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Monday, 5 July 2010

4th July 2010

Service for Ashgrove West Uniting Church
Sunday 4 July 2010

Year C, Pentecost 6 (Green)



Call to Worship Psalm 30 (Responsive) from Uniting in Worship People's Book

Hymn Together in Song 90. I'll praise my maker while I've breath

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,
with the psalmist, we praise your goodness,
we thank you for your help in times of trouble,
we thank you for the healing you bring to our lives.
We give you thanks that in our times of deepest despair,
you do not abandon us,
but in Jesus, you share every part of our human journey.
In Jesus, you share our joys,
and in Jesus, you share our pains.

With the psalmist, we confess that
we have a times believed that we have deserved our prosperity,
that we could have confidence in our own achievements.
We have at times tried to take your place in our own lives,
relying on ourselves, and not on you.

We repent
we are sorry for our attempts at independence from you.
Help us to change,
to recognise our need,
to orient our lives toward your will,
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kid's time – Lyndal

Hymn Together in Song 236 Jesus' hands were kind hands

Scripture - Lindy
2 Kings 5:1-14
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

As you may be aware, I've developed something of an interest in health in the past few years. What I've found most helpful, are books and resources that recognise the link between mind, body, and spirit.

This is a particular truth of Scripture which, until recently, seems to have been overlooked a great deal.

In the Western World, we live very much with the idea, from Greek philosophy, which says that we are souls or spirits linked to (or even trapped in) physical bodies. This philosophical idea encourages us to think that our bodies are of little value, and are just vehicles for our souls, the “real” people we are. Often, the body is seen as something to escape from.

(Think of the popular themes of horror movies and books: zombies and vampires are bodies without souls, ghosts are souls without bodies. Our culture not only thinks of us as separate bits and pieces – but we have a cultural fear of what happens when those bits separate.)

The Scriptural view, in line with Hebrew philosophy, says we're not bits here and there which are tacked together in an unhappy marriage. Instead, we are minds and spirits incarnate, living as human bodies. The Bible doesn't know of a discarnate soul or spirit. (Except in the single instance of King Saul consulting a medium to call on the ghost of Samuel – Samuel appeared and roundly condemned Saul's action. Even in this case, we're not sure it's necessarily a ghost, a spirit with no body.)

Instead of discarnate spirits, the Bible speaks of resurrection of the dead: souls and minds continuing to be incarnate eternally. These resurrected bodies may be different in some way (people recognised the risen Jesus by his words and actions, not his appearance), but they still are bodies.

So when we think of health, spiritual and physical health are linked – we can't separate the different parts of ourselves. Your prayer time, counselling when appropriate, study, are as important to your health as the time you spend exercising and the food you eat.

If we start with that presupposition, then our readings today make more sense than they otherwise might.

Let's look at Namaan. Logically Naaman is right. He could just as easily have saved himself the trip and bathed in any other river, and maybe some of them would have been cleaner than the Jordan anyway. He came to Elisha with a physical complaint. It was a serious physical complaint, which could isolate him from other people, and could even be fatal. Leprosy isn't as scary nowdays, but imagine if he had AIDS in the mid-to-late 80s, when little was known about it. In his day and age, the social and physical implications were about the same.

Elisha wouldn't even see Namaan, but sent a messenger, and told him to go and perform a seemingly meaningless action. Bathe in the Jordan River seven times. He might as well have said stand on your head for half an hour, that's as much sense as it made.

It wasn't a physical cure. It wasn't anything which in any way could make the physical disease any better. If it could, people with leprosy would have travelled from all over the known world to bathe in the Jordan at whatever the cost.

It wasn't a physical cure. It was an action to show a spiritual truth. It was an action, which wasn't particularly difficult, but which showed that Namaam was willing to not be in control, that he was willing to take the risk of letting this God he didn't know, and this prophet he hadn't actually met, tell him what to do. He was willing to let God be in charge, and let God decide what to do about his illness.

