Weekly Seeds: May Peace Be

Sunday, June 26, 2022
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost | Year C
Proper 9

Focus Theme:
May Peace Be

Focus Prayer:
Prince of Peace, may your kindom come. You will be done. May peace be on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Focus Reading:
Luke 10:1–11, 16–20
10 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. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 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. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

All readings for this Sunday:
2 Kings 5:1–14
Psalm 30
Isaiah 66:10–14
Psalm 66:1–9
Galatians 6:(1–6) 7–16
Luke 10:1–11, 16–20

Focus Questions:
	1. What is the kindom of God?
	2. What are signs of the kindom coming near?
	3. How do you demonstrate the kindom in the world?
	4. What do you do when that demonstration is rejected?
	5. How can we cultivate peace in our communities?

By Cheryl Lindsay

In the United States of America, this weekend marks the celebration of the formation of the nation. That remembrance is tied to the Revolutionary War, the first of many fought by soldiers. That war along with others in the earlier years (i.e. War of 1812 and the Civil War) focused, at least in part, on the continued existence of the nation. Later, wars would be fought more on national interests than imminent threat even when isolated attacks have taken place. The American Revolution broke the ties that bound and obligated the people who resided within thirteen colonies to the crown and rule of England. 

If the Civil War pitted brother against brother, then the Revolutionary War likely engaged cousin against cousin. Those in conflict had a shared heritage, history, and genealogy. The new country, while distinct, maintained much of the old. Even the new flag, symbol of a new identity and the resulting shift in allegiance, adopted the same colors and similar imagery to the one they rejected. Isn’t it interesting how close our enemies can be to us?

War is not an instrument of peace. It is the full escalation of conflict. War fully rejects peace as an outcome. It’s too destructive for that. We need only look at escalating violence in Nigeria, continued aggression against Palestinian people in Israel, and the Russia assault on Ukraine to witness that those who wage war do not seek peace. There’s another objective motivating that action even if couched in pretty terms. 

The Declaration of Independence presents a beautiful vision of equality and equity. Unfortunately, the writer and signers of the document only affirmed the humanity of their own kind, calling for their own liberty while enslaving people of African descent, benefiting from the genocide of indigenous peoples, and discounting and non-land owners. At least they were honest in that they only applied their claims to men. 

The good news of this particular story is that peace seekers over the years have claimed the beauty and truth of those words as their own vision despite the hypocrisy and depravity of the early adopters. The principles hold more power than the people who mocked their own words through their actions and attitudes. The exercise of peace seeking reclaims the power yielded in war reminding us that power itself is morally neutral. The aim, means, and outcomes of the use of that power make the difference. 

Jesus gave his disciples use of his power and authority, indicating that they would prevail over the manifestation of evil in the world. That’s kindom work. But, what I find interesting is that his instructions on how to approach those they encounter is the extension of a blessing. The Common English Bible translates it as, “May peace be on this house.” The envisioned outcome of the kindom begins with peace resting on our communal units. 

Peacemaking is fundamentally an activity connected to others. In other words, the manner in which we deal with conflict (peacemaking) reveals our heart or core identity (sons of God). Bringing peace into conflict and going with peace out of conflict is to bear the very presence of God as his children, in the midst of conflict. It is that which truly bears the blessing of God because in such activity we are the peace of God. We are what people in conflict know about God and about his incarnation in the midst of calamity. (Karl Dortzbach)

Despite the call to be peacemakers, the public witness of Christianity often wraps itself in conflict. There were the claims about the war against Christmas even though no other religion enjoys as much broad celebration of one of its central holy days. There are divisions over who gets included and excluded from pulpits and pews. People walking in entirely different directions claim to be following Jesus all the while placing limits on what it means to love your neighbor. That’s not the vision of peace Jesus models to his disciples. That vision is reconciling, restoring, and renewing relationships within and beyond the Christian community often clothed in the practice of abundant hospitality:

The symbolic world that Luke portrays does not envision Jews and gentiles dining apart or eating their own food but rather enjoying the kind of commensality such as occurs at the Last Supper when the disciples drink from a common cup and eat from a common loaf, including even the betrayer whose hand was “on the table” (έπΐ τής τραπέζης) dipping in a common dish (22:21). (David Lertis Matson)

I remember serving on the board of an organization that was experiencing internal conflict. The president of the board said, “We need to break bread together.” The sharing of a meal, in her reasoning, would break down barriers to communication and would lead to more camaraderie and understanding among different factions. After all, we all have to eat. There’s something that happens when a dish is passed from one hand to another. It’s a simple way to begin to reach toward someone. That practice of reaching can become a habit. The giving, sharing, and receiving can embed itself in our behavior and shift our attitudes as our defenses lower.

