26 June 2022
Year C (Proper 8)
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan
Christ the King Church, Orlando
Church of the Ascension, Orlando
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
On his way through Samaria, the Samaritans did not receive him Jesus is rejected once again. When and with whom have you felt rejected in your lifetime? Perhaps it was when you were chosen last for a team or club in school, bullied or used by a friend or family member, alienated from someone you cared about or loved deeply. Unfortunately, rejection is an experience we all have from time to time. Rejection can leave us thinking we are unwanted or unvalued or unaccepted or all of the above and rejection can leave us feeling ashamed, fearful or angry.
Research suggests when we experience rejection we are at risk of turning our anger outward toward others or inwards toward ourselves. If we feel wronged, we naturally want to retaliate, to seek justice from those who have hurt us in some way, to reclaim our own sense of personal power and status and/or to overcome our underlying sense of shame and sense of unworthiness.
It is very human to want to get even, but as Paul writes to the Galatians; If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another. Anger tends to beget anger,
violence tends to beget violence. Experiencing rejection from others or even from our own self-critical selves, puts us at risk of losing our sense of connection, not only to other people but also to God. Especially if we fuel the fire of our anger and drift from our anchor of knowing ourselves,
As a beloved child of God, we all know more than we would like to that our news feed is overrun by shooters who have been bullied or ostracized or demeaned in some way and sought revenge violently in Buffalo Uvalde and at Pulse back in 2016. Now anger, as you know, is a feeling, a warning sign that boundaries have been improperly crossed, mistreatment has occurred or we feel not seen or not heard. Sometimes we experience righteous anger, indignation at those actions and situations which are filled with discrimination, aggression, and evil and that are not of God. Righteous anger springs forth from a sense of justice, a moral compass of right and wrong and a desire to make things right.
Jesus embodies righteous anger when he turns the tables of the crooked Temple money changers. But sometimes we experience self-righteous anger, anger we love to linger over and over and fuel it’s fire. For this anger emerges from a sense of superiority over others, of our being right and the other person wrong and failing to look at both at the situation and how we have contributed to it.
It is what we do with our anger than matters. And this is precisely what Jesus teaches James and John. Jesus ‘s way is not of violence, but the way of love. Our Gospel lesson today begins at a very important point in Jesus’s ministry. Jesus has finished his Galilean ministry and turns the corner to set his face towards Jerusalem. Obediently, resolutely, and urgently he travels toward Jerusalem to be “taken up” in crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to fulfill God’s calling for him no matter what. The pericope or the story’s tone is sobering, the rubber has met the road,
Jesus faces the most challenging part of his journey and he must continue to teach the disciples that his way of love requires both rugged commitment and the willingness to learn how to respond to rejection and persecution as Jesus himself does.
Not surprisingly, because He will call them to proclaim His Good News throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-25), Jesus leads the disciples through Samaria a direct, but often conflicted path to Jerusalem where Jesus will die. And the disciples are willing to follow Him as you may recall, the Samarians and the Jewish people had centuries of conflict. In 720 BCE, the Assyrians took most Jews into captivity and re-populated Samaria with foreigners resulting in intermarriages and pagan worship. Two hundred years later Zerubbabel led the Jewish return from exile to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem but then rebuffed Samaritan offers to help re-build so the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. Traditionally, the Jewish people regarded Samaritans as tainted racially and religiously but not Jesus. Jesus saw the Samaritans, and all people, as human beings and hoped to break down the walls of animosity one block at a time. But the Samaritans turn away Jesus’s messengers for food and lodging because his face is set towards Jerusalem.
But before we quickly judge the Samaritans, I have to ask how many times have you or have I failed to see the face of Jesus in others and closed our hearts and homes to them? And while we don’t hear Jesus’ initial response to the Samaritan’s rejection, we certainly hear James and John, the Sons of Thunder whose generosity in welcoming in love as Jesus does, runs out quickly and they respond with vindictive self-righteous anger ready to incinerate the entire Samaritan village thinking they could be like Elijah, whom God empowered to call down fire on the prophets of Baal taking the conflict on themselves, assuming they had a right to judge the Samaritan without even asking, what would Jesus do?
And for their response, Jesus turns toward and rebukes them. Rebuked or “epietimesen” in Greek is a very strong word, used prior in Luke’s gospel when Jesus has rebuked demons (4:35, 41; 9:42), fevers (4:39), and storms (8:24) but never before disciples. Jesus gives them a tough love response to remind them once again that as his disciples they are to love their enemies (Luke 6:27-36) and not to judge others (Luke 6:37-42), teaching them once again how HE deals with rejection.
Just earlier, when sending the seventy out, the disciples were to leave, walk away and shake the dust off their feet if his message of the way of love was unwelcome. Shaking the dust off their feet was a warning, not a retaliation, to those in the town that they were missing an eternally important message; that Jesus is the Christ and to be followed. We don’t know if Jesus and the disciples shook the dust off their feet as they left that Samaritan town, as they encountered three more potential disciples, two who came forward and one whom Jesus invited. All three who were eager but unable to make the rugged commitment Jesus requires.
When we experience rejection, when others do not hear our proclamation of our Lord’s Good News and when our day to day conflicts are filled with anger and discord Jesus calls us to discern and follow His way of love not the world’s way of inflicting pain on others with our words or actions or by ghosting –that is ending the relationship for a time or for life without words or explanation Jesus calls us to reflect and discern and pray with Him before “shaking the dust off our feet”… or “washing our hands of a situation” because we need to know WHOSE DIRT is on our feet and take a serious look at the situation itself and what our contribution has been. Does the dirt on our feet represent an attitude of self-righteousness---the inability or unwillingness to put ourselves in another’s shoes, understand life from their perspective, have empathy for others’ feelings? Have we dusted off the dirt of our own actions, let go of our assumptions and personal prejudices about others and made amends for our part? Before we can walk away with a clear conscience or do we find the dirt of righteous anger, which God calls us, as Paul wrote to the Galatians, to stand firmly, patiently to proclaim God’s truth until hearts are changed to receive our testimony.
Or with discernment, pray, and a dusting off our feet can we, with God’s help, move forward, just as Jesus did with James and John. We can only hope and pray that we have Jesus’s patience and forbearance. Jesus, who knew human nature so well that he was willing to be ruggedly committed and willing to return again and again to his disciples and to us, to guide us to understand in deeper and broader and wider ways what it means to be his disciple and .to fashion our lives after His. Jesus teaches James and John, and all his disciples that his way is a way of love and discernment and patience. Of radical, inclusive, patient love, not a way of violence and retaliation.
And so, this week take a look at your feet and the dust you carry. Are there issues or people in your life you are holding prisoner to your self-righteous anger? Are there other places in your heart where God has inspired and awaits you to act upon your righteous anger to advocate for others? May you have the courage to invite our Lord Jesus Christ into your heart knowing that He welcomes you back again and again just as He welcomed James and John, the Samaritans,
and all his disciples to be willing and ruggedly committed to learn and embody His way of Love.