As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend, and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
We live in a very divided world. Left cannot tolerate right and right will not tolerate left. Families are fractured by harsh words and differences of opinion. Friendships are lost when one takes offense and walks out. Nobody is willing to meet in the middle any more. It is just easier to unfriend a person with a disagreeable opinion than to stay in the conversation and try to figure out why they think what they think.
If someone expresses an opinion or viewpoint that you don’t agree with, our culture says “Shut them down.” Go on the attack. Be mean if you have to. Call names. Call down fire from the sky. I mean, James and John would fit right in.
The temptation to strike back when someone has questioned or rejected a viewpoint we hold dear is strong in all of us. Whether it is a withering reply to a FB post or a Tweet that you find objectionable, or a comment designed to poke at a loved one’s weak spot during an argument, we all have it, and we have all failed to resist the temptation somewhere along the way. I know I have. Sadly, church people are not immune. In fact, sometimes we are the worst offenders because we believe we are right. We are convinced we have to defend what is right, and not only that, we have to get the other person to agree with us. As if arguing and cajoling and name calling would ever win anyone over.
Only thing is, Jesus didn’t do any of that. Jesus never forced anyone to believe in him, or to agree with him. He just put his truth out there and people came to it or they didn’t.
Lashing out in anger is the world’s way, but it isn’t Jesus’ way. Jesus walks away. Jesus says, “Go a different way.”
Jesus wouldn’t allow James and John to punish the Samaritans for their rejection. Later, in Jerusalem, Jesus wouldn’t strike back then either; not even with his words. He didn’t speak up to defend himself in the mockery of a trial they held against him; the one that eventually led to his crucifixion. He would rather go to his death than buy into the win-lose system that is the cycle of violence. Striking back is not Jesus’ way. He says, “We go a different road.”
It is as if Jesus says, “There is too much loving to be done to waste time and energy hating.” Jesus’ only rebuke was for James and John. They should have known better. They had been with Jesus all this time. Had they EVER seen him use violence against another person? No. They had not.
And this is where the lectionary doesn’t do us any favors. In this passage, Jesus walks away from the Samaritan village that won’t accept him, but that doesn’t mean he is rejecting them forever. In the very next passage, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two into every village and town he is intending to visit. If the Samaritans won’t accept him, maybe they will accept his disciples. They are less well known and less controversial figures.
So you see! He’ll go back to the Samaritans when they are ready. But for now, he is saving them from themselves. He goes to the neighboring villages. They will certainly hear about Jesus through the grapevine.
So how do we, as followers of Jesus, walk the road that Jesus walks? How do we leave them be when someone disagrees with us? And yet, not leave them completely?
It is a hard thing… this being in a Jesus kind of relationship.
It means you have to have your priorities in order.
Jesus’ priority was to love the neighbor in a way they could understand and receive. That means in THEIR TIME, not necessarily his. This is more important than any other thing.
Following Jesus requires total commitment, and because we won’t get reinforcement from society, we need the church. It is in church that we get reinforcement for living a Jesus kind of life. In the faithful assembly we will be reminded to put love above all else; to give ourselves freely and generously to the one who is in need—whether its s a night of shelter, or a word of encouragement, a hot meal, or a little extra patience, or any other thing—holding back isn’t Jesus’ way.
St Paul picks up the message too. The way of Jesus is the way of fruitfulness. And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23, NIV) These will be our guides as we make our way.
This is a hard thing Jesus does. Going the way of patience is not easy. I had a friend back in my church camp days who was known for saying, “Never pray for patience. God always answers that prayer and it is ALWAYS painful!” It is hard to be kind in a mean spirited world. You get it… Patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control will be taken as weakness in our society. Practicing them will often feel like losing. And certainly others will take it that way and take advantage. There aren’t many of us who are comfortable ‘losing’ in a win-lose world… but Jesus’ way takes the long view. It is not losing, it is living. It is living, dying and rising to new life. There is no end to this living in a Jesus way of life. Resisting the temptation to look at it from any other way than Jesus’ way takes a lot of maturity. It takes a lot of faith. It takes a lot of Spirit.
It is my prayer that we can grow together in living a Jesus kind of life here at Gethsemane; generous, accepting, patient and kind. It is my prayer that we can be a place where people who have been beat up by the win-lose system out there can come and be restored. It takes love. It takes kindness. It takes faith, but with God’s help, we can be that place. With God’s help, we can be those people.
A time of silence
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church where all are accepted, where grace abounds, where we exist for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.