Message based on Luke 9:51-62

 

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Today’s readings are about the “Kingdom of God” and what it means in our lives. Elisha wants to inherit a double portion of Elijah’s [his mentor’s] spirit because he believes that this spirit is the gateway to the Kingdom; and Elisha wants as much of the Kingdom as he can get, a single portion is jut not enough. Paul writes about the LOVE that he understands as a sum of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in our lives (Gal 6:22-23); Paul makes it clear that without this LOVE there is no “Kingdom." Today’s Gospel reading adds to this understanding that the Kingdom of God is a place of tolerance and acceptance.

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Let’s review the portion of today’s Gospel reading that talks about tolerance:

NIV Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.

 

Let’s unpack these verses and figure out what they mean to us on this hot Sunday in June 2010.

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The direct way from Galilee (where Jesus was from) to Judea (where Jerusalem is) went through Samaria. The direct route took three days, but most Jews didn’t take the direct route. Instead, they traveled east from Galilee, crossed the Jordan River, and then turned south, bypassing Samaria before they turned west towards Jerusalem again. This route took about six days, but most Jews would go out of their way to avoid Samaria.

 

The reason for this was an ugly and complicated quarrel between the Jews and Samaritans that took place 700 years earlier. There were many reasons for that hatred, but the most pressing element was racial. The Samaritans were Jews who had intermingled and intermarried with their conquerors 700 years earlier, when the rest of the Jewish tribes were exiled to Babylon. The exiled Jews who had to survive the Diaspora (any religious group living as a minority among people practicing other religion) viewed the mixing of races as an unpardonable sin, both religiously and culturally

 

The passage of time did nothing to diminish the hostilities between the Jews and Samaritans. By Jesus’ day it was an absolute scandal for a Jew to have any dealings at all with a Samaritan (Story of a Samaritan woman at the well, John 4). The Samaritans weren’t exactly innocent either; they did everything they could to hinder and/or injure any Jewish travelers who attempted to pass through their territory.

 

By passing through Samaritan territory and seeking hospitality with Samaritans, Jesus was extending "an olive branch," a hand of friendship and an offer of reconciliation to a people who were enemies. In this case, not only was the hospitality refused but the offer of friendship was rejected. That is why, James and John felt justified and confident in their self-righteous indignation when they offered to call "the fire from Heaven" to destroy the Samaritan village (Luke 9:54). But Jesus did not allow it (Luke 9:55) [Barclay 129].

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Jesus did not allow such destruction because one of many reasons that Jesus’ came to this world was to teach us about LOVE and TOLERANCE. I am talking about love that is the sum of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 6:22-23). I am talking about love that brings renewal through tolerance and reconciliation.

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The founder of Methodism, John Wesley penned these words:

“I have no more right to object to a man for holding a different opinion from mine than I have to differ with a man because he wears a wig and I wear 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 quit 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 zeal, a being straitened in our own bowels – that miserable bigotry which makes many so unready to believe that there is any work of God but among themselvesWe think and let think.”

 

 

The reason I used this long quote in archaic English is because I want to get to the part that said, "We think and let think…" and I want to quote it in the context in which it was written. What John Wesley is saying is that IF we want to expand our understanding of God, we must be willing to think and to prayerfully consider the ideas of others. John Wesley makes a strong case that unwillingness to do so leads to bigotry.

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By refusing to destroy the Samaritan village, Jesus taught his disciples that Samaritans are God’s children just like the Jews are, and that the 700 years of conflict went on WAY-Way-way too long. Jesus was teaching his disciples to seek the common ground, to let go of 700-year-old bigotries, and to usher in a new era of healing and reconciliation.

So what does this all mean to us today

?

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Mission is about three things: (1) learning about God, (2) learning about each other, (3) getting some work done. Christian Mission is about learning what others think, how they understand God, and how God is present in THEIR midst. Evangelism is about finding where our thoughts intersect with the thoughts of others, and then demonstrating how our God is active in BOTH their lives and in our lives. In the process, we learn more about how God is at work in our world, and we learn new things about God that maybe we did not understand before. In other words, we grow as a Christian, and we grow in our Christian walk.

 

One of the many ways to accomplish Christian mission is through work (mission trips) and through cross-cultural interactions (trips, exchange programs etc).

 

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Next week, many families from our church will be involved in a mission with exchange students. My hope and prayer is that everyone who is involved in this mission will see God in the eyes of our exchange students and in the eyes of other hosts. My hope and prayer is that those who are NOT involved in this mission will reach out to our guests. That is the "we think…" portion of Wesley’s quote. ("we think and let think")

 

 

My hope and prayer is that everyone who is involved in this mission will learn a lot about the culture of our guests. My hope and prayer that our community will be a catalyst of love {love that is the sum of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 6:22-23)} and understanding that reflect the love of Jesus. That is the "… and let think" portion of Wesley’s quote. {"we think and let think"}

{Celebrating the Holy Communion}

Works Cited:
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975.

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