Going Deeper 6-28-19

The Gospel reading for Pentecost 3...
Luke 9:51-62   When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers ahead of him.  On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.  When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"  But he turned and rebuked them.  Then they went on to another village.  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  To another he said, "Follow me."  But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home."  Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

There are two very different and very difficult parts of this reading.  On Sunday we'll consider the second half, so today I would like to focus on what is going on in the first section.

And what is going on is something that reveals a shocking-- and at the same time all-too-commonplace-- example of the deep enmity that can develop between two groups of people.  And what makes this extra tragic is the fact that these two groups shared a lot of common history.  As a matter of fact, Samaria in the north and Judah in the south were once a united people under the name Israel, all descended from common well-known ancestors-- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (aka "Israel").

Israel's time as a united nation was relatively short.  The twelve tribes descended from the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel were partially united under their first King, Saul, superficially united under King David, and then decreasingly united under King Solomon.  After Solomon's death, the nation divided and as time went on the two related neighbors become very bitter enemies.  At the time of Jesus, the hatred was so intense that a show of inhospitality on the part of a Samaritan town brought about a reaction that considered the potential of mass destruction.

As we all know, this is a familiar story from all of human history.  Prejudice and outright hatred have created enduring chaos.  It's a sad story.

But along came Jesus, who was tasked with healing the divisions and bringing unity (see Ephesians 1:10).  Jesus crossed all borders and sought to bring healing and grace to everyone He met... which is one of the things that got Him killed by the leaders of His own religion.  But Jesus completed His mission, and in the end, He birthed the Church, tasked with carrying on the process of reconciliation and healing.  We haven't always done our job well, but at times God's people have brought peace and stability into the sin-fractured world.

And we continue to have the opportunity to promote what makes for peace.  First, we must seek to make peace among us, and then, as a united force empowered by the Spirit, we can continue Jesus' mission of reconciling people to God and to one another.  It will always prove to be an elusive quest, but we have been called to persist.

With You in His Mission,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."