June 27, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Proper 8/C [Pent. 3] (June 26, 2022): Ps. 16; 1 Kings 19:9b-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62. [Congregation Close]
[A] village of the Samaritans … would not receive [Jesus], because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them (vv. 52b-55).
The NT Church consists of Easter men and women; we live in the power of the Resurrection awaiting the new creation now coming into being. Of this time the Lord by Isaiah imparted a blessing, “There shall not be a tender babe or elder who will not live out his days. For like a lad he shall die at a hundred” (Isa. 65:20a).
Congregations, like men, have an expiry date; Grace Lutheran, having attained her century of days will soon part. Having been blessed with long life in this world, Christians do not dwell on former days; rather in the Resurrection we advance to greater fidelity in our respective offices and from faith to faith.
The Church’s office of Delivery belongs to the man Jesus through servant pastors who preach, administer its keys, the Sacrament, and teach; the Bride’s office is her reception of these for service in love (Gal. 5:13, 14).
At the Fall, male and female offices became confused; topsy-turvy, the woman delivered Satan’s word to the man who in turn received its lie; resulting to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, [i.e., his spiritual office] and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b).
God is Pantokrator, the Almighty (2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8) killing and making alive (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam.2:6, 7). Of the man and woman’s mixing their offices, God announced, “dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19c).
Something like that original confusion occurred in today’s Gospel. On Mt. Transfiguration God instructed Peter, James, and John to the Church office, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Lk. 9:35). Previously Peter, had stepped-out of following Jesus for which he was called “Satan” (Mt 16:23); today, it is James and John who get ahead of Jesus, to earn a rebuke.
Jesus was traveling through Samaria, the former kingdom of queen Jezebel and king Ahab on his way to Jerusalem. Samaria, no longer the place of Baal worship, nevertheless, was a center of false religion mimicking that of Moses. Jesus was determined to Jerusalem and for rebuff the Samaritan village refused its hospitality.
In an earlier day Elijah called down heaven’s fire and killed 450 of Jezebel’s Baal prophets and priests with the sword (1 Kgs. 18:22, 38-40). Then, Elijah lost spine, running from Jezebel’s threats; overshooting Jerusalem; returning to Mt. Horeb. Incredulously, God asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” (1 Kgs. 19:9b).
Elijah complained, he was Yahweh’s last faithful servant, his task too difficult, and his enemies too powerful. Dispirited, he wanted nothing other than to retire from warfare in the Land, a return to the monastic desert womb of solace and quietude.
God refreshed Elijah, reminded him that Horeb was no longer his dwelling with men. Except on Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:51-53), God no long reveals himself in the terrors of nature: rock splitting wind, earth quakes, smoke nor fire.
Instead, God assured Elijah he was not alone in fidelity; there was a remnant of 7,000 in need of gospel delivery. Elijah returned to the Land to preach, anoint kings (NT “Baptism”), and calling Elisha, his prophet replacement.
God’s presence is now known by human speech, gentle words in “a low whisper” (1 Kgs. 19:12) that attach under the hidden things of creation. Elijah was sent back into the Land with this gospel.
On the Samaritan village’s insult James and John, inspired by Elijah’s confrontation against Jezebel would have acted by divine judgment (cf. Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 20:20-28) incinerating all.
Instead, Jesus rebuked James and John. Like Peter before, they were acting as Satan (Mt:16:23); getting-out front of Jesus’ lead and their proper office; no longer guided by God’s “low whisper” to Elijah for those who would come to the Bride.
With James and John, we lament inhospitality toward God’s “word and Sacrament presence” (Gal.1:6). Prayer is appropriate, but we dare not allow distress at errorists turn to anger, hallmark of the Inquisition posing as church.
Jesus continued-on to Jerusalem for a final rejection on the cross (Lk. 9:44), and was approached by three applicants into discipleship; the first expressed “undying commitment”; the other two conditioned their priorities and so would absorb Jesus’ words, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (v. 60); and “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62):
Following God’s lead involves determination to engage his enemies, the last of which is death. Apart from God’s baptismal killing, man’s natural home is the earth’s dust; for those desiring to remain, fine, bury and bid farewell; but by all means you are invited entry into Christ’s risen flesh, your true family. This means, absent exigent circumstances, we gather every Lord’s Day as our heart’s desire.
Jesus in this world was alien and pilgrim; by daily death into his death, so too are we. He is Son of Man having no place here to lay his head (v. 58), returning to his place of eternal “Beginning” (Jn. 1:1), resting his head on Abraham’s bosom (cf. NKJV, Lk. 16:22), scriptural cypher for God.
You and I are of the world; we are at home in it until the day we lay our heads on its dusty pillow. Baptism invites God’s hospitality.
At his Table, disciples, the ones he loves, recline on Jesus’ breast, (NKJV, Jn. 13:23). From this posture of worship, we are sent into the world through lives proclaiming his love in fidelity to the Church’s Listening office. Amen.