“Whoa” to You
Sermon based on Luke 10:13-16
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Guest Preacher: Kurt M. Glacy, MDiv, MSM
Woe to you, Washington. Woe to you, New York. And you, Boston, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
The statements that I just read probably evoke some feelings within you. Perhaps you are intrigued with how today’s message will play out. Perhaps you are angry that I could even paraphrase the Bible in this way.
When some televangelists made similar comments after the attacks of 9/11, blaming those attacks on homosexuality, they sounded like clowns to any reasonable and even remotely educated person. When Jeremiah Wright made similar comments about the country based on racial oppression and inequality, many people responded with outrage.
In today’s reading, then, what are we supposed to make of this same sentiment that is attributed to Jesus? More importantly, how might this text and others like it be used in despicable ways?
I am sure that all of us here today can easily cite current, real-world examples of sacred texts being used to justify grotesque actions. Just this week, religious extremists set fire to a school dormitory in Nigeria, killing scores of students. Why? Because a “western” education conflicts with that religion’s beliefs.
Fundamentalist religions require that everyone accept their core doctrines, and also accept their particular texts as the actual word of God. When emissaries or missionaries go out to convert others to their religion, and they are rebuffed, their response is … Woe to you…
“Woe to you” is a phrase that I cannot accept as a loving and informed response to people who think and act differently from me. “Woe to you” is a phrase that I will not accept Jesus saying to every man, woman and child because of a failed missionary trip in a given city.
This is one of many passages that would be easy to ignore in our liturgies. However, it does exist in the Bible; thankfully it has been appointed as a daily reading, and therefore we must grapple with it.
CONTEXT OF THE READING
Let’s look at today’s passage in context. I encourage you to look at Luke 10: 1-16 in your pew Bibles.
At the beginning of Luke chapter 10, Jesus appointed 70 people to go out in pairs to all of the towns around the Sea of Galilee that he planned to visit. As you probably already know from your previous encounters with this story both in Luke and in Matthew, Jesus sent them on their mission trips without money, sandals, walking sticks, and so forth. He also said he was sending them out as lambs into the midst of wolves. You will also recall that Jesus said in this commissioning that the harvest is vast but the laborers are few. Sound familiar?
Jesus gave these 35 teams specific instructions on how to act when they arrived at their appointed town:
· Give peace to the house you come to
· Eat and drink whatever your hosts provide (this means regardless of your own dietary laws and habits)
· Heal the sick and tell them that the kingdom of God came near to them
If these teams were not welcomed in a town, then they were to
Kick the dust off of their feet as a sign of protest, and tell the people in the city that the kingdom of God came near to them, but they did not welcome it.
Luke 10:12 continues on, “it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for those towns”. Remember that Sodom was completely destroyed by God for refusing to welcome strangers into their midst, and to treat them with hospitality and to ensure their safety. It seems to me, however, that what some of the men of Sodom tried to do to the visitors in Genesis 19:24-28 was a whole lot worse than some evangelists’ message not being believed.
Now we arrive at our reading for today:
“Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you, Bethsaida!”
Chorazin and Bethsaida were two predominately Jewish towns on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The text wants us to assume that these two towns should have eagerly received the message the Kingdom of God. Jews were performing great deeds of power in witness to Jesus in these towns, but the bigger message was not being accepted.
The opposite is the case with Tyre and Sidon, two gentile towns further north. Luke 10: 13 goes on to say:
“For if the deeds of power done in you
(Chorazin and Bethsaida) had been done
In Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago,
Sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”
(Just like the people of Nineveh did after Jonah warned them.)
Worse than Chorazin and Bethsaida is Capernaum. Remember that Capernaum is the town where many of Jesus’ miracles took place, and we can assume that Jesus went there on more than one occasion. Miracles that Jesus did in Capernaum include:
· Healing Peter’s mother-in-law
· Healing a paralytic (the man lowered through the roof)
· Raising a girl from the dead
· Getting tax money out of the mouth of a fish (if only it were that easy for us)
· Healing a demoniac
· Healing a Centurion’s servant
· Healing a woman with an issue of blood
· And more!
Even with all of these miracles performed there, the people of
Capernaum still did not change their beliefs. Therefore, we read in Luke 10:15:
“And you, Capernaum,
Will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.”
WOE TO OUR UNREPENTANT CITIES
So what does this passage from Luke have to do with us? Are we doomed because everyone in Boston or the rest of America is not a Christian? Are our New England sensibilities about private beliefs and an aversion to evangelism a cause for concern? Is our inability to see the miracles of Jesus today a sentence for punishment? I don’t think so.
What we can all agree upon is that in Luke 10, and most of the Hebrew Bible, welcoming the stranger (and caring for widows and orphans for that matter) is paramount. I like to think that our actions are really what we need to focus on rather than doctrine. And our actions are what will make a real difference in the world today.
Did you know that Boston was ranked as the fifth (5th) rudest city in the U.S. by Travel & Leisure in 2012? Isn’t that shocking for those of us who make our home in Boston? Boston, Massachusetts – a pioneer in democracy, in marriage equality, in religious tolerance, and even a beacon of how to triumph over a terrorist event – Boston is really a rude city?
Well, I suppose if you ever drove around here, then it is not surprising. And I expect that if I started telling everyone how I grew up in NY, and was a Yankees fan, I might see some attitude from the competition. I can even see from my seminary experience here in Boston that there is a liberal intolerance for “intolerant” conservatives.
We don’t have to look to Sherriff Arpaio of Arizona to see how some people and places in the U.S. fail to meet Christian expectations of hospitality. All we need to do is look around us, and see where we can make a difference ourselves – right here – right now.
CALL TO ACTION
Instead of “Woe” to Boston, let’s change it to “Whoa”!
Whoa – slow down - engage in a meaningful way with other people, temper action and wisdom, be informed with facts, be bold in your leadership, and be extravagant with your welcome.
Whoa – slow down - respond to the homeless that you walk by, give them a dollar that you would waste on a 1/3 of a cup of coffee anyway … look them in the eye.
Whoa – slow down - take time to meditate, to read, to make music, to care for your body.
Whoa - slow down - make time to engage with our sacred texts: join a Bible study or a small group. Become friends with real people wrestling with real issues.
Whoa – slow down - recognize the divine in nature and in each other.
When we do these things, we will understand the real point of Luke 10.
Namaste and Amen.
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