Proper 9

July 8, 2001
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Kings 5:1-14
Reading 2: 
Palm 30
Reading 3: 
Galatians 6:7-16
Reading 4: 
Luke 10:1-10, 16-20
By Keith McPaul

2 Kings 5: 1-14
Contrast the faith of the little girl, the pride of Naaman, the petulance of the King of lsrael, the wisdom of Elisha and the common sense of the servants. It is interesting that the pride and expectation of 'grand treatment' of Naaman was overcome initially by a foreign servant girl, and finally by his own servants. Is the healing of Naaman an early example of the KISS principle at work?

Psalm 30
Praise and thanksgiving to God for healing the psalmist. This passage contains two interesting ideas common in the time in history. The first being Sheol as the place of death, perhaps a physical location, and the Pit which is sometimes related to Sheol and sometimes to any diminishment or impairment of human well-being from which we may return. The second idea is much more disturbing theologically, and that is the concept of a God who withdraws protection and favour,even if "but for a moment". We would go along much more easily with the concept of a God whose "favour is for a lifetime". I do not know how I would survive if I did not think that my God was with me all the time (even if I often choose not to hear what God is saying.) Galatians 6: 1-16

Paul starts the final section of his letter with practical exhortations on living in a community of faith. He then returns to a major theme of the letter, to attack those who wish to limit the choice of the Galatians to the practices of the Jewish past. By insisting on the continuation of circumcision, the Jewish Christians are hoping to remain part of the respectable Jewish synagogue society. But Paul says that this cannot be, the cross of Christ has changed all that. Through the cross we are a new creation, and all the past systems for pleasing God are no longer valid. For Paul, by the cross, the "world has been crucified to me, and I to the world". Paul uses the term crucified to indicate a complete break from the past, a destruction that leads to a creative new life. Crucifixion to the world is the start of a new creation. Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

The seventy were sent out, why were they sent, what was their aim, what did they achieve? What is this story telling us about discipleship and the will of God? Hidden in stories like this we are told many times that Jesus wants us to "share in peace" with all whom we come in contact, to "cure the sick", and to proclaim that "the kingdom of God has come near." The seventy were told not to judge those who did not welcome them, "the kingdom of God has come near" even to them!

The past: We are shown by Paul and by Luke that although it is important to remember the past, we should not be ruled by things of the past. The opponents of Paul would have seen circumcision and obedience to the Law as a win for tradition. Circumcision and the Law were right for the Hebrew race at a point in time, but future generations of Christians must not be bound by the same past rules. Likewise we should not be bound by past prejudices. Kinship and race are no longer the main criteria for love and care, but we must "work for the good of all". Flushed with their success, perhaps the seventy disciples would have liked to have had the traditional trappings of success, and to have seen "Satan falling from heaven like a flash of lightning", and to be able "to tread on snakes and scorpions", but Jesus says that these traditional forms of praise are not important, just rejoice in what you have done, for this you will be remembered; "Your names will be written in heaven". What an interesting sentence. There are many different thoughts about what is meant by having eternal life. Some like Paul's idea of living on as a spiritual body, but I am quite comforted to know that what I do lives on in the memory of God; having my name written in heaven.

Relationships: Behind all of Paul's letters is a message about community and about relationships. If you walk in the way of the Spirit (God) then you must "Bear one another's burdens". Sure, we reap whatever we sow, we must carry our own load, and test our own work, we call this taking responsibility for our own actions. But, whenever we have the opportunity "let us work for the good of all". We have a relational God and we are being shown by Jesus and told by Paul that to be Godlike we must also be relational. Paul says that we must support each other in times of need, help one another in times of temptation, cure one another in times of illness. Perhaps we can see Jesus' charge to the seventy "Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals..." as a lesson in relationships in reverse. Sometimes it is good to be on the receiving end of help and assistance. Far too often we think that as Christians we must be strong and always give to others. Sometimes it would do us good to receive help from others, it would remind us that we are not self-sufficient, and do not live in a self-contained cocoon, it would certainly make us more humble.

Keith S McPaul is an Australian now living about 80 km north of Brisbane, but he spent nearly 20 years living and working in various South East Asian countries. After working for 40 years as a chemical engineer and manager, he retired and went back to the university and studied theology. He writes: "I was introduced to process thought whilst studying philosophy of religion and I was hooked to the extent that my wife, Judy, and I attended the Whitehead Conference at Claremont in 1998. I am Licensed to preach in the Anglican church.

My process hermeneutic has been strongly influenced by Will Beardslee and Russell Pregeant. Two quotations by Will Beardslee are of particular relevance to me. Will said "Be critical of the obvious, as they aid our preconceptions," and "Our reading of the Bible and our understanding of it depends on our understanding of God."