July 3, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us. With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey, that we may spread your peace in all the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

2 Kings 5:1-14

1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” 
  He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30

1I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lift- | ed me up
  and have not let my enemies triumph | over me.
2O Lord my God, I cried | out to you,
  and you restored | me to health.
3You brought me up, O Lord, | from the dead;
  you restored my life as I was going down | to the grave.
4Sing praise to the Lord, | all you faithful;
  give thanks in ho- | ly remembrance. 
5God’s wrath is short; God’s favor | lasts a lifetime.
  Weeping spends the night, but joy comes | in the morning.
6While I felt se- | cure, I said,
  “I shall never | be disturbed.
7You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong | as the mountains.”
  Then you hid your face, and I was | filled with fear.
8I cried to | you, O Lord;
  I pleaded with | my Lord, saying,
9“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down | to the pit?
  Will the dust praise you or de- | clare your faithfulness?
10Hear, O Lord, and have mer- | cy upon me;
  O Lord, | be my helper.” 
11You have turned my wailing | into dancing;
  you have put off my sackcloth and clothed | me with joy.
12Therefore my heart sings to you | without ceasing;
  O Lord my God, I will give you | thanks forever.

Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16

[1My 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. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.
6Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.] 
7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If 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. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It 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. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May 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. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As 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

1After 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. 2He 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. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain 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. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘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.’ ”

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What a great set of scripture passages for the Sunday after Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. This was our fifth year of this four-day day camp for youth ages 6-13. We had between 80-95 youth at the Hispanic Cultural Center each day, learning about conflict resolution, mindfulness, connecting with nature, and media literacy. Cosmo from Empty Hand Combat joined us the first afternoon and camp ended Thursday afternoon with a dance party led by the Swahili children’s choir. We plan and plan and execute, but as with lots of things we plan, including last weekend’s church campout, it’s the serendipitous moments of grace that we remember. I’ll share a few of those moments in this sermon. 

But first let’s turn to the final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We daughters and sons of the Reformation could easily think only of Paul’s emphasis on justification by grace through faith when we read and think of this letter. Indeed, that’s a gift Paul offers in previous passages. Chapter five includes one of my favorite verses on freedom, which would have been appropriate for the weekend preceding July 4. 

But our passage today reminds us that Paul is equally concerned with ethics as evidenced by this “so what does all this really mean for our daily lives section.” I led a Bible Study on Galatians on Zoom throughout June and as I’ve talked about it and thought about it, I’ve summed it up to conversation partners this way. Paul makes it clear that we are freed through Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t give us permission to be jerks (I actually used another word that would probably pause our livestream). 

One scholar explained that faith and works function throughout this letter as a kind of dialectic. Put another way, faith and works are an inseparable pair of opposites, no different than how breathing in follows breathing out. That’s why Paul tells the Galatians to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. It’s why simultaneously each person must bear their own load, to take up one’s share of the common responsibilities of those in need. It’s why Paul emphasizes that a person will reap what they sow. He tells the Galatians to not lose heart in doing good, to not grow weary in the assurance that they will reap what they have planted. 

Faith, a gift from God in itself, brings with it gifts of forgiveness and new life. We are invited into the new creation Paul writes of. But we are also invited to participate in new creation, to imagine and create and contribute to it.

One of our craft projects las week was decorating white tiles with permanent marker and then dropping rubbing alcohol on it and swirling it around—super colorful and fun. One of the adult shepherds, a volunteer who leads an age group for the four days, made a tile that everyone admired. It was taken home by someone else. 

The next morning during announcements it was suggested that someone made a mistake. A child came forward to the shepherd artist. The shepherd explained that the tile was meant to be a gift for her mom. There was repentance on the child’s part and amazing grace, more than I probably would have mustered, by the shepherd. She showed him how to decorate his own tile, so it looked like hers. This adult showed the kid what it means to live in new creation, and I hope that the memory of the experience will not fade soon.

In verse 11, Paul takes the parchment from the scribe and writes his own P.S. or postscript. These words are his last opportunity to drive home his point before the letter is handed over to the courier. What Paul writes in his postscript harkens back to the central controversy that prompted the letter in the first place.

Paul founded the churches in Galatia. He spent time among them as the Galatians nursed him back to health while he recovered from an injury or illness. Paul preached that both Jews and Gentiles are justified or brought into right relationship with the God of Israel through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul then left them to preach elsewhere.

