When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When 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?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And 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." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
“Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, * yet your footsteps were not seen.” - Psalm 77:19
We are Christians and we believe that God works mightily in this world to save people, to redeem all creatures, and at the last to bring peace and justice for the whole world
We believe this in faith, but sometimes that faith seems blind and foolish.
It is easy to look at the world we live in and believe that God really isn’t here, that God either can’t change anything or doesn’t care. In the face of so much violence, pain, and devastation, it is easy to forget that God is love.
Our psalmist feels the same way. He believes that God has acted in the world, that God has done great things in Israel’s midst. God rescued them from slavery in Egypt…
But did God really do that? Was God really there? Because after they left the land of slavery, it was a long journey to the land of promise.
You might remember from the Book of Numbers that only two people who were born in Egypt and endured the slavery actually made it into the Promised Land: Joshua and Caleb. Everyone else, including Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, died on the journey. Was God really there? Does God really care? Is God’s love really among us?
This question is central to the disciples’ action in our Gospel passage today.
Jesus is determined to go on to Jerusalem and chooses to travel south from Galilee through the land of the Samaritans. For many reasons, Samaritans and Jews don’t get along. They have long histories of war and brutality against one another. They have theological disagreements. It’s really a mess.
So it is not surprising when Jesus and his fellow Jewish disciples meet resistance when they travel through Samaria. The Samaritan people have no interest in helping them on their journey.
So the disciples respond as most people would. They are angry and hurt that their enemies have spit in their faces once again. They are disappointed that God did not change their hearts. They really believed that following Jesus might change something and make their lives easier, less full of hardship.
So they turn to the Lord and ask for revenge.
"Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54)
It might seem like they are out of line, but it’s really a biblical thing to ask
Think Sodom and Gomorrah
Destroyed for inhospitality (“This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy.” -Ezek 16:49)
Our tendency toward violence and retribution is strong
Each of us is prone to anger, wrath, bloodlust, and violence
The violence and anger lives deep within us all
Wanting to yell and hurt my dog
Not sure how to teach with positive reinforcement
Negative feedback, criticism, and violence are my defaults
[Unnamed presidential candidate] excitedly talks about killing the families of national enemies, and crowds cheer.
Violence does not determine who we are or who we must be.
Jesus is merciful and compassionate
“[Jesus] turned and rebuked them” (Lk 9:55)
Would not accept the disciples’ judgment and wrath. Justice of God is not to be meted out by people.
Angry, murderous thoughts betray our disbelief in the dignity of every human person (Baptismal Covenant)
God’s justice will rule and we don’t have to worry about other people getting what they deserve.
I imagine that God’s justice and punishment is more passive than active. People who refuse to live and conform to the Kingdom way of life will hate and squirm at God’s mercy and want to leave.
According to C.S. Lewis, “the gates of hell are locked from the inside” (The Problem of Pain, 127).
Throughout the whole Bible, God consistently shows mercy and relents from anger.
God is perfect peace. God is perfect love
Peace is at the center of the universe
God is Trinity (a community of love, relationship, and kindness)
The dynamic, self-giving love of the Father and the Son in the power and unity of the Holy Spirit
People of God can and will forgive, can and will accept persecution with boldness and courage and without vindictive retaliation
God can heal our sin-sick souls
It begins by following Jesus wholeheartedly, no turning back. Push the plow and don’t turn back.
It also happens through falling in love with God, being captivated by God’s beauty and love. There is no magic formula or on/off switch. There is something that must happen in your heart and soul to help you see and feel the communion of the Trinity.
And so you may not know where God’s footprints are through the Red Sea. You may not be able to prove to a violent and hateful world that God exists and God is love. But you can start into the eyes of your Savior and be drawn into the ever-compelling love of the Trinity. You can discover God’s infinite and perfect beauty and accept the invitation to abide in the Vine just a little more each day. And we can meet together to practice one more simple act of peace, so that when our enemies come knocking at our gates once again, we’ll know that hate doesn’t have the final word. Peace and love can and will overcome, for God is love.