Can we become sanctuary? – 4th Sunday after Trinity
Today’s gospel reading lays out in one short story, not only the very essence of the Christian faith, but also its connection with the past and the profound change that it ushers in as Jesus both evokes that which has gone before, at the same time that he radically breaks with it. For Jesus stands within a great continuity, but he also represents in himself and in his teaching a great disruption, a refining clarity of mind that is able to strip the faith to its absolute essentials. The story of the Good Samaritan concerns radical inclusion, the recognition that our social and religious prejudices are all too often an attempt to restrict the Grace of God, within own own narrow minds and hearts. But Grace is infinitely broader and more generous than we conceive or allow.
You only have to look at the issues of gender and sexuality to see how churches have become obsessed with fighting changes that wider society has long since adopted and recognised as moral progress. The irony is that there are real battles to fight. Many today live in denial of their own spiritual needs, of the need to feel connections beyond themselves, to their community and the world that surrounds them, to the landscape, the creatures that we so often treat as mere things for our use and the environment that we continue to pollute and abuse. How can we as disciples recapture some of the passion and energy of the heroes of the Christian faith, and provide true moral leadership, without regressing into some of the narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism of the past?
In writing his gospel Luke has a number of issues to address. As eye witnesses of Jesus’ life and teaching are passing away, he wants to leave a lasting record and legacy of those days, he wants the gospel, the good news to be freely available to all who are ready to hear, and also he wants to stiffen the sinews of those who continue to follow Christ, to put iron in their resolve, to bolster their determination. So he relates the story of the householder and the servant, part encouragement and part admonition and warning. In our own way, we too are subject to the same concerns and obstacle to our own spiritual growth. What is holding us back from becoming the person we are meant to Be?
A gospel that preaches “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and “Alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness” can cause us to shift uneasily in our seats. For in reality who of us, using a comparative measure, is not rich? The term ‘rich’ is rather imprecise. By comparison to the starving even those with a loaf of bread are rich, would it not appear that Christianity and particularly St. Luke’s gospel carries an almost universal condemnation?
But something changed between the short-lived and urgent days of Jesus’s ministry and the faith as it came to be considered by the writers of the gospels and Acts. Is it a sin to be rich? Is it a virtue to be poor? How are we to live lives usually considerably longer than Jesus and his disciples? Do the lessons of Luke’s day have something to teach us in our own time?