Proper 9C July 3, 1016
The 70 disciples came back rejoicing, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus’ response was, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus ' word to us today is the same word he spoke to those 70 disciples, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” As St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8 (39) “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Today, with those 70 disciples, and with all God’s people at all times and places, we “rejoice that our names are written in heaven.”
How is Jesus’s word is active in your life.? How do we “rejoice that our names are written in heaven.” How is that rejoicing shown forth in our lives? How do families, friends, the people we deal with see that we do indeed, “rejoice that our names are written in heaven.”
On 4th of July weekend, with the national political conventions scheduled later this month, how do we “rejoice that our names are written in heaven” in our community and civic life?
We can learn from Naaman, the Syrian general, part of whose story we heard in today’s Old Testament lesson. Naaman had a skin disease. He went to Elisha, finally did what Elisha told him to, and was healed. The rest of 2 Kings 5 tells that Elisha refused a present, and Naaman came to believe in the healing God of the land of Israel. Naaman lived about 850 years before Christ, nearly 3000 years ago. Naaman believed in a national and territorial god, so he asked for two mules’ burden of earth to take back to Syria so he could stand on the land from Israel to pray to the God of Israel who had healed him.
Naaman said he would (I quote) “never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there. leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimnon, may the Lord pardon your servant for this.” Elisha said, “Go in peace.” (end quotation) Rimnon was the Syrian national and territorial god. As a Syrian general, Naaman had to bow to Rimnon. And Elisha said, “Go on peace.”
We live in a world totally spiritually redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, a world made spiritually new by his resurrection. We look forward to the day of Christ’s final triumph, when all things can be seen to be made new in Christ. Eucharistic prayer B reminds us that Jesus Christ has brought us “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” But in the world – in our daily lives – what we see is error not truth, sin not righteousness, death continuing in life.
We live in a society that is not yet the kingdom of God where God’s perfect will is not done “on earth as it is in heaven.” We have overcome some of the more egregious forms of social injustice, but there is a lot more to do. We can all think of particular injustices in our own lives. Over the next four months the political candidates will remind us of all the bad things that they propose to fix for us - if we will vote for them.
Some parts of our society are better than they were almost 3,000 years ago in Naaman’s time. But some things are no better, and some seem to be worse. Syrians no longer gather to worship the god Rimnon, but Syrian Christians, Jews, Muslims of at least 3 groups – Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, and Druze, ad Yazidi all are fleeing their country by the thousands.
Societies whose members’ beliefs and behaviors are not consistent with God’s will are like Naaman’s Syrian society almost 3,000 years ago. Rimnon as the Syrian national and territorial god is dead, but Rimnon’s spirit lives on wherever a spirit of injustice continues.
We all live in a society where spirits of injustice continue. We were born into a society where spirits of injustice continue. This is what we have. We all from time to time have to conform to unjust and ungodly social norms. We are all like Naaman bowing down to Rimnon. And the Lord says to us, as Elisha said to Naaman, “Go in peace.”
We are forgiven sinners, washed spiritually clean by the shed blood of Jesus, spiritually fed in Jesus’ sacramental body and blood. We look forward to the final triumph of God’s justice in Christ. We do what we can to know God’s truth and do God’s will. And when we fail we are forgiven sinners.
Jesus Christ has indeed brought us “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” Let us “rejoice that our names are written in heaven.” Amen.