Monday, July 01, 2013

The Household Of Peace

I'm preaching this Sunday. The Gospel reading is from Luke chapter 10.

As a backdrop, we are in the Season of Trinity, and, drawing on Rublev's icon, we are reminded that:

the Holy Spirit is our guide and companion in the wilderness, leading us to experience hospitality in a place that, at first glance, would appear inhospitable;

Jesus is our peace and our portion, the tree of life we sit under when enemies have been transformed into friends, when we find joy in what we have and rejoice with others in what they have;

the Father's presence is the home from which we started out, and to which we shall return, our beginning and our end, our commissioning and our being made complete.

In Luke's account, we hear that Jesus has set his intention on going to Jerusalem (chapter 9), knowing that he will be killed there. Setting out, he travels through Samaria. The Samaritans were the descendants of those who had not been carried off into exile in Assyria (the northern kingdom of Israel, of which Samaria was the capital) or the later exile in Babylonia (the southern kingdom of Judah). That diverged experience - Jewish belief being shaped massively by the devastating experience of exile, and return; Samaritan belief being less obviously but nonetheless significantly shaped by the disorienting experience of living in the wake of Babylonian invasion - had resulted in disagreements fostered over generations, as parents passed on prejudice and grievance to their children.

According to John, Jesus has passed through Samaria in the past (and spoken about a harvest, as he does here in Luke 10), and been received by a village as he journeyed away from Jerusalem. But on this occasion, he is heading towards Jerusalem, and for this reason the first village he comes to does not want to receive him. As he continues, a few are drawn to follow him even to Jerusalem - a costly decision for those villagers, as their neighbours have sent Jesus on his way without hospitality for this very thing - and Jesus makes it clear that they will be dependent on the hospitality of strangers, not the resources of next-of-kin.

Jesus is travelling with a fairly large group, heading together to Jerusalem for the Passover. (We have seen Jesus do this before, as a boy, in Luke chapter 2.) And Jesus sends others out ahead of him, to prepare the way. He sends them out in pairs (for company and security), but between them they are looking for welcome for a large group of pilgrims. Jewish pilgrims, in Samaria.

Jesus tells them to look for the household of peace, the household that will welcome people who are culturally different. In the context of households of hostility. Literally, find the household that is shaped by a desire to see reconciliation rather than a desire to perpetuate division - people who can see what we have in common, because they are not focused on our differences. If they are present in a community, they shouldn't be hard to spot! And if they are present in a community, they will open the door of the wider community.

Jesus also makes it clear that where we choose to hold on to our differences, over God's mission of reconciliation, we will eventually seal our own destruction. The Jews were on a collision-course with Rome; and the Romans would not concern themselves with the niceties of how the Samaritans weren't Jews when they lost patience and underlined their rule in war of 66-73AD. Jesus foresees the devastation of the northern campaign of the Great Revolt (in Galilee), along with the impact on Judea (which included Samaria), and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Those Jesus sends out return. Their experience has been joyful: where they have found households committed to peace, the hold darkness and death has on a community has had to surrender ground. And while they were confronting the demonic, Jesus himself had been given a vision of the prince of demons, the Accuser, thrown down from heaven. This figure is shadowy, but it would seem that this angelic being had the role of bringing to humanity's attention our need for God's mercy, but had overstepped that prosecution role, taking for himself the part of judge, jury and executioner. The Accuser being thrown out underlines the agenda of heaven, to establish peace.

What, then, has this to do with a community shaped by this text?

Where do we find ourselves in this account?

Are we those sent ahead of Jesus, to search-out a welcome not only for ourselves, not only for him, but for those travelling with him?

What would such a welcome look like? Are we open to receiving such a welcome, to the vulnerability of being guest not host?

And if we are a pilgrim people, what is the journey we are on? A journey, with Jesus, to celebrate God's great acts of rescue in the past, and, so trusting in this God, to lay down our own lives?

Are we a household? And if so, are we a household - or households - committed to peace? Will we welcome the person Jesus sends to us, who does not look like us, who does not share our traditions, our beliefs, our experiences - of being in exile; of never having experienced exile - which gave birth and nurture to those beliefs?

Or are we a household committed to division, to What Makes Us Right And Them Wrong?

Where have we been committed to division between ourselves and another group? Where do we need to repent or (if we refuse to repent,) perish?

Are we willing to journey with the Holy Spirit, from 'joy' to being 'full of joy'? To share in the Son, our peace and our portion, our identity (v 16) and our authority (v 19)? To live in the present as echo of our past and foretaste of our future in the Father's home?

Where do we find ourselves, in this account, today?

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