Jesus sends the disciples out to bless and preach. They go, they return, they are amazed that “even demons submit to us!” Jesus responds with a startling non-sequitur: “I saw Satan fall. . . like lightning. . . !”
Their/our mission is crucial: to contend with evil. And the gospel will win. Satan falls on a regular basis, even when it is never enough for those who are in need. In the face of continued struggles for so many, Jesus calls us to love God and love neighbor and see to the well-being of the poor. It all begins with learning to welcome and to receive.
The welcoming towns are places where God's grace can enter, where there is amity and peace and healing. . . places where a foretaste of the reign of God can be experienced. And all of this is made possible by acts of genuine hospitality, of self-forgetful extension to the stranger. The unwelcoming towns are places where suspicion and hostility and rejection draw hard boundaries that will not permit the stranger in. And without the possibility of invitation, the kingdom of God cannot enter into such a place, such hearts.
There is an old Celtic saying that carries in its underlying purport the same message and the same mix of warning and approval: “Often and often and often, Christ comes in the guise of a stranger.”
It is as we welcome—or fail to welcome—strangers that we allow—or forbid— the reign of God to draw near. This is why love of God and love of neighbor are yoked in Christ's teaching, and why “neighbor” for Christ is a word without boundaries or limits. This is why the only standard of judgment Christ ever gives is the need to receive one another as brother and sister. – Judith Buck-Glenn
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Although Jesus. . . referred to conflict and confrontation (“I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves”) when sending out his disciples, they were instructed to greet each homeowner with a blessing. According to Neil Douglas-Klotz, the greeting was this:
Whatever house you enter, let your first words be: “Shalama bayta”: Peace to this house and family—May it complete its purpose and tell its tale to the end. May it fulfill itself in surrender to the One. [The Hidden Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1999)]
Blessings with words such as [these]. . . do more than bless a particular moment in time: they call us forward into wholeness and completeness. – Carol J. Noren
The prophet calls on the hearer to rejoice with Jerusalem, employing warm and maternal imagery for the superabundance of blessing God will give. The oracle pictures the city providing nurture through images of a consoling breast and a glorious bosom, using human love and care to suggest safety and intimacy with God. The postexilic community had faced hardship, deprivation and adversity, but the Lord now promises to bless the people with more than enough. . . . There is profound beauty in the picture of God caring for the people like a mother cuddling and comforting a baby. – Aaron Couch
Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16
Paul. . . reveals the warmth of his regard for the Galatian community, addressing them as “friends” and giving a series of loosely related instructions for how they should live together. He urges members of the church to live with genuine love for each other, helping to lighten the burdens of those experiencing trouble. He indicates that they must not treat each other with smugness, judging, gloating, or anything else that suggests a sense of superiority. Instead, if anyone is in need of correction, it must be done with gentleness. . . – Aaron Couch
Judith M. M. Buck-Glenn is associate rector at Christ Church Episcopal, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Carol J. Noren, a United Methodist pastor, is the Wesley W. Nelson professor of homiletics at North Park Theological Seminary. She served chuches as pastor in Minnesota for twenty years.
Homily Service 40, no. 8 (2007): 13-20.