After Paul left, other teachers arrived in Galatia and preached a different gospel. These other teachers told the Galatians that to be in right relationship with God they must all be circumcised. Paul calls these teachers hypocrites who don’t even keep the law themselves but want to boast in the Galatians being circumcised. 

Paul learned about these teachers and fires off this letter to the Galatians. He argues that it is not words of the law like circumcision that bring the believer into right relationship with God. On the contrary, Paul says, come as you are. They only thing needed to be in right relationship with God is Jesus. The passing reference to “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision” is shorthand for this conflict inspiring the entire letter. 

Instead of circumcision or uncircumcision, what really counts is new creation. Often, we have read this as the individual believer or follower of Jesus, but we should remember that Paul’s primary concern through this letter is not so much for the individual but for how groups of people can be in right and just relationship with one another and the church.

I could not help but think about all of this when my Karen Hunter, Nampa’s Episcopal Priest, and my colleague of 10 years, told me this story about one family who came to Peace Camp last week. The mom had emailed our coordinator Brendan shortly before camp started. She wondered if her teenage son, developmentally delayed, could be signed up with the six-year-olds, and she would help that group out. 

Our leadership team thought that sounded fine. Several older sisters also came and helped. At the end of the four days the mom told Karen what a great experience they had all had, including the son. No Vacation Bible School had allowed him to participate because of his learning disabilities. Presumably they could not fit him in the age categories they had created. 

Now, we should be gentle with other churches. I have no idea how many the mom approached. But a “no” from one church is really too much in my humble opinion. Further, I have been part of congregations and church affiliated groups that put too much emphasis on the laws that separate and categories and exclude. New members have been brought to tears by rules in church kitchens. But, this weekend I’m celebrating that Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, said yes to the child of God, yes to relationship over rules, yes to new creation.

The Apostle Paul traces the movement from life in God’s Creation, to death through Jesus’ crucifixion and the call of believers into this cruciform life, to a new creation. In this new creation, the old ways of relating, that one must become something else to belong, that one must exclude others from table fellowship, fall away. What remains instead in new creation is a new call into right relationship with the other, a call that extends not only to one’s fellow human beings but beyond to God’s Creation itself.

I see a great tie-in with our story from Luke’s gospel in which Jesus sends the 70 out on a mission. It becomes clear, if it was not always obvious, that this is a mission of dependence. That is, this is God’s mission through Jesus Christ, and he remains in charge. We do not always know where that will take us (physically, relationally, emotionally). We do not go by ourselves but in community. We do not always provide for ourselves. Sometimes we depend on the kindness of strangers. The goal of the mission is not the elevation of power or status by those sent by Jesus. The goal is the joy that comes in participating in Jesus’ mission of life now and life eternal. This joy is both for us and for those who receive the fruits of our mission. 

What matters most of all is our eternal relationship with God through Jesus. This relationship is yours by grace. We are at the same time recipients of and heralds of God’s grace and mercy. As the 70 disciples journey to Jerusalem, they see the depths to which God’s grace extends. They will be called to witness to what they have seen. Regardless of the visible outcomes of their ministry, their place in God’s kingdom is secure. And still, faith is active in love. Faith and works remain bound together like our inhale and exhale, all part of the new creation.

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Lord of the harvest, you send your church into the world to proclaim Christ’s new creation to all. Renew the church as it carries out your mission of peace and healing. We pray for missionaries who accompany your people. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your creation abounds with flowing waters and diverse creatures. Guide the work of climate scientists as they develop and advocate ways to restore earth’s natural balance. Motivate humankind to adopt lifestyles that protect and sustain the earth. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

You guard the nations; let no leaders exalt themselves, but lift up the most vulnerable and work for the good of all. Send your Spirit to eradicate classism and inequity, violence and war, poverty and hunger. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

You desire abundant life for all. As we celebrate Independence Day, instill in us gratitude, generosity, and persistence in working toward freedom for all people (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Mothering God, you care for all people in need. Nourish those who are hungry. Restore employment to those who have lost work. Heal those who are sick, and comfort all who are dying or grieving (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We remember the saints who proclaimed your reign on earth and now rest in you (especially Thomas the Apostle, whom we remember today). Make us faithful in our witness to Christ’s new creation. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

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