3 – Oct.10. As they write, “The aim is to help us in our journey of faith, to consider the significance of generosity as Christians, and to reflect on what we can each do to demonstrate our gratitude for God’s love.”
“Throughout Generosity Week, we will be sharing links to information and reflections on this theme.”
This video which deals with “Giving Time” is part of their reflections and part of the of the Church of England stewardship teachings for this week
“Generosity is at the heart of Christian faith. God gave the world his only Son because he loved it so much. The generosity we show is testament to our lived out faith and our generous God. Each day we can be a generous disciple. Whether that’s giving to those in need or helping a neighbor, generosity lives through these everyday acts of kindness that make a huge difference to people’s lives. This harvest we invite you to join us for Generosity Week as together we will celebrate the generosity of those who have helped us through these difficult times, reflect on God’s generosity to us, and explore how we can grow generosity in our Cathedral community.”
We offered a service of Evening Prayer Sunday 6pm in 2016 for those who served and those who gave their lives 15 years ago on 9/11.
This is a short but important service.
Rev. Gary Jones of St. Stephens in Richmond wrote about 9/11 wrote about the positives from the even
“At times like this, it’s as if we become like the prodigal son. We come to ourselves, we remember our true life, and we know we need to go back home. And that is certainly what happened 15 years ago. A nation deeply divided by a bitterly contested presidential election came together in an extraordinary show of unity. It was as if we woke up and came to ourselves. We returned to prayer, and we recovered a sense of unity, kindness, and compassion. We realized then what we from time to time remember now, that it shouldn’t take a tragedy to awaken this spirit in us.” ”
There is certainly a solemnity about this anniversary, but there is also a bright and hopeful reminder of our potential – there is a light within us all that is simply waiting to be uncovered. Many of us have poignant memories of 9/11. One of mine is a gathering of 300 beaming little girls – singing, praying, hugging, and finally giggling with delight as they waved goodbye after chapel. Nine-eleven reminds me, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Climb that Hill
Here is the passage
This is at least the third time Jesus has said something provocative. Jesus makes a statement in 12:51 about not bringing peace. Also consider his actions on the sabbath in 13:11. Now another teaching moment on the cost of discipleship.
Picture yourself in the crowd following Jesus. You can only see his back. Occasionally, he turns around to deliver a difficult saying, almost as if daring people to continue following him. Yes, he is probably trying to reduce the crowd by making the way harder than it is now. Jesus is beginning to sense the “all” that lies ahead for him personally (betrayal and denial by his closest companions, followed by false arrest, torture, and brutal execution). He is trying to find the genuine seeker.
This text begins and ends with an “all or nothing” injunction about following Jesus, with two practical illustrations in between.
a. introductory statement (25)
b. “hating” family members (26) // Mt 10:37; Th 55:1; 101:1-3
c. bearing one’s cross (27) // Mt 10:38; Mk 8:34; Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23; Th 55:2
d. tower builder (28-30) –illustration 1 no parallels
e. warrior king (31-32) –illustration 2 no parallels
f. renouncing all possessions (33) no parallels
Jesus has three demands three demands or renunciations: (1) one renounces one’s family; (2) one renounces one’s life–by bearing the cross; (3) one renounces all that one has. Note the demands are for disciples, the leaders, not to those who are invited to only come eat at the table. Grace is for all but not discipleship.
The Three Demands:
1. Renounce family
The word “hate” use here is different than in our own time It means “to turn away from, to detach oneself from,” rather than our animosity-laden understanding. In Genesis, we read in one verse that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (29:30), but in the next verse, it literally says that Leah was hated (“unloved” see also v. 33). Leah was not hated like we usually use the word, but Jacob simply loved her less than he loved Rachel. Jacob didn’t have an intense dislike for Leah.
The family context is important. You were identified by your family. Individuals had no real existence apart from their ties to blood relatives, especially parents. If one did not belong to a family, one had no real social existence [like widows and orphans?]. Jesus is therefore confronting the social structures that governed his society at their core.
