Sermon for Proper 9, Year C, July 7, 2019

2 Kings5:1-14, Psalm 30, Galatians 6:1-16, Luke 10:1-11, 1-20

          “If anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,” this is what we are told in Galatians.  The spirit of gentleness is key to helping others, but it is missing, all too often, in our attempts to make things right.  Paul follows this directive by saying, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.” 

          One of the greatest temptations and obstacles we face, I believe, is to judge others.  Approaching others who have be caught in a transgression with a spirit of gentleness requires us to first listen.  There are at least two sides to every story and it is possible that things are not as they appear.  We seldom know the full story and, if we did, we might conclude that we would have acted in the same way – or at least we may understand why a person did what he or she did.  Listening is an act of love rather than judgement.   

          Next, Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Taken together, these three verses, offer us a path to living life in community that enables us to work together for our common good.

This letter was written to a church in conflict.  There are members who believe it was necessary to follow Jewish traditions, and those who believe being followers of Christ’s teaching is all that matters.  Each are judging the other and it was dividing the church.  At the conclusion of today’s passage, Paul reminds them that following the teaching of Christ is what is important.  Following Christ is the common ground and it is for the common good. 

          Approaching others with an open mind and with a spirit of gentleness by listening, rather than rushing to judgement, keeps us from placing ourselves in the place of God – who alone sits in judgment.  To “bear the burdens of others” we must offer help and support to each other, rather than judgement.  Think of what this would mean if these three things, approaching others with gentleness, resisting temptation to judge, and in order to help carry their burdens – imagine if these were applied to our discussions on issues of public policy.  Whether we are talking about golf courses or immigration, political discussions tend to be argumentative with the goal of winning the argument rather than finding common ground. 

Working for the common good is not name calling and condemning people, it is working to restore relationships so we can move forward together.  It requires the spirit of gentleness Paul talks about.

          Paul says, “let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”  This acknowledges the importance of our family of faith.  We pray especially for our family, our church, and our community is not to exclude others, but so that our family of faith might work together with this spirit of gentleness and work for the common good for this nation and in the world.  Jesus teaches us that everyone who is need in our neighbor, he excludes no one in his call to us to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus is sending his disciples out to do what he has been doing – curing the sick and proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God.  First, I want you to notice how many disciples Jesus sends, “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.”  When I read the scriptures, It is easy for me to focus on the twelve apostles and overlook passages such as this that teach us Jesus had many followers – and here, they are all able to make a difference. 

Note also that in this verse Jesus sends them out in pairs.  He does this because we need each other’s help to maintain our strength of conviction.  We are able to do far more together than we can alone.  This is why Paul says to pray “especially for our community of faith.” 

There is a prayer in our Morning Prayer liturgy that says, “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”   In this prayer, we not only pray that God will work through us individually, but collectively as well. 

This past Thursday we celebrated the founding of our country.  Our nation was founded on the belief that we are all created equal – and over the centuries we have been working to expand our understanding of who is included in this statement of belief.  All has not always meant all, as people of color, women, and those with different sexual orientations were not considered equal.  All has yet to mean all, but we are working on it.  Just as we sometimes struggle with who is our neighbor, we struggle with recognizing that we were created are no better and no worse than anyone else – we were all created equal.  Thankfully, we are continuing to make progress toward living into this belief.

          Not only do we need to continue this work toward equity in our nation, as a person of faith I need to work and pray for our neighbors who are oppressed and in conflict throughout the world and at our nation’s border.  We need to pray especially for our church, our community, our nation, and the world – and we need to answer Christ’s call to go ahead of him to where he intends to go. 

Let us pray.

          Loving God, help us, we pray, to respond to the needs of our neighbors, to do the work you have given us to do in this church, this community, this nation, and the world.  Give us a spirit of gentleness to love and support each other as we seek to do your will.  We ask these prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.