Sermon – 27 June 2004

The gospel passage this morning [Luke 9:51-62] is presumed by commentators to be one that is full of so-called ?hard sayings? and difficult circumstances. Firstly there is the whiff of something distinctly racist about the story of the Samaritan village. Then Jesus appears to be encouraging people to follow him into a life of poverty and homelessness. Then Jesus seems to care nothing for a man whose father seems to have died.

Is this the kind of Christ whom we are trying to follow? Is this difficult figure wandering between these villages worth following at all?

Well, this Gospel passage does take a little bit of thinking about, but in fact, I think it contains gospel nuggets that are pure gold.

Let me explain.
There are three themes in the gospel this morning that are worth building a life around.

However, in order to dig them up, we need to go slowly.

I shall take them in three chunks. Firstly the business of the apparently racist Samaritan village. Secondly, the business about foxes and holes. And thirdly the chap who wanted to bury his father.

Let us see whether we can find someone worth following in all of this.

Jesus was approaching a Samaritan village. He and his disciples were looking for hospitality. Instead, they find that the people there would not receive him because he had his face set towards Jerusalem.

This is code of course. They would not receive him because he did not belong on their territory. To be precise ? they would not have him because he was Jewish. The gang that ruled the village were not going to welcome the Jesus gang who came wandering in from no-where.

Gang culture destroys natural hospitality as surely now as it did then.

What kind of Jesus do we find here. Well, we find that Jesus in this little bit of Luke?s gospel is the victim of a rather narrow mindset. He is the victim of sectarianism. Tribalism. Racism. His face does not fit. So he gets no food and no rest and no comfort.

If you were setting out in Scotland to find Jesus, where would you find him.

He was the victim of sectarianism. Tribalism. Racism.

Where is Jesus now?

That tells us about where Jesus might be found, but it is his response to it which is worth noting. ?Shall we call down fire from heaven?? ?Shall we threaten the enemy with destruction?? ?Shall we blast them out of existence?

The Saviour has a short answer.

Nowadays, we have the power to call down fire from heaven on our enemies. We have the power to shoot, to bomb indiscriminately, to obliterate innocents as a means of war.

?Shall we call down fire from heaven?? ?Shall we threaten the enemy with destruction?? ?Shall we blast them out of existence?

The Saviour has a short answer.

Moving on though, the Saviour says that foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

Just like the first part of the reading, it may surprise us to find that Jesus is homeless. And the question is the same. If we want to find Jesus now in Scotland. If we want to follow him, where will we go and to whom shall we speak. It is clear that if we are going to meet with Jesus we will end up engaging with the forces which keep people poor and listening to voices which seldom get heard.

Yet there is also a side to this little saying of Jesus which is not just about poverty and homelessness.

I think that in amongst all that, Jesus is saying something to all of us about the things that we have. And he is telling us good news ? that it is not homes or possessions not anything else that we can own that can save us.

And he is telling us that he is for everyone and with everyone rich and poor.

And he is telling us something that really matters. Matters in a gospel way, about possessions.

House prices are not a measure of success you know.

The Lord of heaven and earth let go of power and authority, of riches and of strength and came and walked our earth. And that letting go is gospel. Letting go of the belief that wealth or status or power or anything like that can save us.

And lastly, what about the man who came to Jesus and said ? let me go and bury my father.

Well, firstly, this is not about a deathbed scene. Jesus is not interrupting a funeral at all. What this man is saying is that he has family responsibilities.

In my short years of ministry, I have lost track of the number of people who have told me that they cannot do things for God because of a family relationship. Not all family relationships are easy and not all are good. This is hard for some people. I know it is hard. But there is gold here too.

The Lord knows that family can be very hard work indeed.

Yet, Jesus comes to us and says ? be free. Be free of all that harms you. And love God and love other people. Do not be kept from loving God nor loving others because of anything. Not even those whom you care most about.

And I certainly find that liberating.

So there we have three gold gospel nuggets to chew on for the week ahead.

Remember them?

1. The Saviour was the victim of sectarianism and his response was to call down peace from heaven.
2. The Saviour had nowhere to lay his head and calls all of us to follow him regardless of our possessions or status.
3. The Saviour offers us all our freedom. Freedom to love and be loved. A love that not even our nearest and our dearest can be allowed to get in the way of.

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