“Hate” is used in the sense of subordinating our natural affections, even our own being, in commitment to Jesus. A person who decides for Jesus may well find their family opposed to their new faith. In such a circumstance, loyalty to Jesus takes precedence over loyalty to family – if you want to be a disciple – a leader in the Jesus movement. Ultimately Jesus’ appeal is not to ignore people’s interest but to appeal to them. You want real profit? You want real life? Then follow me – become detached.
2. Bear Cross. Jesus usually says to take up the cross but this time is to bear the cross. In the Interpreter’s Bible it says this “Cross bearing requires deliberate sacrifice and exposure to risk and ridicule in order to follow Jesus. This commitment is not just a way of life, however. It is a commitment to a person.”
Bearing the Cross simply may mean bearing the burdens. Luke travelled with Paul and in Galatians – “From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.” If indeed Luke accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, he would be familiar with the Pauline vocabulary. Paul no doubt thought deeply about the way that his discipleship to Christ was like marks on his body–indeed, he says that his imprisonments and punishments were for Christ.
3. Give up possessions
Giving up possessions means saying farewell to them. How important are they ?The idea is not being possessed by them so they don’t divert you from the task at hand. This is also related to families Jesus regularly associated family power with possession power, because both belonged together. One of the reasons for family power was protection of possessions.
This may be more in eliminating what is dear or in the way to follow a life of simplicity to follow and act on what Jesus has to say. It is also to possibly examine our priorities and place him higher on the list
If doesn’t mean “if I give up all my possessions, I will be automatically admitted into “Christ’s club”. It is not what we don’t have that tells us whether we are genuinely followers of Christ – it is what we invest what we have in moving the kingdom of God forward in our time and in our place.
The passage ends with two parables. The first one is calculating the costs of building a tower. Think about the cost of discipleships before you begin, not during.
Often, if we wait until everything is perfectly planned before beginning a project, we would never get started. On one hand, one should know about the costs of following Jesus and not just “go along with the crowd”, but on the other hand, we don’t know exactly what “crosses” may be before us. A would-be disciple needs to consider the cost of discipleship
The second is going into battle with much fewer troops
A wise person would consider the “cost” of going to war before tackling an enemy who could easily overwhelm them. Faced with such an enemy, a wise person would sue for peace. A would-be disciple should consider the cost – don’t start what you can’t finish.
Think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made. Divided priorities drain the ability of the person to be a disciple
On one hand, Jesus makes it very difficult to be his disciple. It will cost us everything and we need to know the cost before “jumping” in. Reliance on family and possesions must be set aside for a total dependence of Jesus, the cross-bearing Christ. Such a decision for Christ comes with consequences: humiliation, shame, trouble in relationships and life in general- bearing the cross
On the other hand, Jesus may be making it impossible to be his disciple using our own abilities When we confess, “I can’t,” then we are open for God’s “I can.” Self-reliance must be set aside for a total dependence of Jesus, the cross-bearing Christ. Discipleship means a relationship of learning and growth with Jesus as the teacher and God as God, not family.
In the book Power Surge, Mike Foss lists “six marks of discipleship for a changing church” which he expects members to practice. They are:
They are simply habits of the soul that open us to the wonder and mystery of God’s active presence in our lives. They keep us focused; they fix our attention on the things of God.
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
I. Theme – God’s Call and Response to us, being sent out on mission
Today’s readings focus on the Christian experience of being sent by Jesus to continue his mission. This Sunday’s lectionary readings reflect on God’s call and our response, and how this affects the shape of grace and healing in our lives.
Isaiah speaks words of peace and hope for God’s people because God’s love never fails. Paul closes his letter to the Galatians with some final counsel on behavior within the Christian community. Luke tells of the mission of the 70 disciples and their success in defeating Satan.
