Proper 9, Year C
2 Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30, Galatians 6:1-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Participating in mission
Can you remember a time when your expectations for something weren’t what you thought? Think of preparing for a meeting, a presentation, an event. Maybe it was a conversation you were anxious to have.
What emotions did you feel? Did you take any actions in response to your disrupted expectations? (pause)
Hold on to that thought, and feelings as we continue.
The theme of mission came up for me this past week. Partly because the youth mission trip to Pennsylvania is in a couple of weeks, and there are missional themes in the Scripture readings we heard and read today. And mission in an important topic, it can happen anywhere and at any time.
The Kings reading for today is full of characters, but Naaman and Elisha are the two I’m focusing on. Elisha was a prophet of God and an aspect of what he was invited to do as God’s prophet was a missioner. Part of that was to share God’s healing and mercy with all. In this story the recipient was a foreigner from Aram, Naaman. Naaman came with an expectation to be healed of his leprosy, which he was….
….Just not in the way he thought. With some gentle prodding from his servants he finally obeyed Elisha’s simple directions and washed in the Jordan. He was healed! But it was not how he expected.
You and he probably have shared emotions in learning that what you’ve prepared yourself for is not at all how it actually happened.
The next part in this story, which we don’t read or hear about today, is that Naaman, after he washes in the Jordan, returns to Elisha and confesses that the God of Israel is the only god and that he will now worship Him.
Elisha helped share the love and mercy of God. Through God’s Spirit Naaman was converted!
As Christians, specifically Episcopalians, we also have a role in mission work. Though it may look different or not seem as glamourous or big as healing someone from their skin disease it is still important. It could be ing an encouraging word with someone who is going through a hard time. It could be living a life that is a witness to generosity and care for others. Prayer. It’s a number of things: individually and together.
In the back of our Book of Common Prayer there is a section called “the Catechism.” In it is a direct question about mission: What is the mission of the Church? Answer: to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. (BCP, p. 855). There are several ways to do this, some of which are also listed in the Catechism.
I have a story about mission in my life.
One of the tasks I had in college that did not turn out as I expected was doing mission work with a friend, by knocking on dorm doors and inviting people to a dorm Bible Study we would have that semester.
I can’t remember the reason but I decided to go alone knocking on dorm doors. I thought and expected that this won’t be so bad, I can do it. And maybe people will be excited to know there is a Bible Study in their own dorm! I wanted to go alone to prove I could do it and draw people into a Bible Study.
It didn’t take long for things to not go as I had thought. I remember one particular room with some people in it who had the door half way open. I got scared and nervous to knock, introduce myself and tell them about the Bible Study. I assumed they would not be interested and was embarrassed about having to walk away alone without people excited about a Bible Study. I decided to walk past and not talk to them.
Shortly after, I felt guilty for not going to talk with them. So what if they were not interested, at least I would have let them know and that they were invited. It was only my pride I was saving from being hurt.
In reflecting upon that experience I realized I could have saved myself a lot of anxiety and worry if I would have followed one of the key features of doing this kind of mission work: gone with a friend, being together with another.
Jesus has something to say about how we do mission that connects with the story. In the Gospel we heard today the Gospel writer described Jesus appointing and sending out 70 people in pairs to the towns he was going to go. (v. 1)
A key part is going in pairs. Sometimes work is done better when someone else is with us. It could be for emotional support and encouragement and for another wise mind to strategize and work with for a common goal.
Not only were they to go in pairs but also to trust that the One who sent them is already with them and where they are going. They were not alone. I wonder how the seventy who were sent out felt when they were told not to take anything with them and to eat with the people who welcomed them. They were also told to heal those in need.
I wonder what their expectations were… and if they experienced something way different than what they expected…
Jesus sent them to: Bring peace, cure the sick and proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come near!
One thing that Jesus did not explicitly say but implies (after talking with a friend) is that while in mission, be respectful of the other. When Jesus tells them that when a town welcomes them, “eat what is set before you” and “bring peace” he is also implying be with those who are willing to work with you. Mission work gets tricky when it’s all about one group doing for another group and not building relationships. It creates a power and authority dynamic that Jesus worked to reveal and turn upside down. To end oppressive forces in society. So do work with others.
Our expectations of things may not always be what we think. Naaman is a good example. We have our own examples of things not worked out the way we thought.
If we obey what God has called us to do: Elisha obeyed God as he was a prophet of God and brought love and mercy to all people. Naaman also obeyed what Elisha directed him to do, even though he was angry at first…Then healing in our life and the lives of others happens.
If we do mission together whether going out in pairs or working with those we encounter then we are, in Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians, “bearing one another’s burdens…” and “working for the good of all.” To help us do the Church’s mission.
When we leave here today, think about, pray about, where God is asking you to obey and then go and do. Encourage one another and trust that the One who sent you is always with you.