June 30, 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL
1 Kings 19, 16-21 + Psalm 16 + Galatians 5, 1, 13-18 + Luke 9, 51-62
Now begins the “Journey to Jerusalem” for Jesus and those of us who would be his companions. It is not just a journey for Jesus. It is a journey for every one of us who have begun to call Jesus our brother, our teacher, and our savior. Before he has even spent a day on the road, he casts out the demon of violence from among us. There will be no “fire from heaven” to consume those who oppose or are hostile to his presence. We will just move on. Perhaps, given some time and some good example those who are hostile at first might come around. Conversion is always possible. Who are we to take away their chance at conversion by destroying them? The whole incident raises a challenge for the healing of cultural, historical, and religious divisions. Hospitality must replace hostility.
This journey has nothing to do with maps reading or chronology, but everything to do with following Jesus Christ in our own time and place. Three encounters come up in these verses today. We hear the request. We hear the response of Jesus, but we know nothing of the outcome from those three meetings. It’s as though Luke wants us to resolve those issues for ourselves.
The first one comes up very confident needing to be tested. Can this one live powerless, homeless, and rejected if that comes with following Jesus? In the reply of Jesus there is the suggestion that as long as the Romans occupy Israel, no true Israelite is at home. For us, it isn’t the Romans, but it is an oppressive secularism that occupies our homeland. It will reject us.
Then comes the second encounter, and this time Jesus takes the initiative calling this one to follow. It’s easy to have sympathy with someone who wants to bury a parent first. There is a cultural issue here that puts the comment of Jesus in another light. There is no indication that the father is dead. He could be quite fit and still young. Even though the culture in which this encounter takes place might suggest that a son postpone his own life until a father has died, Jesus proposes that sometimes following him may mean a contradiction of cultural expectations. In no way does Jesus deny here love and respect for parents. This is about cultural expectations, not family life.
Then the last one comes with conditions that seem reasonable, but following the way of Jesus Christ does not work conditionally. It’s all or nothing. Working a field with a plow in those days demanded great concentration and skill. If you took your eyes off the plow for just a second or two, it could be shattered by a rock hidden under the soil, and that would mean a disaster. So, with Jesus, there can be no distractions. The eyes, the mind, the heart are all focused on one thing only, making the field of this world ready for God’s harvest. Dedication and Commitment are required of us all if we are going follow Christ Jesus.
We proclaim this Gospel today in the age of “drop out”. We all know people who are dropping out: dropping out of a church that struggles to be purified from sin and the disgrace of broken leadership that has never needed us more, dropping out of politics at time when we need public servants of noble integrity like never before. Sometimes we drop out by simply being cowardly silent when we should speak up in the face of selfishness, injustice, and cruelty.
Today it might a good idea to ask the question: “Why is Jesus going to Jerusalem to begin with?” The answer is simple. Jesus goes and Jesus is found where ever salvation and hope are needed most. He is here among us today for those very reasons, and that is a cause for joy and hope.