How do we live out God’s faithfulness in our lives? How do we witness to others? When we read of the message to the seventy, Jesus is not calling them out to condemn and cause fear but instead to heal and proclaim Good News. God has brought Good News through Jesus Christ, but it is human beings who have drawn the dividing lines. It is human beings who will not receive the message of peace, who turn away from God’s love, who restrict and condemn others. God desires restoration, healing, and forgiveness, and offers us new life, if we choose to accept
Transformation emerges through a dynamic process of divine-human call and response. Our openness and efforts make a difference to the quality and extent of God’s presence in our lives. As scripture says, Christ is always standing at the door, knocking and seeking our attention and partnership in the quest for planetary and personal wholeness. Whether and how we the open the door to God’s graceful, intimate, and visionary energy can make all the difference in the world.
The central message this week is simple but significant – do not despise the saving power of small things. God’s commitment to justice, restoration and healing is proclaimed strongly through the Psalms and Isaiah’s song, but the way God’s saving work comes into being is often through small, ordinary people and actions
The picture of God’s care and comfort in Isaiah is that of an ordinary, familiar domestic scene – a child being nursed by its mother. Galatians speaks about the work of following Christ in the every day terms of our relationships with one another (correcting each other and sharing burdens), taking responsibility and doing good for all. And Jesus sends his disciples out to share the message of God’s reign, while accepting hospitality along the way – a very ordinary practice for travelers. Even when they celebrate overcoming demons, Jesus downplays it.
The power of the church to bring wholeness to society is in the grace, kindness and mutual encouragement that comes form living as the letter to the Galatians instructs. And, in every individual, the willingness to receive God’s grace and healing through ordinary means frees us to become channels. Our impact is often less about how we structure our services or what kind of music we use or how “prominent” we are in our community. Often it is in the quiet work of nurturing care and service within our community, and in doing the slow, transformative work of growing into caring, serving Christ-followers in our homes, workplaces and sports clubs (as Galatians calls us) that ultimately determines how effective our ministry is.
When, instead of pointing fingers at “the world” we are willing to accept its “hospitality” speaking blessing, and offering grace and mercy and justice in every situation and with every person (as the disciples were called to do), then people begin coming to us to learn more about our faith and the One we follow. But, if we fail to do this, then no amount of words or programs will be enough to compensate for our lack of grace and goodness. It’s significant that, even when the disciples were told to “shake the dust off their feet” when they were not received in a village, they were, nevertheless instructed to tell the people that God’s Reign had come to them. It was not that they were “judging” the people, so much as using a graphic and powerful image to challenge them about what they had rejected. God’s love and grace remained available to the people. In the same way, we can confront the small injustices in our communities, while still offering grace. And, in the end, what is important is not the dramatic confrontations, but the people whose names are “written in heaven” – who have discovered life in the dream of God.
In practical terms, this move toward “ordinary justice” has very significant implications. If we are to reverse the impact of climate change, it will take small but significant shifts in the habits of many ordinary people. If our world is to become more peaceful, it will mean ordinary people must learn to understand and respect one another, recognizing our common humanity. If wealth is to be equitably distributed, it will mean changing the values by which ordinary individuals live from consumerism to simplicity and from accumulating to giving. If these shifts were just taken seriously by Christ-followers alone, the impact would be nothing short of miraculous. As Christians around the world join together in peace-making, hospitality, taking responsibility for the change we can bring and doing small acts of goodness, the Gospel message is preached clearly and powerfully, with very few words necessary.
The one reading that appears to be out of place is the alternative Psalm (66) – but here the focus is on the Exodus, which, although proclaimed through retelling the miraculous story, is about the very ordinary human longing for liberation and salvation – which is, of course, the essence of the message that Jesus’ disciples would have preached.
First Reading – Isaiah 66:10-14
Background – It’s hard to pin down the context and author of this passage, from the third great division of the book of Isaiah, chapters 56-66. It would make sense to assume that some godly person spoke this to exiles returning from the Babylonian Captivity. (That was the period, also called the Exile, when many, but not all, residents were taken away from Judea and held in Babylon for a couple of generations in the sixth century B.C.E. We know from the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, that the rebuilding of their hometown Jerusalem was disappointingly slow.)
