Sunday Paul spoke to freedom, Thursday we celebrate our freedom. We can learn abiout both from the other.
You can listen to my sermon at http://www.saintstephensblytheville.org/sermons-2013.php when it’s posted (probably tomorrow), or read it below.
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Focus: We are free to be a trusting faith community in our worship, and beyond.
Are you ready? I know you are ready. You think ahead, never wait until the last moment. So, you know where you will be, you know who you will be with, you have laid in all the necessary supplies:
buns and condiments,
potato salad, baked beans,
You know when to leave, and where to go to see the fireworks. Yep, you are ready to celebrate the 4th of July, our Independence Day. So are Angie, Marcel and I, at least I think we are.
So we will gather with family, friends and neighbors, and we will experience a trait of our freedom, to gather without fear, and celebrate with each other. And that is a good thing. However, it is an incomplete thing, for this is not only about our freedom, it is about remembering that our freedom has not been without cost, that our freedom will not continue to be without cost, that our freedom, is as much about responsibility as it is about rights, that our freedom is not without risks, that our freedom, is not ours individually, if it is not everyone’s collectively.
Take away the hamburgers, hotdogs, beans, banana pudding and fireworks, and you have an aspect of Pauls’ teaching to the Galatians this morning. He puts it this way:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love to serve one another.
I know the printed text says “become slaves” however ‘slave’ is a loaded word in our culture, and the Greek equally means “to serve” in fact the King James reads by love serve. For Paul, true freedom is seen in our relationships with each other, and in our service to others.
The story of Elijah and Elisha this morning is an example of what Paul is writing about. Since last week’s mountain top re-commissioning Elijah has been busy. Among his divinely appointed actions, he anointed Elisha “to be a prophet in [his] place.” Thus both know there is a divine succession plan in place. When the time arrives, both know. Three times Elijah tells Elisha Stay here, God has sent me to … and three times Elisha says: As the Lord lives … I will not leave you. Yes, I know there are only two in the appointed reading, oh well. In any case, among the many gleanings here, is a model of service beyond self, to God, through another. All of Elisha’s actions appear as devotion, extraordinary loyalty to Elijah. Yet, there is so much more, for his loyalty to Elijah is a manifestation of their love for each other, their mutual knowledge the other is anointed by beloved by God. To phrase it as Paul might:
Elisha is not using his anointing
as an opportunity for self-indulgence,
but through love is serving another.
Luke tells quite a different story. In the time since Jesus left the Gerasenes, things have been busy. But the time has come. And Jesus literally changes directions, and heads towards Jerusalem, following the most direct route. That happens to take them through Samaria. Any self-respecting Jew would go around, but not Jesus, for many reasons, he goes through. As we should expect, he and his party are not particularly welcome, no Jews would be; been to North Korea lately?
Angered at their perceived miss treatment James and John, likely seeing themselves as Elijah’s, tell Jesus they’d be glad to call down divine fire. Now why they think they could do that is a bit beyond me. Since leaving the Gerasenes the disciples have:
witnessed Jesus continue to do powerful works;
they’ve had a try themselves, but Luke doesn’t tell us any more than they were sent;
- tried to send the crowds away to feed themselves,
- gotten all in a knot about Jesus’ telling them about his death and resurrection
- tried to put Jesus, Moses and Elijah, in a box, ‘cause they couldn’t deal with the transfiguration,
- failed to cast a demon out of a boy,
- got to arguing amongst each other about who’s the greatest,
- and tried to stop someone they don’t know from acting in Jesus name.
It’s not been a good interval. [i]
Is it any wonder we hear Jesus biting retorts to those who proclaim their desire to follow him:
- I’m totally dependent on the hospitality of others; do you really want to try that?
- Your relationship to me is more important that any family or other responsibility or tradition.
- If you don’t always look where you are going, you will go the wrong way.
This following Jesus stuff, is not going to be easy. The disciples’ failure is evidence.
Alan Culpper notes, all the their failures are rooted in the disciples’ vision of their relationship with Jesus. [ii] As we have heard, they don’t get it, they don’t understand as Walter Brueggemann writes:
The radicality of Jesus’ words lies in his claim to priority over the best, not the worst, of human relationships. Jesus never said to choose him over the devil but to choose him over the family. … [and in doing so] find the ability to love them. [iii]
Please note none of this suggests Elijah or Elisha are any better than the disciples. We know Elijah has had his moments. Just last week he quit. And, the Gospels do reveal that the disciples eventually get it, all be it, after coming to know the resurrected Jesus.
And I rather suspect, that that, coming to know the resurrected Jesus is the grounding of the freedom Paul proclaims. For coming to know the resurrected Jesus, is to come to know you are beloved, and from there well, all the world, is ours to serve, and we are free to be a trusting faith community in our worship, and beyond.
[i] The New Interpreter’s Bible, The Gospel of Luke, R. Alan Culpepper
[iii] INTERPRETATION A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching GENESIS
James Luther Mays, Editor, Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Old Testament Editor,
Paul J. Achtemeier, New Testament Editor, Walter Brueggemann
episcopaldigitalnetwork.com The Re. Nils Chittenden
6 Pentecost, Proper 8 (C) – 2013 June 30, 2013
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25;
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Luke 9:51-62, Scott Hoezee
2 Kings 2:1-14, Scott Hoezee
Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Stan Mast
http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching June 20, 2013
Commentary on 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, Karla Suomala
Commentary on Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Sarah Henrich
Commentary on Luke 9:51-62, Michael Rogness