June 26, 2016 sermon
God’s Reign, Home for Disciples
How easy is it for you to answer the question, “Where is home for you”? For some people, it’s a simple and easy question; for others, it’s complicated. Having been a part of the LGBT community in Montreal, I know that the matter of home and family can be complicated because a lot of us don’t feel “at home” among our own people, whether it’s our biological family or people from our place of origin. This is very obvious if one has been rejected for being different. I never felt comfortable living among my own people so it was easy for me to relate to gay men, some of whom became my emotionally intimate friends. For a lot of us, home is not necessarily where we came from. For example, one of the grooms in my upcoming wedding is from a homophobic country, so as much as he loves his country, people, and family, he might feel more comfortable calling Canada his home; and us friends his family. I also decided to make Canada my home because I feel happier and more comfortable here.
I once heard the saying, “Home is where your heart belongs”, or something in that vein. My friends and I are living that saying. We often feel that home is not where we are from or where we live. There is a contemporary Christian song; it’s kind of a love song for Jesus saying, “Come and make my heart your home”. Someone’s heart can be our home too. Someone you love can be your home; isn’t that why you get married and move far away from your previous home for that person? In today’s gospel story, Jesus says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. Basically, Jesus and his followers were homeless (as in “nowhere to live”). But that doesn’t mean they were “home-less” (as in “doesn’t have anything to call home”). Now then, let’s take a look at our gospel text and find out where home is for Jesus and his followers.
Today’s gospel text is divided into two parts; in the first part, Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village because “his face was set toward Jerusalem”. He was literally headed to Jerusalem. There could have been two possible reasons why the Samaritans might have rejected him; first because as Samaritans, Jews and their Holy City Jerusalem are the enemies. Second, it could have been because they were scared of the possible consequences of receiving a known subversive group among them; aiding and abetting, harbouring, accessory to a criminal act (all sorts of legal terms come to my mind). This subversive group is headed to Jerusalem, the center of political power; we can be assured they’re not going there to hail Cesar! Fraternizing with such a group can be dangerous. The first reason is religious and the second one is political. The reason why Jesus was rejected by this Samaritan village can be understood as either religious or political; this shows us how religious and political intentions are often mixed up, and how the latter can easily pass as the former. Remember, last Sunday, I told you that Jesus was killed by the Roman government because his act of liberating the oppressed was a threat to the oppressors? It’s easy to think that the Jews killed him because he taught different religious beliefs, but crucifixion was a Roman execution method reserved for rebels and traitors of the state. As I said, religious and political motivations are often mixed up.
The second part of our gospel text is about what is required of the followers of Jesus. A lot of people wanted to join the group and follow him; but a lot of them had conditions and other priorities. To this, Jesus says that their sorry excuses are not good enough for the kingdom of God. He demands radical obedience in his disciples. Discipleship is not for the fainthearted. If we’re not ready to make this kingdom the number one priority of our life, we are not fit to follow Jesus. Some disciples of Jesus thought that following Jesus would bring them glory and fame; but the truth is, Neither Jesus nor his followers can reach the heavenly glory without denying themselves and picking up their cross in this lifetime.
Putting these two scenes together, we could possibly understand the Samaritan rejection story as driven by a political motive. The Samaritans rejected Jesus out of political fear and not merely out of prejudice against the Jews, then Jesus proceeds to teach that postponing the decision to join him as disciples is tantamount to rejecting him, like the Samaritans rejected him out of fear.
Jesus was homeless because preaching and working for the kingdom of God was his absolute priority. His disciples left all their homes and livelihood to join him for the same cause. They were homeless during Jesus’s public ministry period but they started establishing another home; the community of disciples, a.k.a. the reign of God, a.k.a. the kingdom of God. If you remember my multiple messages on the kingdom of God, you’ll know that this kingdom is not a physical space but the community of disciples who work to bring God’s reign of radical love and justice on earth.
So we have our family and a place we call home here on earth. They are important because they provide roots and anchors for us. But as Christians who are called to be disciples and not just believers, we have a new family and home. Our Christian community where we tirelessly work to preach the gospel of Jesus by loving and serving our neighbors (and enemies, because we are called to love them too) is our home. For Jesus who had “nowhere to lay his head”, the community he formed with his followers was his home, although he didn’t have a physical home. Today, I want you to remember that as disciples, we are each other’s home. Our church community is our home. Our Kimberley community where we serve others is our home. Our global world for which we pray and also serve from afar is our home. Wherever there is the gospel of Jesus in the form of acts of love and justice is home for the disciples of Jesus. On the flip side, this is a call for us to actively be a part of this new home, the community of disciples, by spreading God’s radical love and justice in our world. This is the kingdom of God that Jesus taught.
Rev. Sunny Kim