KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 9, Year C; Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (RC)

July 3, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
2 Kings 5:1-14 or Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 30 or Psalm 66:1-9
Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20


Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 66:10-14c
Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 (1)
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-9 (10-12, 17-20)

With suffering and injustice looming all around us on such an overwhelming scale, it’s easy to feel powerless.

How can I possibly make a difference in all the places of human need? Can I really make a meaningful contribution to stem the tide of gun violence, root out racist attitudes and policies, put an end to warfare, reconcile enemies, reform the justice system, provide welcome for migrants, find homes for the unhoused, comfort the grieving, feed the hungry, care for the seriously ill, and secure suitable employment for those without jobs—just to name a few?

Fortunately, we are not left to deal with these problems only with thoughts and prayers. Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that we have indeed been given both the authority and the power to embrace the mission of Jesus—to make a difference in preparing the world for the coming of God’s reign.

As the disciples fanned out into the towns that Jesus was planning to visit, they were about to perform the same deeds that he himself was doing—curing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the coming of God’s reign. Before they set out on their journey, Jesus counseled the disciples to keep things in perspective. The work they were sent to accomplish in his name was ultimately not their own but God’s and so awaited God’s completion. They were not the Messiah—they were the advance team.

Jesus knew that the disciples might not find a warm welcome in every place. Whether or not they were accepted in a particular town, they could remember his words, “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Lk 10:16). If they faced opposition, they should simply move on, shaking the dust from their feet, reminding the people of that place that “the kingdom of God has come near” (10:11).

Like those early disciples, we need to keep things in perspective as we go about God’s work in our homes, workplaces, schools, and communities. The needs and hurts of the world are so great that the work of proclaiming, serving, and healing can seem impossible. When Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) was asked how she could continue serving the poorest of the poor in the face of such massive human misery, she replied, “God has called us not to be successful, but to be faithful.”

Our efforts will not always be successful or even welcomed. Yet we have been called and sent to go out and make a difference. Ours is but one piece of the mission, and God’s Spirit has empowered us not to solve the ills of the whole world, but to keep our hearts attuned to suffering people and then to bring justice, peace, assistance, food, forgiveness, or healing in whatever way we can. And if we fail? Remember that the One who sends us also experienced failure, yet we believe that in the end he will bring the reign of God to fulfillment.

We also need to keep things in perspective in times of success. The disciples returned rejoicing that they had cast out demons in Jesus’ name. Even as he affirmed them and acknowledged their works, he also gently instructed them, “do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20). We don’t accomplish God’s work by ourselves, but in company with others and in faithfulness to God and God’s mission.

Indeed, whether we succeed or fail, we are not alone on this mission. In the same way that Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, so does he gather us into a community in which the task is entrusted not just to one but to many. We are to work together with faithfulness and trust, recognizing that the outcome is not in our hands.

A Hymn for Today: “Not Alone, but Two by Two”

While Matthew and Mark report that Jesus sent out the Twelve, Luke recounts that Jesus sent out a larger number of disciples (70 or 72, depending on the source manuscript), two by two. The instructions, however, were similar: “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road (Lk 10:4). They were to trust in God alone and keep their focus riveted on the mission for which they had been sent.

Hymn writer, scholar, and former Hymn Society Executive Director Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS, wrote the following text specifically for this Sunday in the Lectionary. In the second stanza, the singing community is challenged to follow the example of those disciples, and then prays in the third stanza that the Holy Spirit will draw us into unity as we embrace the mission of Jesus.

Not alone, but two by two,
Jesus sent disciples out:
Yoked to share their growing faith,
Spurred by courage, slowed by doubt.
Taking but a walking stick,
Moneyless and sandal-shod,
Forth they went to preach and heal,
Trusting all their needs to God.

Have we still such daring hearts?
Can we claim their faith and nerve?
Do we truly love the world
Jesus calls for us to serve?
Can we plant again the seed
Sown in mutual ministry,
Patterned on a life of faith
Rooted in community?

Holy Spirit, breathe through us
With your unifying might;
Kindle cleansing, melting flames
Till our fractured wills unite.
Bind our hearts in mutual love,
Paradox that sets self free;
Let our common witness show
God’s shared life in Trinity.

Text: Carl P. Daw, Jr., b. 1944, © 1994, Hope Publishing Company. Used by permission under OneLicense ##A-729857

Image Credit: He Sent Them Out Two by Two, James Tissot (1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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