Is it any wonder that Jesus sent his disciples out with instructions about entering someone’s home? In his commissioning, he reveals his strategy of stimulating hospitality before anything else. Hospitality encourages care, concern, and compassion. Hospitality involves serving and vulnerability. Hospitality can turn strangers, even enemies, into a community because hospitality decenters self. As Karl Dortzbach notes, “We have the gospel backwards. We speak a gospel of being at peace with God while God walked among mankind and said, “My peace I give to you.” It is that peace to which we are called to be givers and makers.” 

Jesus’ aims are communal after all. It’s curious that in this passage, Jesus also seems to encourage us to give up on reticent and recalcitrant people. This is the shake-the-dust-off-you text that reminds us to let some folx go. But, a careful reading tells us this is not an admonition against individuals, it’s a protest against a town, a community, and a people. Discipleship comes by invitation not by force. The kindom is realized not by conquest or coercion but by choice and agency. 

Further, we can focus so much on individual human beings when the real opposition to the kindom comes from systems. 

The commitment to social justice involves us in a never-ending process of analyzing the conditions that make for ill-being in our society and discerning the most gospel-centered ways of addressing these problems. (Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki)

The most gospel-centered way based on Luke’s account is to build and nurture communities of peace. Jesus warns them against moving too quickly from a receptive place. He encourages them to minister where receptivity and welcome exist and to move on when they are absent. How often do we use precious time and energy pursuing those who reject the ministry we do when there are human needs before us waiting to be fulfilled? The offer of peace does not get rescinded but followers of Jesus should not be stopped by rejection. 

Because the disciples focuses on the main thing, they realized blessed results:
The narrator summarizes the apostles’ success; in 10:17, they report in direct speech. This evokes Jesus’ explanation of their power against hostility. His report of Satan’s fall is parallel with the “enemy’s” subjugation (10:18–19). Perhaps Luke’s hearers construe this as mythological, but it is also contemporaneous with Jesus and the mission of the seventy-two. The enemy’s power is tangible. From 1:71, 74, enemies are subjugators and involve imperial systems. In addition, Jesus’ assurance that the names of the seventy-two are written in heaven (10:20) means that their part in God’s commonwealth is not future but a present alternative to imperial systems. (Robert L. Brawley)

Peace received overcame the powers oppressing the people. Peace welcomed changes systems that hold communities bound. Peace embraced and invited to break bread provides a victory that no war can ever win.

May peace be our goal, our guide, and our gift. May peace be in our faith communities, our political dialogue, and our homes. May peace be our invitation, our encouragement, and our companion in the journey.

May peace be. 

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent:
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.

To be a Negro in a day like this
    Demands forgiveness. Bruised with blow on blow,
Betrayed, like him whose woe dimmed eyes gave bliss
    Still must one succor those who brought one low,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this
    Demands rare patience—patience that can wait
In utter darkness. ’Tis the path to miss,
    And knock, unheeded, at an iron gate,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this
    Demands strange loyalty. We serve a flag
Which is to us white freedom’s emphasis.
    Ah! one must love when Truth and Justice lag,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this—
    Alas! Lord God, what evil have we done?
Still shines the gate, all gold and amethyst,
    But I pass by, the glorious goal unwon,
“Merely a Negro”—in a day like this!
James D. Corrothers, "At the Closed Gates of Justice"

For further reflection: 
"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is...at last, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away...” ― Virginia Woolf
“Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is accord. Harmony.” ― Laini Taylor

A preaching commentary on this text (with works cited) is at https://www.ucc.org/what-we-believe/worship/sermon-seeds/. 

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (lindsayc@ucc.org), also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You're invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments below this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SermonSeeds. 

About Weekly Seeds

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Weekly Seeds is a service of Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.