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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 30, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 9:51–62                  

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (NRSV)

The Samaritans dismissed Jesus. There was no love lost between the people known as Samaritans and the Jewish religious leaders. So, while in this story the Samaritans had dismissed Jesus, you can bet that they also knew what it was like to be dismissed.

James and John witnessed the dismissal and wanted to do something about it—to retaliate, to get back at the Samaritans. And so they asked, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” The response from Jesus was a rebuke. And then he simply led them on to another village.

You know what it feels like to be dismissed, don’t you? To say something you think is an important contribution to a conversation and have your statement go nowhere; to be the one that the host forgets to introduce; to be the victim of judgment because of the color of your skin or your gender or your age or your inability to walk or to hear; to be dismissed because of your deeply held religious beliefs. It happens, and your first inclination is to return dismissal for dismissal.

But then there’s Jesus, who keeps focusing us on the need for a counterintuitive way of being. We hear it over and over again in the charge at the end of our Sunday services: “Don’t return evil for evil.” It takes a lot to choose this Jesus-led way of being. When we choose behavior other than “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” maybe it’s a bit like the feeling Jesus references later—the feeling of not having a place to lay one’s head. It’s hard, but it’s better.

Protect us, O God, from our tendencies to get even, to return evil for evil, dismissal for dismissal. Give us increasing will to choose the way of Jesus in our living and thank you for forgiving us each time we fail. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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