Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rejoice Ritely

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Luke 10:1-20

What is your calling? In what do you find meaning for your life? How do you find meaning in your life? Are you called to do what was given to do to those seventy-two in the Gospel reading? Are you to forsake all, go without packing anything, and rely on those you find along the way?

It would be easy for you to dismiss this calling—that’s what Jesus gave them to do, not me. But don’t so readily dismiss it. Jesus is calling you to the same thing He called them to, although the details may be somewhat different.

It’s really actually amazing how they responded to their adventure. They rejoiced. After all the warnings of difficulty Jesus gave them, they came back rejoicing. Why? Because the demons were subject to them. Well, maybe something as spectacular as that would make us forget all the hardships we endured.

The thing we learn from Jesus, though, is that they weren’t rejoicing rightly. They were rejoicing—and that’s good. But for the wrong reason. Jesus kind of put a damper on their excitement—do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you. But He needed to. Because what if they would have ended up thinking it was all about the spectacular victory over the demons? Jesus even agreed with them that this was a pretty amazing thing: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

But there’s something else they should have been rejoicing in. Something even more amazing, in fact. You should be rejoicing, yes, but rejoicing rightly. And that is because your names are written in heaven. This is where we see that what Jesus called the seventy-two to He has called us to as well. That in order to rejoice rightly, as in “correctly”, we must rejoice ritely, r-i-t-e-l-y, as in “rite” or ceremony.

Rejoicing ritely is your calling. This what Jesus has given you to do. To rejoice. It’s according to the rite in which your names were first written in heaven—Baptism. The details of your lives will be different. Each you are called to carry out this calling in different ways, in different places. But wherever you find yourself in life you will be reminded by your Lord to rejoice ritely. To remember that your name is written in heaven.

The way Paul puts it in the epistle is this: “And let us not grow weary of doing good.” Let us rather rejoice in doing good! He goes on to say: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.” You don’t need to be a missionary to do this. You don’t need to be given authority to cast out demons in order to rejoice in doing good to others. You simply need to remember that your name is written in heaven. Why would you not want to do good to others?

Paul also, as he does so often, brings us back to what makes our rejoicing possible: the cross of Jesus Christ. He says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s easy to focus on the outward stuff. The seventy-two latched onto that: “We have authority over demons!” We do the same: “I helped out someone in need today!” That makes you feel good. You rejoice in that like the seventy-two did.

But it’s not about that; at least as far as you’re concerned. Just do it. Do those things you know will be helpful to people. Do those things you know will bring them happiness.

Visit someone who’s lonely and listen to them as if what they have to say is the most important thing in the world. Remind them that Jesus loves them so much that He gave Himself for them. Drive someone to the doctor who can’t get there on their own. Take them to the store and help them buy the things they need. Call someone up you haven’t seen in a while to ask how they’re doing. Pray with them or read some Psalms to them.

But don’t rejoice in how good of a job you’re doing. Rejoice in what God has done for you! He’s Baptized you! He’s written your name in heaven. Rejoice in this. It feels good when you help someone. It feels good when you’re given the opportunity to do good to others. Rejoice in that. But remember why you’re doing these things: because Jesus has given you to do them. He always provides for you what you need to serve others.

This is your calling. He’s given it to you in your Baptism. There will be times when you’re not excited about helping others. Rejoice! Your names are written in heaven. Your Lord is always excited about reminding you of what He has done for you, what He has called you to. Rejoicing rightly—rejoicing in what really matters—will remind you of why Jesus has saved you. Rejoicing rightly is rejoicing in your Baptism. Rejoicing according to the rite of Holy Baptism, in which God gave you the very reason to rejoice! Amen.

SDG