14th Sunday after Easter, July 3, 2022 Holy Wisdom Monastery
Isaiah 66: 10-14; Galatians 6:7-16; Luke 10:10-11,16-20 Patti La Cross
It’s easy to be lulled by these verses from Isaiah. To hear rejoicing, and relax with the image of infant bliss: being held, fed, nodding off to sleep.
Then we register its future tense: Jerusalem has been destroyed, and Isaiah is speaking comfort to the exiles. ThIs is also a reading for our time. Today Isaiah can invite us to hold space in our prayer for the anguish of the 89 million persons displaced from their homes around the world, and to support efforts to sustain their lives.
I hope we find this excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Galatians more accessible by pausing to remember Pentecost – O Happy Day!
-the rich diversity of the assembled crowd, all of whom heard the Gospel proclaimed with vitality!
-the pondering of those hearers as they headed home, animated by the promise of New Life, wondering how it might impact their lives, within family, village, temple.
They were returning to the different traditions that shaped their lives until then.
Imagine the countless questions that may have arisen as they tried to incorporate this new embrace of the crucified and risen Jesus into their daily lives. Surely tensions, maybe clashes arose.
The Galatians Paul addressed were one such group. Perhaps they were influenced by the strict Essenes, or Pharisees in their midst. We hear that they were accustomed to the observance of Halakhah, the Jewish path of ritual and law. And they argued with Paul, insisting that non-Jewish male converts to Jesus needed to undergo circumcision, which meant commiting to observe the whole of the Law. Might they have felt this would make their embrace of Christ seem less radical?
Paul, himself an Israelite and early persecutor of Christians, pushes back forcefully against this pressure. To circumcise those new to Jesus’ way clearly meant something to the Jewish Christians, but Paul asserts it would add nothing to the faith lives of his pagan converts, but burden them with many rituals in which they had not been raised.
His mission focused on Jesus’ singular command of inclusive love and mercy, hallmarks of the New Creation. This love – is the daily ritual in which they, and we, are to persist without faltering: The hard work of accepting, forgiving and supporting one another. This unconditional love ought to describe us, and with the power of Jesus crucified, set us free.
After Paul had been preaching for over 15 years, his teaching on this subject was validated by the First Council of Jerusalem. When they sent him back out, it was with just one exhortation: “remember to help the poor.” As we must. Two millennia in, we are still challenged and judged by these simple commands: do we dedicate ourselves throughout each day to a resilient and unconditioned love? Does it actively embrace those outside our usual circles? and those who seek healing and hope?
In today’s Gospel, as Jesus sends 70 followers to take his Good News to the far reaches, he advises them, “parentally” , to stay with their buddy, carry nothing and not draw attention to themselves. Preach where you are welcomed, otherwise move on. So, with the urgency of breaking news, they go off into the world…..
“Peace” is to be their greeting, and they are to embody it. The peace they carry from Jesus is a prayer begetting tranquility in those they meet. It is healing, and it is capable of opening the door to where God dwells.
As good guests they are to eat whatever is set before them, not holding to rigid dietary laws or judgements as they leave their customary tables to enter new territories and cultures.
This instruction rings differently In our day, with its breadth of food choices, known intolerances, and great dietary variances. You may recall hesitation and a mildly forced “thank you” when served something outside your customary palate. Something like chicken feet draped on your plate, peppers that burned painfully, or as Sr.Joanne did, faced kimchi at breakfast. Or been served first, when there hardly seemed enough to go around. Guests are vulnerable to new experiences.
Perhaps you recall certain tables you’ve shared in Luke House or elsewhere – in which a fleeting sacred connection made our kinship vivid. Perhaps others remember you, for how you made them feel welcome. Over the years there have been many in this circle whose capacity to see others, especially persons who felt “othered” for any number of reasons, was transforming – for initially hesitant guests, and for all of us.
Imagine the stories those disciples had to share when they compared their experiences! “You ate what?”, “And our hosts, you wouldn’t believe..” Like us, they must have had to practice adjusting, learn to eat and laugh together, talk of differences and fears: learn to love.
In a polarized world our political views, shopping habits, vehicle use, and diet can all become purity tests. Who do we find worthy – or not?- to share the love we freely receive as the inheritance of God’s adopted children? Be alert of each opportunity, because the New Creation is unfolding, and love is our only access!
Approaching prayer and the Temple, Jewish worshippers are taught to be mindful that in All their actions, they are standing in the presence of the Holy.
That same respect was expected of the disciples before entering each home that accepted them.
May we, too, move in that awareness, ever mindful that in all our comings and goings, the presence of a loving, liberating, and merciful God goes before us. Peace be your journey.
With Isaiah’s words, let us place our prayers for the safety, nurture and comfort of all displaced from their homes, and the 27 million who have become refugees, from Syria and Ukraine, Palestine, Afghanistan and much of Africa we pray…
For courage and stamina in loving those we know, and learning to love those from whom we are estranged , we pray…
For Old Law prisoners in Wisconsin, who languish decades beyond their intended release, for their well-being and hoped-for release, we pray..
For our nation, each citizen and resident, each local, state and national leader, that they work to help us unite around the values of equitable justice for all, care for the earth, and true peace, we pray…
Please take a moment to lift the prayers of your hearts, and those inscribed in our Book of Intentions…for these we pray..
Hear our prayers, O Holy One, and renew us in your Holy Spirit, that we might fearlessly share the love, mercy, and freedom accomplished for us through the cross of Jesus, your beloved. We ask this in the name of our Creator, of Jesus the Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Thank you, Patti for reminding us that we each have purity tests of our own. I have plenty myself. I’m grateful for any Jesus based wisdom freeing me from making SO many “the other”.