It’s a tough Sunday, with high demands on the followers of Jesus and the covenant people of God. There is no room for other concerns, no matter how close and familial, it is radical focus and commitment, it is everything, or nothing. Elisha follows Elijah, Jesus once again calls, “follow me.” Can I, can we, can you, follow, when God asks everything of us?
But is this also a Sunday that holds rich possibilities in the radical demands God makes, possibilities of gracious life and service in the Spirit, in double measure, in the freedom for which we have been set free; in greater love for our neighbours, in the Spirit’s fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness generosity, self control; in life together, inclusive, emerging, providing a place of refuge, and hope for the children and every generation and people in this world and all creation together?
If this is the possibility God’s/Jesus’ radical calling makes on each of us and all of us together in the Spirit, everything! for this God’s gracious hope for all, then follow! Let’s follow God together, giving everything, for life, for all, for God!
“When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up” – Luke’s word for Jesus’ ascension to God, following his passionate suffering, death and resurrection, we experience Jesus setting “his face to go to Jerusalem.” It is an evocative phrase that expresses an intense focus or purpose taken up by Jesus. All else is secondary. It begins Luke’s narrative of the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and almost ten chapters of Jesus’ teachings, healings, parables, sayings, and encounters with people that challenges and changes their lives. And it all begins with today’s reading, with Jesus setting his face to go to Jerusalem, and the conflict that creates for others – those who reject Jesus, like the Samaritans, relations of the Jews on the west bank of the Jordan River, who claim a different history and place of worship – not Jerusalem, but Mt. Gerazim, and who would not receive Jesus; And a collection of those who do want to follow Jesus, but people with very real needs and concerns, especially for their families.
But Jesus is unflinching in his focus and has no time for the distractions that others bring to his journey to Jerusalem, nor for their own following of Jesus in devotion and faithfulness to God. It feels like harsh judgement and rejection by Jesus with no room for anything but Jesus’ singular focus. Is this truly what Jesus desires and demands from all who want to follow him; from us? It is a great and difficult calling, asking everything of us as God in Christ Jesus offers everything to the world.
A similar unwavering devotion is demonstrated by Elisha for Elijah, and that devotion is recognized in his witnessing Elijah’s departure in a chariot of fire, and in Elisha’s receiving the mantle and double blessing of Elijah’s spirit from God. It is a wonder filled and very human story of devotion and grief, and the calling to go on in the spirit of those before us. It is a great and difficult mantle to take up for Elisha, asking everything of him for God’s people, as God’s Spirit offers everything to God’s covenant people.
Paul speaks to the fractious community in Galatia, always ready to fall back into a slavery to self interests and concerns, rather than living in the freedom and responsibility as those who belong to Christ, loving our neighbours as ourselves, living and guided by and gifted with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness generosity, self control. It is a great and difficult calling, asking everything of us, and by God’s grace, holds the freedom for which Christ has set us free.
It’s the beginning of PRIDE week that we join in celebrating today. The following are words recently shared in an email from David Haas, composer of worship music, including much loved songs in our worship book, “Blest Are They,” “We Are Called,” “You are Mine” and “Now We Remain.” He composed the refrain from Psalm 139, that we used today for PRIDE.
He writes: “My dear friend… God bless him, has made the new - and heretical - psalm setting all nice, new and shiny looking.… I have been overwhelmed by the literally hundreds of requests that I have gotten from folks ... God is good.
God bless you, all - and dare I say it? Yes I will! Blessed PRIDE MONTH! I have dedicated (this) to my friend, Rev Dawn Leger from Toronto, Canada, whose ministry includes a strong passion for the LGBTQ community. God bless you, Dawn - and ALL of you who serve all of our sisters and brothers (and siblings).
If you know of other pastors, liturgical musicians or liturgists - whom you think might find this helpful for any of their PRIDE month activities or services, or for anything else for that matter ... feel free to share –
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH. And thanks for your tremendous support.
Haas’ enthusiasm and hope are infectious. We sing the psalm refrain together in that Spirit of hope for a new day of new life for all God’s children, like the poster says, “You are so loved, We welcome: all races and ethnicities, all religions, all countries of origin, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, everyone, we stand here with you, you are safe here. It’s a great and difficult calling, asking everything of us together, and what hope it holds for all of us together in all our wonderful diversity as God/Jesus gives everything for this world.
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, member of the provincial Green Party, and member of the WSÁNEĆ nation, was a guest at the Dessert and Dialogue here on Thursday evening. He began by sharing origin stories of his community, including the creation of the Islands from the people the creator threw out into the Salish Sea, and a flood story with people saved by their being ready with their canoes when the flood waters came, and as the land re-emerged witnessed by a crow bringing a branch of cedar, the people received their name – WSÁNEĆ, which means, emerging people. Adam shared with us his identity with these lands, and his connection and responsibility for this place, and the teachings of his elders, including most significantly and repeatedly, “If your take care of them,” meaning these lands that are their ancestors, “they’ll take care of you.” And Adam told stories of how his WSÁNEĆ people are emerging, especially through the recovery and teaching of the SENĆOŦEN language, and how significant that is for the children, including Adam’s own children, and the story of a grade three class from the ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱ tribal school who presented a petition to the Provincial Government to include the traditional name ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱ for John Dean Provincial Park, meaning “place of refuge.” He challenged the terms settler and ally and all of us present to understand our own connection to these lands, to our identity in this place, and therefore our responsibility to “take care of them and they will take care of us.”
It’s a great and difficult calling, asking everything of us together for the sake of these lands and peoples and all creation, and holds the hope of reconciliation and wellbeing for all children, for seven generations, and beyond, as God/Jesus gives everything for this world.
If this is the possibility God’s/Jesus’ radical calling makes on each of us and all of us together in the Spirit, everything! for this God’s gracious hope for all, then follow! Let’s follow God together, giving everything, for life, for all, for God! Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.