The Power of Weakness
Proper 9 (year c)
Psalm 30, 2 kings 5.1-14, Luke 10.1-11, 16-20, & Galatians 6.1-16
Luke 10.3-6: Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
Meditation: ...If 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. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith." (Galatians 6.8-10)
Reflection: "Our readings testify to the contagiousness of a lived faith, which not only witnesses to our dependence on God but also enables us to trust more fully in one another." - Michaela Bruzzese
Consider: "Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals;..."
Is Jesus nuts? He tells us to go out perfectly vulnerable! Why would he do that? Doesn't he realize that power is the way of procuring what it is that we want and need? Doesn't he realize that setting up his kingdom would be something that's going to need capital and prestige in order to make it great? Amazing! Doesn't he realize that we will look like fools?
I received an interesting question this week about this mission. There was an obvious struggle within Jesus' earthly ministry, in that there were not a shortage of laws, and truly, his disciples thought that there was a military conquest (to whatever degree they even understood that) to begin, thus ushering in this kingdom. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem-to the cross, and they are out and about, rallying people to this inauguration. Surely they knew enough to understand that Jesus' kingship was different, and slowly they were able to digest his methods, gaining some understanding. But, underneath, they were still thinking that these are just a means to an end-a bait and switch (maybe) until the "power" of his kingdom was revealed. In short, gaining support through good works, and in the end overthrowing the bad guys, establishing the kingdom through last minute "power." "We Win!"
However, what we find to be true later, is that Jesus wasn't playing bait and switch. He meant it from beginning to end, and the methods that he employed, were kingdom living examples modeled right before them. They were not a way to the Kingdom, but walking in the Kingdom.
It is also interesting, that when Jesus went to the cross, he didn't have his friends with him. They misunderstood the message and the method. When he went to the cross, a struggle ensued within them. Viewing their mission as failed, they were struck with the thought that the movement was aborted.
So, here is the question, when Jesus sent the twelve out earlier, and now as we read, he sends the 70 (or the 72 in earlier manuscripts), we wonder, "what was message that they were actually preaching?" great question. Why didn't most people follow him all the way? Were they preach the wrong message?
Could it be that this was the reason that there were so many (throngs in fact) of people celebrating him as he entered the city--the "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem, as it is now known? More good questions.
I do believe that Jesus was beginning to move toward making a show of evil. It was his time of gathering people, making a show of, and exposing the "powers," selfishness, and sin, for what it truly is. His message (and their message) was obviously the good news of his kingdom, and how close it has come to them. We see hints in relation to what Jesus and his mission truly were, and we, ourselves, have been prepared even down to our shoes, with the preparation of this message--the gospel of peace; the good news of the kingdom. Our reading from Galatians, divides the ideas of what constitutes spirit and what scripture calls flesh.
Today, our power struggle with Jesus, is the breaking of our old paradigms that says that we must be powerful in order to accomplish his will. Jesus hands us the option of a radical surrendering of our strength. God calls our strength "flesh" and when it is employed, the kingdom is not seen. However, if we will forgo our own prerogatives, and our own righteous agendas--assuring that there is nothing in it for us by this world standards--then the message is not tainted, and the kingdom is free to rise above the private fires of difficult lives made worse by the gasoline of purity codes and sin police; free to rise above the ashes of people's lives.
In our reading from second Kings we see a nobody; a girl; the least important; One who is done wrong and still finds the higher road of blessing those who curse. Perhaps she thought that Elisha would call down fire on Naaman, perhaps she thought that he would treat her better if the Prophet would heal him. In either case God's way of blessing was reveled in weakness, regardless of her motive, the kingdom of God came very near to Naaman.
Maybe the lesson for Naaman (and us) is that all of this is, in fact, impossible, if we are independent; strong; self-reliant and able. The little prisoner of war, needed Elisha, Namman needed Elisha, the disciples needed each other, the Galatians needed each other. None of them need a program. They needed the true good news of safety that is contained in true family. They needed a good kingdom.
When has the kingdom of God come near you? Has it come near lately? Have you positioned yourself where it be revealed through you?
We can expend a lot of energy helping people to find God with all the wrong motives--with huge misunderstanding--with our own agenda. But even in spite of our misunderstanding, and our simple mindedness, God finds a way of bursting forth in simplicity, to those he's reaching. I ask us to think, for own sake and reward, if we have made ourselves small enough to apprentice with Jesus in his mission to people in our time.
With whom are you sharing the good news of the end of domination?
Embrace your smallness.