Of course, I'm thankful every day for the presence of Christ and a wonderful Christian community at St. Christopher's Episcopal in Pensacola (and Christ Church on Sunday evenings). But some Sundays, I'm just a bit more thankful. Today was one of those days. The sermons at both the morning and evening services today were centered on the gospel reading, Luke 10:1-11; 16-20. During the morning homily, Father Nick of St. Christopher's focused on peace and relationality (also a focus of the epistle reading found in Galatians 6:1-16. During the evening homily, the priest at Christ Church focused on the source of empowerment for Christian action.
In the gospel reading, Jesus says, "Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’"
The foundation of godly action and being is peace. It is beautiful, of course, when peace flows from one person to another, and is received. What is fascinating about this passage, though, is that peace returns to the person who offers peace, even when it is rejected. In other words, when someone responds negatively, or returns evil for good, the follower of Christ remains at peace. Our peace does not depend on others' actions or reactions. The source is the Prince of Peace. Chapter 6 of Paul's epistle to the Galatians reiterates this principle. When a brother or sister is found in a transgression, restoration should be done in a spirit of gentleness. And Paul says about those who follow such a rule that "peace will be upon them, and mercy."
Secondly, when peace if reciprocated, community is born, and the bedrock of community is relationship. Jesus says to "remain in the same house....and do not move from house to house." The peace of God born in the hearts of His children leads to relationship, and relationship with God and others leads to the kingdom: "The kingdom of God has come near to you." It is also within Christian relationship that the kingdom manifests in eating together and ministering (i.e. "curing the sick") to one another.
This evening, the priest from Christ Church highlighted another important part of this passage. At the beginning of the passage, the seventy were sent out, and at the end of the passage, the seventy returned, rejoicing and saying, "“Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
At first, the seventy were more excited about their ability to force the demons they encountered into submission. But Jesus makes sure they understand the real miracle. It's not that they have power to cure sicknesses and force demons into submission. The miracle - the more important factor - is their relationship with Christ. Yes, their work was important, but Who empowered that work was more important. Jesus tells them not to rejoice in the power they have, or the work that they do, but rather in the Person who has empowered and saved them. Where we start is important.