Possible Theme: Gospel for a New Creation
Sentence: Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God (Isaiah 41:10)
Collect: God, you are working still,
breaking down and building up;
open our eyes to discern your hands
so that we may take our place
as labourers together with you
in the power of the Spirit
through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
At the end of the great book of Isaiah, Jerusalem is envisioned as the mother city of God's new world. That new world begins to come into being as the mission of God through Jesus Christ spreads throughout the world, an anticipation of which is found in the story of the sending out of the seventy (Luke 10).
Here is a psalm which gives thanks and stiffens the backbone. In thanking God for God's awesomeness there is a particular recall of the Exodus (v. 6). Verses 8-12 speak of a new test (vss. 10-12). Israel needs God to again bring them through. The psalmist is confident that God will do it. God will bring 'us out to a spacious place' (v. 12).
Galatians 6:1-6, 7-16
This is our last week in Galatians. Paul's theological 'yell' is coming to an end. That yell has been a cry of the heart against the diminishment of the singular gospel of Jesus Christ: there is no other gospel, there is not a gospel with additions added on. In this chapter Paul largely continues the work of chapter five: how does a Christian live as a grace-filled person, freed from the law, freed to live in total freedom in Christ?
Christ has set the Christian free yet we saw in chapter five that this freedom is not freedom to licentiousness but freedom to 'through love become slaves to one another' (5:13). In 6:2 Paul states this irrevocable law of Christian freedom in this way: 'Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ'.
('The law of Christ' is an unusual phrase. See also 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Romans 8:2. Could Paul also be picking up tradition which found its way into Johannine writings as Christ's 'new commandment' to 'love one another'?).
Galatians 6:1-6 each offer practical instruction to the Christian seeking to live a life worthy of the gospel. 6:7-9 takes us back to Paul's theme of life in the Spirit (5:16-26), striking a note of encouragement to those who may have become weary of doing good. Verse 10 then completes both sections, 6:1-6 and 6:7-9.
6:11-18 then completes the letter with some standard conclusion features, 'See what large letters I make ...' (v. 11) and 'May the grace of our Lord Jesus ...' (v. 18). But in between Paul has one last go at making his case about the uniqueness of the gospel: '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!'
Paul, in other words, steadfastly denies that the gospel is 'cross plus circumcision' saves. Only the cross saves. And what a salvation it is: 'a new creation' is inaugurated through Christ's death on the cross.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The lectionary lets us down with the verses omitted here! Terrifying though judgement is, these omitted words are the words of Jesus. At the very least they should be included to underline the point of the verses which are appointed, that the mission of Jesus is vital and decisive for humanity. The decisiveness of the mission is captured in verse 16:
'Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.'
With this verse in mind we might reread 10:1-11 and read 10:12-15: the disciples on mission speak for God. They are the Lord's labourers. When rejected it is God himself who is rejected. When accepted, it is the Lord who is accepted. The kingdom of God is indeed 'near' people when the disciples are present (v. 9).
Verses 17-20 are challenging - a commentary might be well consulted. But the seventy disciples are assured by the Lord that their well-being is in his heart.
There are many things a preacher could stop and pause to reflect on through these verses.
v.3: what does it mean to be lambs among wolves?
v.4: is it practical to take nothing with us on the road?
v. 2: why are there few labourers for the plentiful harvest?