I hate doing the dishes. They are the worst. If I wasn’t so cheap and didn’t live with such a good cook, I would eat frozen dinners off of paper plates just to avoid them.
My wife also hates them. And I know one of the most frustrating things my wife can wake up to in the morning is a sink full of dishes.
So every night, I have a choice. Do I do a chore I hate, or do I push through being tired and lazy and make sure she has a clean kitchen?
Eugene Peterson helps frame the act of doing the dishes as a part of creating a home. In a home, the important things are the relationships between the people who live there. Love and community are what make a home. The dishes may not contribute to those thing, but they need to get done for a household to function. So we do them, and we see the blessing an insipid or arduous task may bring.
It may not be the most important thing, but it contributes to it. It may not be the most exciting thing, but neglecting the chore because we think we are above it would make for a really disgusting house.
This kind of choice presents itself all over our lives. We find there are certain tasks we believe we are too good for. We think we are above doing certain activities or kinds of work, or worse, being with certain kinds of people. We think we are better than some people because of our righteous lives. We think we are supposed to be transforming the world, so we don’t have time for the small and petty work and interactions of life. We think we are doing God’s work, so we give less time to our family. We think Jesus is more concerned with the big extravagant events in life, and not so much with the day-to-day.
This week’s readings (right in the midst of Ordinary time!) help us shatter that impulse.
Naaman must do a task he believes is too grotesque and beneath a person of his position. But when he does it, he is healed.
Galatians reminds us not to get a swollen head and think we too important for other people.
And Jesus cuts right to the root: Don’t get a big head when you do amazing things for God. Remember it is just who you are. Of course we love and care for people. Of course we push back the reign of darkness. It is what we do.
This week we are reminded to remember our place. When we do incredible things for God, we must understand this is part of our job description as Christians. We do it in humility as a response to the beautiful life God offers here and now. And when we do the “lesser” tasks, we remember God is just as present in them.***
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
2 King 5:1-14
The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.
At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”
So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”
When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”
But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”
But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.
I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.
Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting.
Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
O God, the source and giver of life,
Thank you for showing us what it means to be human.
Thank you that your commands are not burdensome, but are the paths to the most abundant life possible.
Grant us humility as we walk your paths.
Help us remember you are the source of life, not our good deeds.
Open our eyes to the value of all we come in contact with and to never see others as less worthy of your love than we believe ourselves to be.
May we find you in all our work and tasks, and me there never be an act to small to deserve our love and attention.
May we reflect your life in all we do.
*** For a really good sermon on this idea, go here. Worth the $2.