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Fr Paul
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Fr Jim
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4th Sunday after Pentecost
July 07, 2019
Christ Church, Niagara Falls

Jesus sent out seventy people in pairs empowering them to bring peace, to cure the sick and to proclaim the kingdom of God. Initially, he sent them to every town and village where he intended to go, saying, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few...." I believe this particular story in the life of Jesus and the early Christian Church has implications for our own communities of faith today.

Jesus came among us to preach, to teach and to heal. He came to reconcile human beings to the God of all creation and to each other. Jesus reminded his followers that God's love surpasses their understanding and the importance of living into that love by engaging the ministry of justice and mercy for all. Jesus said to the seventy, and in our own day he says to us, "Go."

As Luke recounts the story of Jesus' life, Jesus began his ministry of teaching and healing alone. After his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, his forty-day discernment in the wilderness and temptation by Satan, Jesus returned to Nazareth where he had been brought up. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom. He was given the scroll of Isaiah the prophet to read. The portion Jesus read was about the expected Messiah. After reading, Jesus sat down, as was the custom. With the eyes of all upon him expecting a word of explanation, Jesus said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." At first people were amazed, and then it sank in what he had said. This was Joseph, the carpenter's son. Who did he think he was? They got up and drove Jesus out of town.

Moving on to Capernaum, Jesus began his ministry of healing and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. If the good news Jesus preached had depended on his traveling alone from village to village, the good news would not have circulated in the powerful way it did, standing the test of time for over two thousand years. Jesus understood the importance of relationships to the work of reconciliation. We read in Scripture that Jesus often sought time alone in prayerful relationship with God. But in the sixth chapter of Luke, we learn that after a night of prayer, Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples. These twelve would share a special communal bond with Jesus and each other. They would hear Jesus teach and when they were confused by what he said, they would engage him in conversation. They saw power pour out of him as he healed and cast out demons. They watched him feed a crowd of five thousand with just five barley loaves and a few fish. 

During the last week of his life, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. During this observance Jesus told them that when they gathered together as his followers they were to break the bread and share the cup in remembrance of him. They were present during the trial and stood by as Jesus was handed over to be crucified. After his death, the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples and told them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once the Spirit came upon them, these same disciples proclaimed the kingdom of God so people from many lands could understand the good news of God's kingdom. 

After Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, the good news of God's reconciling work depended on a network of people who were witnesses to what God had done. If Jesus had not empowered other disciples to go and proclaim God's kingdom, this important message may well have been silenced. But Luke in both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles focused on the harvest and the call of laborers to engage the reconciling work of God's kingdom. Proclaiming the kingdom is a communal and relational activity to which the whole body of Jesus' followers had been commissioned. For Luke this proclamation of the message began when Jesus commissioned seventy and sent them out. He sent them out to share in pairs as a communal activity in order the spread the good news of God's love, mercy and justice.

This intentional empowering and sending out reminds the church today that we need to be engaged in the same empowerment and reconciling activity. Too often Christian churches in our day are captured by concern over a leaky roof or outdated buildings. We anguish over a lack of participation in worship as people did in the past. We spend an inordinate amount of time feeling anxious about the demise of the Christian Church and forget that like the seventy in the Gospel story, we have been empowered. Empowered to share the good news of God's reconciling work in our world today. 

Jesus in sending out the seventy warned them that this ministry was not easy. Their commission was to share the good news of God's redeeming work and not just be people pleasers. "See I am sending you out as lambs among wolves." One might assume that in this age of social media spreading the message has become easier. Yet, in our day the message is more likely to encounter indifference than rejection. While technology is remarkable and can broaden access to people, it inhibits authentic relationship with God and with each other. Faced with this challenge, how do we engage this work today in our world?

I believe Jesus knew what he was doing when he sent the seventy out in pairs instructing them to engage others in relationship as a sign of God's kingdom. Allow me to share example from my own experience of how the church has been successfully engaged in the ministry of reconciliation and spreading the good news of God's kingdom.

As an urban parish, we have had many requests from people seeking some form of assistance for a genuine need. What I have come to realize is that need is growing amongst the sidelined and forgotten citizens of Niagara Falls. In my relationships with these people, I have attempted to represent God’s healing love to them and have been able to support many as they began a new chapter in their lives. I pray that they will recognize that in our support for them as a parish, they might realize that indeed “the kingdom of God has come near.”

Jesus empowered seventy to go out, to share love, to bring about healing and to proclaim the good news of God's reign. That call continues today in the water of baptism when as Christians we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons. As we strive for justice and peace in our world, those whose lives are impacted realize the power of God's reign to change lives and change the world we live in. The harvest remains plentiful. The laborers in the harvest continue across the ages to be empowered to share the reconciling message of God's love. Go therefore...join with others in the power of the Spirit spreading the good news of God's kingdom. Go!

Let us pray. Almighty God in your name you've urged us to go and proclaim your love throughout the world. Empower and embolden us with your spirit that we like the seventy may proclaim your peace and reconciling love in our world. We pray in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.   

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we do also for him.  Give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave up his life and died for us, but lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Lesson

2 Kings 5: 1-14

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And 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. He 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.’ When 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.’

But 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.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But 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! Are 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. But 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”?’ So 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

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
   and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
   and you have healed me.
Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
   restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
   and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
   his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
   but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
   ‘I shall never be moved.’
By your favour, O Lord,
   you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
   I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cried,
   and to the Lord I made supplication:
‘What profit is there in my death,
   if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
   Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
   O Lord, be my helper!’
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
   you have taken off my sackcloth
   and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
   O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever

.Second Lesson

Galatians 6: 1-16

My 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. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 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.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It 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. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May 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. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

The Holy Gospel
 

Luke 10: 1, 15-20

After 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. And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
   No, you will be brought down to Hades.

‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

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

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