Sermon Proper 8C, 2019 The Rev. John M. Adkins

From the Gospel of Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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A joint statement from Bishop Breidenthal and Dean Greenwell

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help.

The current immigration policy of our government systematically creates a false narrative of immigrants as criminals while simultaneously creating dehumanizing situations, in the hope that this will serve as a deterrent to migrants.

Among the cruelest policies is the separation of children from their parents, detaining them in conditions no child anywhere should suffer, and certainly not children in the care of the American government. Independent observers have witnessed children sleeping on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, without soap or toothbrushes.  Young children were caring for even younger children.   

Human dignity is not a matter of political opinion or expediency. We cannot condone using human beings as bargaining chips in an effort to discourage people from crossing our borders. Border security is a legitimate goal for any nation, but as Christians we have a higher calling.  We are called to treat and serve the foreigners among us as though they were our own citizens, our own neighbors, our own family (Leviticus 19:33-34). 

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Jesus woke up every morning in a world where human life was devalued by the powerful. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that Jesus witnessed the cruelty inflicted upon one by another. Those who listened to him heard Jesus teach that love for God and love for others are not separate.

Luke’s Gospel takes us to a time when Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem to face his opposition and his fate.

Along the journey, a group of Samaritans refused to welcome the Jerusalem-bound Jewish Rabbi and his message, James and John wanted to retaliate. “Do you want us to command fire to consume them, Jesus?”

What were they thinking? Didn’t they pay attention to the words of the teacher they followed?

Imagine the look Jesus gave those two men. I envision Jesus shaking his head and whispering, “When will they understand?”

The Collect for today prayed: Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone…

Thank God the apostles weren’t the cornerstone. They had a lot to learn – which didn’t come until they lived into Jesus’ resurrection.

That said, we are all human; we make mistakes. It’s not headline news that we have the tendency to be self-focused and value our way of life and those of like mind and like culture and like religion significantly more  than those who differ from us. 

Even in today’s world, it seems as though those us who are different must fight to be recognized as human and worthy of respect and basic human rights.

During this past week, we were reminded of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and how people like me have to continually fight against ignorance as well as religious and political demonization.

My mind now turns to the once declared, “Crisis at our southern border,” while recognizing very little effort is being placed upon helping the vulnerable children, women and men, the majority of whom are coming to our country seeking only what we say our nation is about: the freedom to pursue our dreams.

Bishop Breidenthal and Dean Greenwell remind us that the baptismal vows of the Episcopal Church require each born-again follower of Jesus to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

These things said, we are all human; we make mistakes.

But also I add, if Jesus is truly our Savior, then Jesus is working in each of his followers to save us from our selfishness, hatred, apathy, fear, ignorance, and all the impediments that keep us from valuing the other and loving our neighbor as our self.

You and I cannot be followers of Jesus while choosing not to love those who differ from us.

No one can be a disciple of Jesus and condone what is happening at our southern border.  No one.

This is not a political statement. Rather it reflects the Biblical value of hospitality to both the stranger and the foreigner, let alone Jesus’ own imperative.

I repeat, no one can be a disciple of Jesus and condone what is happening at our southern border.  No one.

Why did Jesus tell potential followers to “Let the dead bury themselves,” and “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”?

Because Jesus’ work, our work, is urgent.

Your response to our neighbors after the recent tornadoes by collecting money and food has been overwhelming. And, there is more work to be done – yes, tornado relief and other vital work throughout the world.

People are being dehumanized and demonized. People are being used, abused and killed.

Jesus’ message of worthiness, love and peace can heal our world, protect children and save lives here and for the world to come.

It’s time for Jesus’ disciples to battle our opposition. We have the power to make huge differences. Our voices can be heard – if we speak. Our embrace can welcome – if we open our minds, hearts and arms. Our love can be received – if we share it. Our love can defeat hate, apathy and fear – if we love unselfishly, as Jesus loves us.

“When will Jesus’ disciples understand?”  

Please Lord, let it be now.