Galatians 6:1-16/ Psalm 30/ Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Breath of God Brings New Joy
We are still in the Season of Pentecost in which we celebrate the Holy Spirit. I am a big fan of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and whenever I think of the Holy Spirit, I remember Aslan’s breath.
Aslan the Lion is the representation of Christ in the world of Narnia. When a child hero had lost faith or courage, Aslan breathes onto him or her. Through the breath of Aslan, the child receives new strength. It is not a subtle metaphor for how the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, acts as our mentor, cheerleader, and helper.
One interesting thing about the Narnia series is how Aslan only chooses children/ young people. When some of the protagonist siblings got too old, Aslan banned them from coming to the land of Narnia again. When the boy prince Caspian was to become the king of Narnia, Aslan asks him if he feels qualified. Caspian answers, “No, I’m just a boy.” Aslan thought this humble attitude was precisely what qualified him to be king.
Aslan only chose children because they are vulnerable and humble, and have complete faith in his help and guidance. People who think they know better don’t need God.
First Disciples on a Mission
The gospel story we read today has Jesus acting kind of like Aslan although this story doesn’t involve children.
The first disciples are being sent out on a mission because “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” The interesting thing about the manner in which Jesus sends them is that he tells them to go without any purse, bag, or sandals. They will have to completely depend on God and the hospitality of strangers to survive this mission.
When we are adults with all the knowledge, life experience, wisdom, job, and material possession, this is how we can become like the children of Narnia; by depriving ourselves of material things.
We need to lead a simple life to be able to fully trust God in our lives. There is a good reason why Jesus said that it is difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven. He said that it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. It may sound very rigid and impossible, but his meaning is better expressed when he said that one cannot serve two masters: God and money.
Having material possession itself is not really the problem; it is our obsession for it that is problematic. If our earthly possessions keep us from needing God’s guidance and care, then they are problematic. That is why the first disciples were told to go out without any possession. That is why Jesus is still teaching us to serve God and our neighbors without loving (meaning “obsessing”) our material possessions.
God’s Spirit cares for us if we let ourselves to be cared for. Today’s psalm speaks of God giving us comfort and hope when things are bad and the prospect seems bleak. The psalmist sings, “Though tears flow for a night, the morning brings new joy.” “You turned my mourning into dancing.”
When he felt like God had abandoned him, in his dismay, he called to God. He pleaded for help. Since God helped him, he praised God without ceasing. Both in prosperity and in trouble, the psalmist had a relationship with God.
We learn from this psalm that we should call to God in all our life situations. When things are good, we praise God and appreciate God’s love. When things are bad, we reach out and ask for help. Whatever the outcome, however God responds to our prayers, we should thank and praise God because we have trust in God. It is like how mentally mature children can appreciate their parents even though they force feed them disgusting vegetables and teach them healthy habits and good work ethics.
Living With God’s Spirit
When we live with God’s Spirit, we not only receive hope in times of darkness but also are guided to live and love like Jesus did. Galatians chapter 6 says, “You reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”
There’s a lot of spiritual talk going on here, but the point is that we should focus on leading a spiritual life and resist being tempted by the greed of the world and flesh. Our flesh wants to own more, be more comfortable, and be better than others. That is raw animal instinct and inclination.
When God’ Spirit lives with us, God helps us to fight the temptations and to do Christ-like things such as bearing each other’s burdens. We learn from God how to stop being selfish or greedy, and to think of others who share our lives and world.
Hope and Faith in God
Therefore, as people of God who received the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, let us keep our hope and faith in God. Let us find comfort in God’s love, never give up hope thanks to our faith, receive the wisdom to understand God’s will, and the courage to live by the teachings of Jesus.
Let’s pause a bit here because there is another aspect of not being discouraged and not losing hope.
When we live and love like Jesus did, we will meet a lot of hate, opposition, and persecution. The United Church of Canada lost a lot of members when it started the full inclusion regardless of one’s sexual orientations and gender identities. A lot of affirming congregations experience vandalisms and threat from homophobes.
Working on affirming ministries inside the United Church is fine and safe, but now that I am involved in our local LGBTQ group Essie’s Place, I am nervous about the hate and persecution that could come my way.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” In my moments of apprehension and fear, I imagine myself to be one of Aslan’s children in Narnia. God’s breath will make me braver. I also invite you to join me in living out God’s kingdom values of love and justice without giving in to the fear of what we might suffer along the way.
Let us go out and be led by God’s breath to bravely live by God’s kingdom values. Let us live and love like Jesus did, helping and serving others. And let us never be discouraged doing good because, as the psalmist sang, “The morning brings new joy.”