To summarize Jesus: Rejoice! You are conduits for the healing power of God.
The readings today are all about the healing power of God, and the healing power that flows through us - and the greater joy in that reality. They also speak to us of pride and how that interferes with our joy. All three of our readings today act as their own parables for this greater lesson: “let go and let God.”
In the Gospel of Luke and in the book of Acts, joy is a consistent and vital part of the expression of Christian spirituality. There is freedom in this joy. We do not need to be so troubled that things happen exactly the way we personally expect. There is freedom in letting go of our personal pride and desire for control.
In the Old Testament lesson from Kings today we see Naaman’s pride turn to anger because of expectation. His young servant offers him a simpler solution. How often have we created a more complicated and difficult situation because of our pride - only to discover there was an easier way that could’ve caused less damage. We don’t need to project our own ideas about how something should be done. When we do so, we may miss the opportunity right in front of us; to be present to the gifts in the moment. Naaman is awakened by a servant who acts as that conduit of healing and allows him to receive God’s greater healing.
In the New Testament reading some of the earliest Christians were pressuring the Galatians to be circumcised. How often does our pride get in the way of offering a healing and inclusive response to another. We want others to look like us, or (in our worst moments) even have suffered like us before we think they deserve the grace of God. Paul reminds us that we don’t need to pressure others to fit into our mold of what it looks like to be a child of God. Focus and take pride in your own works. “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” How much more freedom we’ll have than wasting our God-given energy on trying to control how others show up. Instead offer the healing welcome to those who have heard the word.
Finally in the Gospel Jesus reminds us, do not miss the mark by believing that the grace and healing of God is your personal power to yield, but rather know you have the gift to be a part of God’s powerful healing work in the world.
All of these passages point to a greater message of joy: a saving joy, a healing joy in letting go of our pride. We suffer when we desire things to always go our way. Others also suffer when we desire things to always go our way. There is Freedom in letting go and a joy in that freedom! The Gospel of Luke has a primary thread of Joy running through it. Yet, why do we not notice it? Why are so many teachings heard as a tough shot across the bow rather than as a window into God’s greater perspective? …A window to our own freedom?
In the Gospel Jesus sends seventy followers out ahead of him to spread the news that the power of God is a healing power. They are successful everywhere they go in sharing the good news through healing: curing the sick and casting out demons. The seventy returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” So He told them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The disciples express joy that even the demons were subject to them under the name of Jesus. Jesus responds by transferring their joy from a pride of victory - to the joy of their salvation. But this is far from a stern teaching. Jesus is elated!
One problem I have with our selection from the Gospel today is that it is cut short. It doesn’t include the next two lines (which I not only love) but the Church seems to fail to convey: Jesus jumps for joy!
The end of our reading of Luke 10:20 reads:
Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Directly following is: 21At that time Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and declared, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight.”
The word that is used here for Jesus’ rejoicing is different from the other forms of joy the disciples express. (In the Greek) It is literally “jumped for joy.” It is a wild and exultant joy, not simply gladness. And Jesus reminds the disciples to be awake to the real source of their joy. We are rejoicing (not because we have the power to heal, but because we are conduits for the healing power of God).
The second part of his message is that in their healing work they are ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. They were told,
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Jesus is reminding the disciples that their Joy in the present (their excitement about successfully healing so many) is connected to their bond in an everlasting relationship with God. “Jesus is also jumping for joy over all of the new believers who know that they are loved for all eternity... (David Garland).
So the Gospel message we are receiving is that through the power of healing, the reign of God is here - and it has come close to all nations who received it.
Our ability to act as healing conduits for others makes us gateways to the joy of the Heavenly Kingdom. Contemplatives suggest the gateway to Heaven is everywhere! It is available if we are awake and act. We are indeed - and in all nations available to be that healing presence for one another. If we get out of our own prideful way, the grace of God will flow more freely. And how liberating.
On this fourth of July weekend we are reminded of our responsibilities. “Letting go and letting God” is not being complacent. We still need to raise children and grandchildren, vote, have peaceful and informed discussions, make difficult decisions and challenging compromises. We strive to discern and develop sound opinions. We hope to offer wise and thoughtful advice. We pray to be a safe and healing presence to others.
While always remembering:
We are beloved by God within a greater story of redemption and joy.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20,21