Audio 4 Pentecost Yr C Proper 9 July 7 2019
Isaiah 66:10-14, Psalm 66:1-8, Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
God is a God of generous grace, and astonishing, powerful, healing love. And here in Luke’s gospel we hear, the kingdom of God has come near to you. And at the heart of Jesus’ call is the message of peace. And Jesus’ call is urgent.
We’ve already established that Jesus and all of those who are following are on their way to Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ death. Jesus gives instructions to his followers, and then sends out seventy others, in pairs, to the places he intends to go on the way. There seems to be trouble though, it must be dangerous territory. Jesus sends them like lambs in the midst of wolves, and tells them not to carry anything with them. Jesus sends them in pairs, in community, always a good way to enter territory that may be dangerous. And yet, Jesus tells them to say to whatever house they enter Peace to this house! If the people in the house offer hospitality, stay with them, if they don’t, move on. Remember that a main theme in Luke’s gospel is hospitality. Hospitality that includes a warm drink and a sandwich, but deeper than that, hospitality that breaks boundaries and barriers and borders. Hospitality that crosses divisions and perceived differences. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is the exemplar of hospitality, Jesus says, Peace to this house.
It feels a little like being sent into the wolves these days. And, sometimes it feels like people don’t even want peace, they prefer to bicker, and disagree, and bully. Bickering, and disagreeing, and bullying gets attention, that’s what we see modeled for us in television and media. It’s almost like a game, a game where there are winners and losers, and the purpose of the game is to clear the board, winner takes all, subjugate and control the other. A game in which people talk over and talk around each other and you can’t hear anyone, it’s all noise. Bickering and disagreeing and bullying tears us apart, it tears us down, it disassembles us, it is what we call sin. These are that sins protect power, these are sins that ignore those who are different.
As if bickering and disagreeing and bullying are not bad enough, it seems as if the fabric of civility is being rent. Jesus is the exemplar of hospitality, and Jesus welcomes the last, and the lonely, and the lost. Jesus sets those who are being held prisoner free, Jesus makes a home for all of God’s beloveds. As followers of Jesus, we too must be exemplars of hospitality. If we don’t, it is a rejection and refusal of the Kingdom of God. But perhaps our world is really no different than the mission field into which Jesus’ disciples were sent. Human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years.
And into that melee, comes Jesus’ voice, Peace to this house. The kingdom of God has come near to you. You don’t fight bickering and disagreeing and bullying with more of the same. You don’t fight evil with evil. Jesus rejects violence, Jesus rejects hateful and hurtful words. That is what Jesus does in his life, that is what Jesus teaches his followers, and that is what Jesus does on the cross. Jesus goes to the cross, beaten but not defeated. To all the world it looks like loss. To all the world it looks like death wins. But you and I know better because we have been given a glimpse of the kingdom. In God’s kingdom the boundaries and barriers and borders are torn down, and those who are on the margins, those who look to the world like they have been defeated, are set free. On the cross, Jesus does not return violence with violence. Jesus returns violence and hate with forgiveness. Into a world that looks like darkness, comes new life.
And we do not follow Jesus because in doing so we can feel good about ourselves. You and I both know that following Jesus does not mean somehow we escape death, following Jesus does not mean that this life is easy, following Jesus does not mean that we get rich.
We follow Jesus because we know the truth of suffering, and death and new life. We know the truth of the love that picks us up off the ground, the love that puts us back together again after destruction, after falling apart, after having been thrown off to the margins. We know the truth of the love that wins.
And it is knowing that truth that brings us to this place today. We shake the dust off our sandals, and we persevere. We stand up and we testify to the truth once again. Day after day, hour after hour, love your neighbor, the kingdom of God is near. There are big huge issues today that we need to figure out, and we can participate in the solutions to those problems as the solutions present themselves, solutions that lead to healing and wholeness, solutions that defeat the evil that breaks people apart.
So today I leave you with five Habits of the Heart, as Parker Palmer calls them, that I believe bring the Kingdom of God nearer.
The Kingdom of God is near when we understand that we are all in this together. We are intertwined and interconnected. Indeed we are all related.
The Kingdom of God is near when we understand hospitality in ways that we receive what our neighbor has to teach us.
The Kingdom of God is near when we allow the tension of contradiction to expand our hearts.
The Kingdom of God is near when we speak the truth, and use our voice to make a difference.
The Kingdom of God is near when we create community.
The kingdom of God is near, peace to this house.