Apparently the people were losing faith that God would restore things for them, for the prophet is almost defensive in his assertion “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” And the imagery is quite extravagant. It’s as if the prophet himself is whistling in the dark, to stave off doubt and despair.
Today’s reading develops the image of Jerusalem as the once desolate mother who in the end-time will be the source of all joy and nurture. Its structure is like that of a psalm where an initial idea (joy) is contrasted in the next strophe with opposite idea (mourning
Isaiah 66 explicitly uses feminine imagery to refer to God. As Isaiah often does, Yahweh’s tender care for the people is compared to that of a comforting mother (42:14, 49:15, 66:9). This image of God as a mother carrying her child, comforting a child who is sad or hurt is extremely nurturing and needed for a community that was coming out of exile. Yahweh’s covenant bond is rooted in a love that never fails. The desolate and discouraged people will be comforted and their sadness will turn to joy.
Jerusalem is also seen as a nursing mother caring for her children. The people who have been in exile are like lost children, who have been searching for their mother, but their mother, God, has also been searching and waiting for them. God has not forgotten them, and God will rejoice with them.
Verses 15 and 16 are an oracle of judgment upon the lord’s enemies, who are the idolatrous in Israel (v. 17) rather than the Gentiles, who will come to worship God (66:18-23). God’s judgment will be carried out by fire and sword.
Psalm – Psalm 66:1-8
Psalm 66:1-9 recalls God’s deliverance of the people from Egypt, and they recall this deliverance in song and praise. This is the God of the living, the God of life, who restores life when it is taken, who renews all things. The people remember God’s acts of deliverance in history and find hope in the stories of old. It is a psalm that centers on God, and the foundational acts of Israel as a people.
This psalm of praise and thanksgiving is divided into several parts, which may have been composed or used at different times. The first part (vv. 1-4) is a hymn to God. All of the earth is invited to sing praise to God Verses 5-12 give thanks for the deliverance of people through God’s saving power, as shown in the crossing of the Red Sea and/or the Jordan (v. 6). The acts of God were not just past history but were made present through recollection and reenactment in the liturgy. So the exodus events became a way to understand the return from exile in Babylon (vv. 10, 12). Likewise for Christians, this psalm speaks of participation, through baptism, in Christ’s resurrection.
Epistle – Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Galatians 6:1-16 ends our series of readings from Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul has been arguing against those that have received the false Gospel, that requires Gentile converts to keep to the Jewish law first, and Paul has been angry with leaders such as Peter who have been hypocrites about what they practice and how they are seen.
Leaving behind the discussion and arguments concerning freedom and the law, Paul turns to issues of practicality within the Christian life: a) dealing with those who have transgressed (Paul argues for “gentleness” and taking up another’s burdens.
This means to restore one another with a spirit of gentleness (in other words, to forgive) understanding and the sharing of difficulties, to work together for the good of all. b) “Sowing good – in the Spirit”, arguing that we should in our works of righteousness do that which is right, working for the good of all, and c) Knowing that in which to take pride. He warns that it is not born of the traditional pride of circumcision, but rather the cross of Christ.
Paul’s blessing to them is that they remain strong in Christ, and that all are a new creation in Christ, where the law, where the divisions of Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free do not exist any longer. Christians are submitted to “the law of Christ,” not a legal code but a Persno
Paul urges the community to provide for its teachers and to persevere in doing good. He summarizes the theme of the letter, declaring that it is participation, not in circumcision, but in crucifixion with Christ (2:19, 5:24) and thus in the new creation, which is the Christian’s only glory. This is the true continuity with the past. Those, both Jew and Gentile, who follow Christ, are the true chosen people, “the Israel of God.”
Paul himself bears the evidence of this commitment to Christ; the word translated “marks” is in Greek stigmata, meaning a scar (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) or a slave’s brand of ownership. The use of stigmata to refer to the marks of the crucifixion came much later. He closes the letter, which began so harshly, with a blessing upon the recipients.
