Reading Ramblings – July 7, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost ~ July 7, 2019

Texts: Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7; Galatians 6:1-18; Luke 10:1-20

Context: We’re settling into the flow of Ordinary Time. We are working our way through Galatians and Luke, and hopefully in the meantime using the texts of this season as a way of bringing out the full counsel of God – preaching on a variety of Biblical themes as they apply to the life of the Church and individual Christians. The readings today loosely center on the issue of power and pride. Who are we to thank when things go well for us, or when adversity or evil are overcome? True pride and boasting can only rest in God, through whom we are granted victory and deliverance over and from those things that are first and foremost opposed to him, rather than us.

Isaiah 66:10-14 – Jerusalem has not had an easy go of it with Isaiah. God is displeased with his people and their rejection of his will and way in favor of their own ideas of good and evil. For this reason punishment has come and will continue to come. But if we think God has abandoned his people in his heart, we are sorely mistaken. What has been pruned will burst forth in new growth. What has been punished will shine with restored identity and relationship. God will be once again the comfort of his people, to his glory rather than theirs. What we too easily dismiss as global politics or the convoluted machinations of geo-political forces we should more rightly consider to be a realm where God works out his will and plan. While we may not have the clarity of Isaiah’s words to guide us in interpreting these things, we can nonetheless celebrate when God achieves victory over evil, when his Word is freed for proclamation and changing the hearts and lives of people. We can trust that God is never absent, only hidden, and we can seek God where He can most clearly and reliably be found – in the Son of God made flesh, hanging on the cross for you and I and raised from the dead for you and I.

Psalm 66:1-7 – This is the proper relationship of creation to Creator – the entire earth engaged in praise of the God who created her! What Isaiah speaks specifically to the people of Jerusalem will one day be true on a global scale. This will be based, like Isaiah and Jerusalem, on the acknowledged actions of God on behalf of his creation. While the Exodus is specifically referenced (v.6), we will one day be privileged (I pray!) to see how God was equally at work in many and various ways on behalf of a creation beleaguered with sin and lost in rebellion. For this reason we should beware of pride and arrogance on both the personal and national level. Perhaps this is a good reminder, so close to the Fourth of July and celebrations of American independence. We should be cautious in reaching around to pat ourselves on the back, and more rightly place our hands together in praise and thanksgiving to our God!

Galatians 6 – The assigned reading omitted vs. 11-13, but there’s really no reason to do this and it makes more sense to keep them in there. Paul is writing to a community struggling with identity. Are they first and foremost Jews who happen to follow Jesus, so that the rigors and requirements of the Jewish faith are first and foremost in their minds and Jesus perhaps an afterthought? Or are they first and foremost followers of Jesus who happen to be Jewish, so that the importance of those rigors and requirements settle into a decidedly secondary place behind the all-sufficient work of the Son of God? His hearers are struggling with the matter of pride – pride in living out scrupulously the details of their Jewish heritage to the point where these become more important than the gift of the Son of God in Jesus the Christ. This is dangerously incorrect! Rather than take pride that you are a better Jew than someone else, or rather than take pride that you are a better Christian than someone else, we ought always to view ourselves with humility and therefore our brothers and sisters with charity. Our goal ought not to be victory or boasting about ourselves, but rather helping our brother or sister in the faith. Each of us has different loads to bear, but we can help one another with those loads. An uncharitable nature is not simply unpleasant, it might be a warning sign of deeper issues with our faith. Our boasting should be in Christ alone, who alone has done what is necessary for our salvation!

Luke 10:1-20 – Jesus sends out his disciples on a mission trip. He sets the overall parameters for how they are to conduct this work (vs.1-12) and empowers them specifically to accomplish it (vs. 5-6, 9-11). It is inferred that they will not be universally accepted (vs.13-16), and that some of their opposition is demonic (v.17). It is also inferred that powerful things happen when the disciples of Jesus are received, when their peace is received.

But all these manifestations are secondary. It might be cool to command a demon to leave someone, but that’s not the true work. The true work is in hearts and minds being brought to faith in the Son of God who makes the manifestations both possible and meaningful. Without a final and authoritative victory – the victory of the Son of God in sacrificial death for creation – the smaller victories are meaningless. What good is it to cast out a demon if you don’t know the source of the power you wield? What good is temporary deliverance or healing separated from the source of eternal life?

Much more is on the line. The true agony of those who reject the Word of God, like the inhabitants of Chorazin (a town about two miles away from Capernaum, in Jesus’ home territory) and Capernaum itself is that their rejection has eternal consequences. With such stakes, how can petty pride ever really be appropriate? How can it ever be seen as something grossly inappropriate?

True pride can only be in the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only saw Satan fall like lightning but facilitated that fall. Whether this refers to the primal casting of Satan and his followers from heaven in their initial revolt, or whether this refers to Satan’s expulsion from the heavenly courtroom following Jesus’ victorious ascension, or whether this refers to Satan’s final expulsion to hell on the Last Day is difficult to ascertain and perhaps irrelevant. They are all related, all part of a single fall, as it were. The victory is accomplished only through Jesus, and only in his name is boasting ever appropriate and proper!

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