Sunday, June 26; Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

At one time or another we’ve been snubbed, cold-shouldered, ignored; and we didn’t like it.  It hurt, when we wanted to get even by giving that person a taste of their own medicine and strike back.  We’re only human and want only to be accepted and included, without exception.  There is inside us all the desire to belong.  It’s in our DNA, made in God’s image and likeness as we are.

 So, we can identify with those two disciples in the gospel this 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time who want “to call down fire from heaven” after being snubbed by the Samaritans; burned as they are by their unwelcome.  Anger consumes James and John who want only to get back at them.  Let’s put this in context.

There had been a long history of animosity between Jews and Samaritans at this time; much of it   reactionary and irrational.  Jews would have nothing to do with Samaritans.  They were considered racially inferior due to inter-marriage.  Samaritans, on the other hand, built a temple on Mount Gerizim that rivaled the one in Jerusalem.  It was there they worshipped.  No observant Jew would speak to a Samaritan which was why Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman at the well was so shocking.  Jesus, however, came to break down such enmity.  We’ve yet to take this lesson to heart, our world still divided as it is, in ways that breed animosity just as reactionary and irrational.  The rift between Samaritans and Jews was not unlike what is happening between Muslims and Jews in our own time.  It’s the sad and tragic predicament of us all, blind as we can be to the “wooden beam” in our own eye.  How easily we focus on what is ‘wrong’ in the other rather than the good.  We are quite adept at finding fault rather than building up one another.  Why?  On some level those we consider different threaten us.

In the gospel, Jesus will have nothing to do with this desire to “call down fire from heaven to consume them”.  Rather, he rebukes James and John and must have felt exasperated at their hot-headed natures.  Jesus came to show us another way and to point us in a new direction:  offer no resistance, turn the other cheek, go the second mile.   The Kingdom Jesus announces is embodied in his demeanor and words, and we enter its realm when we find the willingness and courage to make it our own.   Only this mindset and change of heart can turn the tide and change  course within this reckless world; hell-bent on getting even and blinded by instinct.  Jesus came to draw us into the evolution of grace.  Only this can renew the earth and offer hope.  If we fail to evolve in this nature, then we’re warned what will happen when Jesus says: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

In his book “The Challenge of Jesus” the biblical scholar N.T. Wright puts it this way:

Jesus was offering as a counter-agenda an utterly risky way of being…turning the other cheek and going the second mile, the way of losing your life to gain it.  This was the kingdom-invitation he was issuing.  This was the play for which he was holding auditions.

The key thing was that the in-breaking kingdom Jesus was announcing created a new world, a new context…a way of forgiveness and prayer, a way of jubilee, which they could practice in their own villages, right where they were.  (p. 44 and 46)

Where are we headed?  Do we want to follow this counter-agenda and new context Jesus began in the gospel of his flesh?  Or, with our own agendas at hand, do we continue to plow through life, directionless and out of context; ourselves unfit for the kingdom?   

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

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