Gospel – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The larger reading is made up of five smaller units: a) Instruction for “the Seventy” (verses 1-12), b) The Impenitent (not in our reading, excepting verse 16) (verses 13-16), c) The Seventy return (verses 17-20), d) a Thanksgiving (not in our reading) (verse 21), and e) Blessings (verses 22-24 also not in our reading). Our reading focuses in on the mission of the seventy and what the learned in their service.
The first part, the mission of the 70 disciples, is recorded only by Luke. This reading recalls a similar mission of the “Twelve” in the previous chapter ( Luke 9:1-5). What is the meaning of the numbers? The twelve are the disciples, of course, their number symbolic of Israel. The number seventy (“seven” denoting perfection, and the multiplication by ten indicating a great number) was a term used to describe “the Nations”. Thus these couples are sent out to all the world.
Luke understands their mission as foreshadowing the later mission of the Christian community to the world. They are to go out two by two as witnesses into the harvest, the final gathering of God’s people. They are to rely upon God to protect and provide for them.
Jesus sent 70 disciples out to towns he was about to visit, warning them he was sending them out “like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Jesus was able to survey that sorry landscape, the dusty roads, abject poverty and skeptical people and see a golden field, glowing richly with harvest. He tries to convey his vision to his followers, makes them his forerunners, and instructs them in actions he himself would be likely to take.
There are practicalities to be observed: simplicity, focus, observation, and thankfulness . They are to travel light and bring peace to each household they visit. They come bringing no goods with them, nor an agenda, but simply to say, “Peace to this house! If they are not received, they are to wipe the dust off of their sandals, which Jesus already told the twelve to do in their previous mission in 9:1-6.
They should be adaptable, following local eating and drinking customs, not demanding special treatment. Curing the sick, they should encourage people that God’s reign was close enough to touch, even in their midst. Their primary message, then is one of healing and encouragement.
This passage today contains also when the seventy have returned. They are called to go and share the Good News and to do deeds in the name of Jesus that proclaim that Good News. They are not called to condemn, or to preach hellfire and brimstone like John but rather leave the worrying about who receives the message of God’s love up to God. That’s not their concern. Their concern is to do the Good News: to preach, heal, bless, and bring the message of peace.
Rejection, it appears, was not to change the focus of the journey – namely the message that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Jesus counsels persistence and non-attachment. Your work is not about your success or achievement but faithfulness to God and the well-being of those whom you serve. If people treat you well, be faithful, and let the power of God flow, enriching and deepening their lives and possibly even transforming their bodies and social standing. If people turn their back on you, scorning your message, continue on your journey, letting go of any sense of failure or desire for revenge. We are responsible for the fidelity of our message and our spiritual well-being; the rest is up to the gentle providence of God and the decisions of those to whom we minister.
We can reasonably assume from this scripture that the disciples also had some bad experiences, although Luke reports only the disciples’ immediate success, from which they returned in joy. Jesus told them their joy was misplaced. The divine protection and power they experienced was only a fringe benefit. True joy comes from knowing “that your names are written in heaven.” Furthermore, he gives them a steely strength from which to draw. They are empowered to do great deeds, to confront evil and remain unharmed.
Their urgency calls attention to the belief in the nearness of the promised end times, and their poverty and peaceableness echoes that urged by Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:29-49). For Luke, “peace” is particularly associated with the salvation Jesus brings (1:79, 2:14, 29, 7:50, 8:48, 19:38). There is to be no quibbling over dietary rules (such was an issue in the Gentile mission, for example in Acts 11:1-18, Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 10:25).
The disciples proclaim Jesus’ own message, “the kingdom of God is at hand for you” (10:9, 11, 11:20), rather than the Christian post-Easter proclamation about Jesus. The final defeat of Satan that will characterize the end times is foreshadowed by their mission and begins to occur because of it.