07 July 2013

It is appropriate this week, in Ordinary Time, that the readings focus on the transforming power of the ordinary. In a world of celebrity, of “Reality TV”, and of value given only to winners and to those who are larger than life, it can be tempting to think that the ordinary has no contribution to make, that “vanilla” people can make no difference. But, the Gospel does not despise small things. God’s Reign is a reality in which the least, the child and the marginalised all have significant value to offer.

May you celebrate the small and the ordinary in your worship this week.

READINGS:
2 Kings 5:1-14
: Elisha is visited by Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, who has a serious skin disease. He instructs him through a messenger to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, which, after some complaining, Naaman does, and he is healed.
OR Isaiah 66:10-14: A prophecy of restoration and comfort, like being nursed and cared for by a mother, for Jerusalem and her people.

Psalm 30: David celebrates God’s deliverance, healing and mercy, and that God has turned his mourning into dancing, as he commits to a life of praise.
OR Psalm 66:1-9: A psalm in praise of God who is glorious and who saves God’s people in miraculous ways.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-14: Paul instructs the Galatians to give themselves in bringing goodness into the world – correcting one another, working faithfully, providing for their teachers, and doing good (justice) at every opportunity.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20: Jesus sends the seventy two disciples out to preach the Kingdom, instructing them to bless the homes where they stay¬† and to accept the hospitality they are offered. On their return he celebrates with them, but stresses that the best thing is to have “names written in heaven”.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The central message this week is simple but significant – do not despise the saving power of small things. God’s commitment to justice, restoration and healing is proclaimed strongly through the Psalms and Isaiah’s song, but the way God’s saving work comes into being is often through small, ordinary people and actions. Naaman complains because Elisha speaks to him through a servant and asks him to wash in an ordinary river in Israel – yet he can only be healed by changing his attitude, and embracing this ordinary way to healing. The picture of God’s care and comfort in Isaiah is that of an ordinary, familiar domestic scene – a child being nursed by its mother. Galatians speaks about the work of following Christ in the every day terms of our relationships with one another (correcting each other and sharing burdens), taking responsibility and doing good for all. And Jesus sends his disciples out to share the message of God’s reign, while accepting hospitality along the way – a very ordinary practice for travelers. Even when they celebrate overcoming demons, Jesus downplays it. Psalm 30 recounts an ordinary journey from joy to pain and back again, relying on God’s mercy and grace – a common human experience. The one reading that appears to be out of place is the alternative Psalm (66) – but here the focus is on the Exodus, which, although proclaimed through retelling the miraculous story, is about the very ordinary human longing for liberation and salvation – which is, of course, the essence of the message that Jesus’ disciples would have preached.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: It is important that the work of celebrities and high profile leaders in the struggle for justice is recognised and celebrated, but justice is not really achieved by these few. Justice is the result of millions of small acts by millions of ordinary people. The power of Jesus’ message was not in his riveting preaching or his miraculous acts, it was in the ordinary lives that were changed. So, too, the impact of the disciples’ ministry would have been felt through the changed lives of the people they left behind when they had moved on. The power of the church to bring wholeness to society is in the grace, kindness and mutual encouragement that comes form living as the letter to the Galatians instructs. And, in evey individual, the willingness to receive God’s grace and healing through ordinary means (like Naaman) frees us to become channels of the “ordinary” work of God in the lives of those around us. In practical terms, this move toward “ordinary justice” has very significant implications. If we are to reverse the impact of climate change, it will take small but significant shifts in the habits of many ordinary people. If our world is to become more peaceful, it will mean ordinary people must learn to understand and respect one another, recognising our common humanity. If wealth is to be equitably distributed, it will mean changing the values by which ordinary individuals live from consumerism to simplicity and from accumulating to giving. If these shifts were just taken seriously by Christ-followers alone, the impact would be nothing short of miraculous. As Christians around the world join together in peace-making, hospitality, taking responsibility for the change we can bring and doing small acts of goodness, the Gospel message is preached clearly and powerfully, with very few words necessary.

LOCAL APPLICATION: It is often tempting as we seek to share Christ’s message in the Church and into our communities to think about making big changes and attempting big, attention grabbing projects. However, our impact is often less about how we structure our services or what kind of music we use or how “prominent” we are in our community. Often it is in the quiet work of nurturing care and service within our community, and in doing the slow, transformative work of growing into caring, serving Christ-followers in our homes, workplaces and sports clubs (as Galatians calls us) that ultimately determines how effective our ministry is. When, instead of pointing fingers at “the world” we are willing to accept its “hospitality” speaking blessing, and offering grace and mercy and justice in every situation and with every person (as the disciples were called to do), then people begin coming to us to learn more about our faith and the One we follow. But, if we fail to do this, then no amount of words or programs will be enough to compensate for our lack of grace and goodness. It’s significant that, even when the disciples were told to “shake the dust off their feet” when they were not received in a village, they were, nevertheless instructed to tell the people that God’s Reign had come to them. It was not that they were “judging” the people, so much as using a graphic and powerful image to challenge them about what they had rejected. God’s love and grace remained available to the people. In the same way, we can confront the small injustices in our communities, while still offering grace. And, in the end, what is important is not the dramatic confrontations, but the people whose names are “written in heaven” – who have discovered life in the dream of God.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Extraordinary Ordinariness
The Power Of the Ordinary
Good News By Degrees

The Call Of Compassion

Hymn Suggestions:
Come Let Us Sing Of A Wonderful Love
Dear Jesus In Whose Life I See
Praise To The Lord, The Almighty
O Jesus I Have Promised
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
Lord, Reign In Me (Link to YouTube video)
When It’s All Been Said And Done (Link to YouTube video)
What Can I Do (Link to YouTube video)
With Kindness (Scroll down to listen the preview – Track 1)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy For The Lord’s Supper

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 66
Martyn Joseph – The Revolution

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