3rd Sunday after Pentecost - June 26, 2022


Both the Old Testament and the Gospel tell us stories of journey, of change, and resolve…


In the Old Testament lesson,God tells Elijah to anoint Jehu as king over Israel; Hazael as king over Aram; and to anoint Elisha, as the prophet in Elijah’s place…


This story is fascinating and full of events that we often find strange.

Elisha is working in the field with twelve yoke of oxen…he is with the twelfth yoke and Elijah passes by him and at the same time Elijah throws the mantle of a prophet over Elisha…


Here we can imagine Elisha running after Elijah calling out that he, Elisha, must go kiss his father and his mother goodby and then he will accept the mantle and follow Elijah…


Reading this for the first time, it sounds as if Elijah just “blows him off”..Go on back; what have I to do with you…or what is the fuss about; or your oxen are confused being left alone and without guidance…

Yet, Elisha holds on to the mantle of prophecy and off goes Elijah…


If you have read much about Elijah…and I encourage you to do so… you will find a most eccentric prophet and man…I guarantee you…he will never bore you and as you read the story of him standing on the mountain waiting for God, you will be deeply moved as the still silence or the still small voice speaks to Elijah…


And indeed, the prophet Elijah is not forgetting the passing of the mantle…he is simply telling Elisha that it is alright to go do what he has to do and then to follow him…


If one continues to read the story of Elijah and Elisha, this will be perhaps the last time that Elisha has the luxury of turning away or turning back…


The prophetic story and the immediacy of journey continues as we read the Gospel and the beginning of the section in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem…


The entire mood shifts in Luke at this point and the immediacy of the mission of Jesus becomes the focus


Jesus is single minded and he requires his followers to be single minded as well… as He begins his divinely ordained journey toward Jerusalem…


Luke says that Jesus “sets His face” … signaling to the hearer and the reader that of the austerity of Jesus’ resolve and His connection with the prophetic vocation…


On this journey, Jesus enters Samaritan territory; and Jesus is rejected by the Samaritans which terribly distresses James and John…


To put this into perspective, James and John, just prior to Jesus setting out for Jerusalem have witnessed Jesus being transfigured…


They have witnessed the Glory of Moses and Elijah and Jesus, and have heard the words of God telling them that Jesus is God’s Son; His chosen…


They have seen the gentle nature of Jesus as He tells them that the least in the kingdom is the greatest…

But never mind all that…when the Samaritan’s reject Jesus, James and John are ready for a fight… They are ready to follow in Elijah’s footsteps.. Let’s just command fire to come down from heaven and consume those Samaritan dudes..


Forget the transfiguration, the word of God coming down from heaven, the words of Jesus loving the very least; loving those who have no power…


Let’s kill ‘em…fire is good! And a show of it coming down from heaven seals the deal…


I love Luke’s story telling… simply…Jesus turned, rebuke them, and they went to another village…


I think the immediacy and the profound nature of the journey to Jerusalem is told in the next verses…


Notice Jesus warns the followers that the journey will be stark and without even the simplest of comforts…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head…creature comforts are a thing of the past…this journey will require resolve, denial of self …


Commitment to the kingdom requires those who live in this age of first century Israel to reconsider their highly structured family norms and to realize that family allegiances and behaviors considered to be required by society now have to be set aside…


What will be required is a reordering of all human interactions and total devotion to the ministry of the kingdom.

Life will be centered totally on hearing and doing the word of God…


Followers of Jesus on this journey must strive to match the depth of Jesus’ resolve even when it leads to rejection and perhaps even death.


One cannot look back; one cannot hesitate; one cannot stall making a decision by following social requirements…


I am certain that Luke wanted to make the hearer of the Gospel story extremely uncomfortable….extremely.


Social norm were very strict in the Jewish world at that time…it was paramount to keeping their freedom of worship that they order the structure of family; the reason: they lived in a world that could be very dangerous if Rome, for a moment, thought that peace was not being maintained…


The Jews worshipped and lived their lives at the mercy of Rome; Jewish social and religious life were not separate and this man, Jesus, was dangerous and His life and ministry were a conundrum to the religious authorities…


I have always thought that the Pharisees were probably very curious, and we know that some were eager to know and hear Jesus…


But He was a thorn in their side and an obstruction to peace and continuing the status quo…


For goodness sake: think about what Jesus represent to them: healing, transfiguration; preaching with words that moved the heart and mind to think in a different way; seeking life in a different realm; to loving the unloveable; having such conviction as to stand before the authorities and to be willing to die for those convictions…


How can one not follow on the journey to Jerusalem and at the same time…what crazy person can follow on the road to Jerusalem?


Is that not our exact dilemma today? Are we not put to the test daily to love the unlovable especially when the unlovable is ourselves; to care for the poor in spirit; to heal the sick; to care for the rejected; and finally perhaps by far the most difficult, to maintain our love of God and our beliefs when we are rejected by those we love and cherish…


I do not think the requirements of discipleship are so different today than they were in the first century of the common era…


None of us can fully grasp the cost of discipleship …But we can reorder our lives to center ourselves on hearing and doing God’s word…


When I applied to seminary, I thought that I understood in some small way the cost of discipleship…of course, that was my arrogance


The first day of class, I met a wonderful devoted man named Jack… He was very unhappy about being in seminary because he had to leave his family and travel from Uganda in Africa to the US and then to this foreign place called Austin…


Nothing, nothing, nothing was familiar… The elders of his family cast lots and Jack was chosen to go to seminary…no one asked him; his obedience was expected


He told me that he did not want to come, that he had no vocation, that he missed his family, and on top of all of that he thought he was too old to start over… to read theology, to eat our food, to wear western clothing, to give up the privilege of watching his six children grow up for the next three years.


We became very close, and Jack was very patient with me… My children loved him and his gentle ways and we had adventures together that I treasure…


We wrote after graduation for several years… my favorite letter from him was in response to my letter telling him of my first experience baptizing a baby


I am sure I went on and one in my description of the baby, the font, the party afterwards in the Parish Hall…


In his return letter, he expressed his absolute delight for my experience and then shared that he too had officiated at his first baptism… 500 people waded into the river to be baptized … no description followed of their dress, of the party afterwards


What followed was asking for prayer that the authorities would not arrest him and the members of his congregation… that the baptism would go undiscovered…


Discipleship

Followers of the way

Rejection

Persecution

Even death


Amen





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