Sunday, 26 June 2016

Can't make it to church? 26th June 2016

Today’s readings call us to think about endings and beginnings – a familiar theme in the light of the referendum results this week and our remembering the beginning of the Battle of the Somme (141 days of conflict which took more lives than any other battle in the world’s history) at the end of the coming week perhaps?

Endings - As we find Jesus setting out on His final journey to Jerusalem. He’s told his followers what to expect – how he is to suffer and die – and determines to head into that reality and an end which heralds an amazing, and eternal, beginning. This is an act of commitment and courage, and act that makes real the words of commitment to God, the Father.

As we take our steps in the worlds, this too is our calling – to make real the words that we issue about our calling with God, even if it means laying down our lives.

So off they go, passing through a Samaritan village on the way. Jews and Samaritans don’t mix, they have ‘history’, and the welcome they receive cause upset amongst the disciples – no shock here as they were probably already tense and edgy, they were following Jesus to His death (and possibly theirs too). So they lash out – just like us when we are tense – “Let's call down fire on them,” they say!

But Jesus, rather than agree, uses the moment to bring some clarity about following Him to those who have already committed to do that. To move on and accept that things might be difficult, possessions and property a thing of the past as the move into that great unknown, for who truly can predict the future or the time of their ending other than the Lord?

We need to plough straight furrows with our lives – having been to a ploughing contest the difference between a straight line and a wobbly one was obvious, but the implication of this, being that the straight line yielded more produce, was news to me.

How straight is the line we walk today?

Are we a voice of reason, love and service to those around us or the embodiment of what it means to be self-serving and men-spirited?

As we look to lose the identity that says ‘EU citizen’ and change it – what will it be that we bear? British citizen or citizen of heaven, for surely the latter is, for us, (or should be) the reality for being in and not of the world we are surely ‘exiles and aliens’  in this world (1Pet 2.11).

Beginnings (and endings) - And as we consider Elisha’s call – something very different from the other calls in the Old Testament as there;s no burning bush, fanfare, whispers in the night, vision or God pop in and nudge him. It’s just so very ‘ordinary’: Elijah’s offering him a job; the opportunity to stop ploughing and start sowing the word of God!

Elisha’s is to be a disciple, a servant, of Elijah. Something we call a ‘type’ in theological; circles for here we find an example for us to take up and make our own. We are called to leave behind what we are and what we know and to follow Jesus in exactly the same, often equally unspectacular way – and later the time come when Elisha takes on Elijah’s role (I like the term ‘takes on his mantle – meaning puts on his uniform if you like’) when Elijah gets taken up into heaven.

Elisha takes the cattle that pull the plough and slaughters them, using the plough as the source of heat, talk about burning your bridges – this is not just commitment but determination in terms
of intent and opportunity! A true burning of his bridges so that the only way open it him is ‘forward’.

Our call to becoming disciples is one of turning from our sins and moving forward in the footsteps of the master. For Elisha it was Elijah, for us it is Jesus – and there can be no turning back – and as we do this we break free from the chains and demands of this world into the freedom Paul speaks of in out Galatians passage; free from the chains of sin and the snares of this world As we live in the power of God’s Holy Spirit..

Let us not conform to the attitudes of this world and to get in step with its self-serving and sinful desires but live as a ‘tended tree planted by streams of living water’ like the faithful inPsalm one – and if we do we will produce good fruit:

“The fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, mercy, gentleness and self-control.”

Nothing the world has can deny or overcome this – by having these the world in which we live, and yet are not of, will be changed and our endings and beginnings made bright, right and enabling.

1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21
The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came. Go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also anoint Jehu as king over Israel. He is the son of Nimshi. And anoint Elisha from Abel Meholah as the next prophet after you. He is the son of Shaphat. Jehu will put to death anyone who escapes Hazael’s sword. And Elisha will put to death anyone who escapes Jehu’s sword.

Elijah left Mount Horeb. He saw Elisha, the son of Shaphat. Elisha was plowing in a field. He was driving the last of 12 pairs of oxen. Elijah went up to him. He threw his coat around him. Then Elisha left his oxen. He ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said. “Then I’ll come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He got his two oxen and killed them. He burned the plough to cook the meat. He gave it to the people, and they ate it. Then he started to follow Elijah. He became Elijah’s servant.

Galatians 5.1,13-25
Christ has set us free to enjoy our freedom. So remain strong in the faith. Don’t let the chains of slavery hold you again.

My brothers and sisters, you were chosen to be free. But don’t use your freedom as an excuse to live under the power of sin. Instead, serve one another in love. The whole law is fulfilled by obeying this one command. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you say or do things that harm one another, watch out! You could end up destroying one another.

So I say, live by the Holy Spirit’s power. Then you will not do what your desires controlled by sin want you to do. The desires controlled by sin do not want what the Spirit delights in. And the Spirit does not want what the desires controlled by sin delight in. The two are at war with each other. That’s why you are not supposed to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the authority of the law.

The result of sin’s control in our lives is clear. It includes sexual sins, impure acts and wild living. It includes worshiping statues of gods and worshiping evil powers. It also includes hatred and fighting, jealousy and fits of anger. Sinful desire is interested only in getting ahead. It stirs up trouble. It separates people into their own little groups. It wants what others have. It gets drunk and takes part in wild parties. It does many things of that kind. I warn you now as I did before. People who live like this will not receive God’s kingdom.

But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sinful desires to his cross. They don’t want these things anymore. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Luke 9.51-62
The time grew near for Jesus to be taken up to heaven. So he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him. But the people there did not welcome Jesus. That was because he was heading for Jerusalem. The disciples James and John saw this. They asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and commanded them not to do it. Then Jesus and his disciples went on to another village.

Once Jesus and those who were with him were walking along the road. A man said to Jesus, “I will follow you no matter where you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens. Birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let dead people bury their own dead. You go and tell others about God’s kingdom.”

Still another person said, “I will follow you, Lord. But first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “Suppose someone starts to plough and then looks back. That person is not fit for service in God’s kingdom.

No comments: