Keeping Jesus locked away – 3rd Sunday after Trinity
In the Gospel reading Jesus says: “Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves…… Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you, heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, “The Kingdom of God has come near you.’ ”.
We like to think that we would always be the people to welcome Jesus if he knocked at our door, and if he asked to stay, we would surely invite him in. But are we really prepared for him to turn our lives upside down, are we ready to make the changes he would require, the sacrifices he would expect? What if it turns out, that we might be the wolves? Are we ready to set Jesus free, or would we decide to lock him up?
Apologies for the delivery in some parts – I tested positive for Covid the day before I recorded the readings/sermon and had to video on green screen from home – and intercut with some past footage – I hope it won’t spoil the service too much for you.
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?