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Proper 8C 2004 Luke 9:51-62
There are two major messages our Lord gives his disciples in the Gospel lesson from Luke. The first one is about tolerance.
Immediately prior to todays gospel reading Jesus and his disciples were on the road and the disciple John came running
up to Jesus and said, Master, we saw a man casting out demons in our name and we stopped him because he isnt one of us.
Jesus stopped and looked John straight in the eye for a moment, looking at him and through him in silence. When Jon
began to squirm under the Lords steady penetrating gaze, Jesus said to him, Dont try to stop him, for he who is not against
us is for us.
And at the beginning of todays reading, James and John, known as the Sons of Thunder demonstrate how well they deserve
that nickname. When Jesus and his disciples sought food and lodging in a Samaritan village they werent received because they
were making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.
And the Sons of thunder wanted to destroy the village and all that was within it by calling fire down from heaven. But
Jesus was having no part of it. He stopped them cold, rebuked them, and peacefully went on to another village, presumably
Jewish, where they ate supper and spent the night.
For the Samaritans and Jews of Jesus day that which divided them was an important point to them, even if it might seem
a little strange to us. But it isnt, so strange, really, if you consider some of the divisions developing in the Church today.
The main differences between Jew and Samaritan and remember, both fall within the borad definition of Judaism were two things.
First the Samaritans considered that one could only truly worship God on Mount Gerizim (sometimes called Mount Ebal) and
nowhere else. But the rest of the Jews considered that the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem was the true place to worship
God after all, God dwelt there in the Holy of Holies.
The second thing was that the Samaritan holy scriptures consisted only of the Pentateuch the first five books of the
Hebrew Bible Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Being a very conservative sect of Judaism, they distrusted
the books of the prophets and other books of the Hebrew bible as smacking of innovation and modernism. So, of course they
would particularly think of Jesus as a radical innovator with his talk of the Good News. And he certainly was and still
. Dealing with the past and with change has always been a difficult thing for religious people. The story is told of
a devout Christian who was faithful in his daily devotions. He read portions of scripture and a devotional book, meditated
silently for a while, and then prayed. As time went by, his prayers became longer and more intense. He came to cherish this
quiet time with God.
His cat liked this devotional time, too! She snuggled against her owner and purred loudly. This interrupted the man
so he put a collar around the cats neck and tied her to the bedpost whenever he wanted to be left undisturbed.
The mans daughter noticed how much his devotional time meant to him, and she adopted the same practice. She dutifully
tied her cat to the bedpost and proceeded to read and pray. Her prayer time was shorter, however.
The day came when her son grew up. He wanted to keep some of the family traditions, but the pace of life had rapidly speeded
up for his generation. He felt that he had no time for lengthy and elaborate devotions, so he eliminated the time for meditation,
Bible reading, and prayer. But so that he could carry on the familys religious tradition, while he was dressing each morning,
he just tied his cat to the bedpost! (1)
Jesus lived his whole life in terms of the Summary of the Law and the Great Commandment. He loved all his neighbors,
including those who tried to imitate him and those who loved God even as narrowly as the Samaritans did. The Samaritans and
even Jesus own disciples were trapped in the rigidities of the past even as the future was sweeping over them with the Good
News. And the bearer of the Good News, our Lord himself, was reaching out to the Samaritans as a friend.
To paraphrase the great 18th Century Church of England priest John Wesley: I have no more right to object to someone
holding a different opinion from mine than I have to differ with someone who wears a wig and I have my own hair, but if he
takes his wig off and shakes the powder in my face, I shall consider it my duty to get quick of him as soon as possible.The
thing which I resolved to use every possible method of preventing was a narrowness of spirit, a party zealthat narrow bigotry
which makes many so unready to believe that there is any work of God but among themselves.We think and let think. (2)
And during the American Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being courteous to his enemies, both in politics
and in the Confederacy, and was told that it was his duty to defeat and destroy them, he replied, Do I not destroy my enemies
when I make them my friends? (3)
The second thing that Jesus teaches by example in the Good News for today is mission. Specifically the urgency of the
Too slow!" ...A day late and a dollar short! "Always a foot behind and a minute late!" Does that describe
anyone you know? -- late for work, late for church, late for appointments.
The story is told of a certain funeral director who had just buried the husband of a very wealthy old friend who had died
after a long illness.
After the graveside service, the now very wealthy widow was the only mourner to get into the big funeral limousine. She
had no children, and no other relatives.
During the drive home, the funeral director spoke in earnest tones to the widow. "Mary," he said, "I want
to tell you something, but please don't be offended. I've been secretly in love with you all these years. That's why I never
married. Because John was my friend, I never said anything about it. But now he's gone. All my life I've been a procrastinator.
All my life I've been too slow about everything. But this time, I'm not going to wait. So, Mary, if you should ever think
of marrying again, just remember, I asked you first."
Mary looked at him, smiled sweetly, and answered, "Tom, I appreciate that very much, but John's doctor has already
asked me." (4)
We Episcopalians can sometimes be a little slow in picking up the mission task. Sometimes we are a little like the people
who said that they wanted to follow Jesus but first wanted to do something else.
I can really relate to this because I am so typical of this. It is the reason I came to the priesthood at age 53 instead
of age 33 when I first began to discuss with bishops about the possibility. Oh, Lord, let me first finish my Army career
and retire on a nicer pension so that I can afford to follow you.
Last summer and this weekend we have had short term mission teams come to the Northern Neck from Region 11. They are
here at the 8 oclock service to worship with us. This most recent set of eleven missioners ranged in age from mid preteens
to grandparent. They spent two days washing, scraping, and then painting a concrete block house just beyond Callao. The
lady who lives in that house is an amputee and very poor. This is the sort of thing, the kind of mission, that Jesus meant
for us to seize and do.
When project 2-11 was nothing more than an idea in the minds of the Deans of Regions 2 and 11, we hoped it would succeed.
And thanks to the energy shown by Eleanor Fukushima, the President of the Region 11 Council, this short term mission effort
is continuing and improving the lot of Gods people in the two counties who live in Third World conditions.
If you talk to those who come to us from Region 11, I think you will find that they feel they gained more from the experience
than they expected.
A last story about seizing the moment and the mission. It is from one of my favorite little bokks, Tales of a Magic Monastery
by Theophane the monk. The title of the story is simply one word: Now! and was written in a section that asked When?
I had just one desire to give myself completely to God. So I headed for the monastery. An old monk asked me, What is
it you want?
I said, I just want to give myself to God.
I expected him to be gentle, fatherly, but he shouted at me, NOW! I was stunned. He shouted again, NOW! Then he reached
for a club and came after me. I turned and ran. He kept coming after me, brtandishing his club and shouting, NOW! NOW!
That was years ago. He still follows me wherever I go. Always that stick, always that NOW! (5)
What is our answer to Jesus question, When? Is it after something else or is it NOW!
1. Quoted in The Forward Look, Dynamic Preaching, June 404dp
2. As quoted in William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, revised edition, Westminster Press, 1975, p. 130.
4. Told in From this Moment On, Sunday Sermon for 27 June 2004.
5. Theophane the Monk, Tales of a Magic Monastery, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981, p.49.