Now, we move to the gospel reading. When Jesus sent out the 70 (or 72 depending on which ancient authority the translation you're reading works from), he gave them a set of tasks. They were to take nothing, but rely solely on God's provision. They were to bring peace to each house they entered. If the peace was accepted, they were to stay. They were to eat whatever they were given and not move from house to house (so they couldn't try to upgrade their accommodation.) They were to cure the sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near.

It's interesting, that curing the sick and proclaiming the Kingdom are included in the same sentence. They are linked. These disciples, who we could see as the forerunners of the church, brought peace, cured the sick, and proclaimed the kingdom of God.

It appears to me that proclaiming peace is very much a matter of the mind: if you speak to someone suffering severe stress or depression, you are quickly aware that one of the major things they lack is peace. At the same time, some people seem to have the gift of remaining at peace in situations that would stress the rest of us into heart attacks!

Curing the sick is a matter of the body: curing relates usually to physical illness.

Proclaiming the nearness of the Kingdom is a spiritual matter. As Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, it was clear that he was talking about a kingdom that could co-exist with the temporal world. The condition for being in the kingdom, was to choose to live as if one was a part of it.

What happened when they did these things? They cast out demons in Jesus' name. That wasn't what they were sent to do – it was the result of doing what they were sent to do. You can understand demons in Scripture however you like. Some theologians see them as symbolic of sinfulness, others see them as real living entities, some say they are mental or physical illnesses which weren't understood in Biblical times. However you understand them, people suffering from demonic attack were suffering badly – and casting out the demons indicates an alleviation of the suffering – a spiritual, emotional, and even possibly physical freedom from some terrible oppression. Lives were changed in every way.

Jesus tells the disciples he saw Satan fall from heaven. “The Satan” in the Old Testament was the Accuser, the tester, the one who convicted people of their sinfulness. If you read the opening part of the book of Job – the Satan is like the crown prosecutor, the one who brings the charges against human beings. In the face of this dramatic change, there was no longer anyone able to accuse them – they were freed from their past sinfulness.

To speak peace, heal the sick – care for their physical needs, announce the kingdom of God: the disciples were sent out really to do one thing: to heal the whole of people's lives.

That's what each of us is sent out for today: to speak peace into a world which is in turmoil; to care for the physical needs of the many who don't have the basics to care for themselves; and to share the news of the Kingdom of Heaven – to heal people's lives, not in our own power or by our own ability, but in the name of Jesus who still sends us.



Hymn Together in Song 629 When I needed a neighbour

Notices - Lindy

Offering

Prayers of the People

Gracious God, we pray for all of your world, and we pray especially for people around the world who seek to live out their call to discipleship, in difficult circumstances.

We pray for people who live in places where war is a constant reality, or a constant threat. Build up the faith of Jesus' disciples in these places. Give them strength and perseverance, courage and hope. Help their children to grow in faith in spite of the fear and horror they live with.

We pray for people who live in poverty. Build up the faith of Jesus' disciples in this situation. Give them hope against hopelessness, peace in the face of despair, trust in the face of doubt. Provide them food when they are hungry, shelter and clothing when they are cold. Provide them with their spiritual needs, so their spiritual health may not fail.

We pray for people who live with ill-health. Build up the faith of Jesus' disciples in this situation. Help them to know God's love even in their suffering. Help them to sense the gentle touch of the Spirit, in the touch of carers and loved ones.

We pray for those who seem to have lost their way. We all know people who shared in the call to discipleship, yet somehow fell away. For those we know, and those we don't know, we pray that this is not the end, that they will find the missing spark of faithfulness in their lives, and come to realise their need of your love.

We pray for ourselves. Build up our faith and our understanding. Help us to grow and to learn. Help us to day by day answer Jesus' cal in our lives. When the call brings comfort, help us to be comforted. When the call brings challenge, help us to accept the challenge. When the call is difficult, give us strength. When Jesus calls “follow me” help us always to leave the calls and the comforts of this world and to follow.


The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 697 All the sleepy should have a place to sleep

Benediction

Threefold Amen.


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