June 26, 2016
Luke 9:51-62
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Fit for the Kingdom
Proper 8 | OT 13 | Pentecost 6

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Chris Keating
At first glance, Jesus’ actions in this week’s lectionary gospel passage hardly seem like those we usually hold up as good pastoral work -- he appears callous and insensitive as he tells one follower to let others bury his father and another not to bother bidding farewell to his family before hitting the road. Yet in the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Chris Keating tells us that rather than being heartless Jesus is actually making an important point about the urgency of proclaiming the kingdom of God -- particularly when we might find action delayed by engaging in the rituals of grief. As the nation still struggles to come to grips with the events in Orlando, Chris suggests that Jesus’ attitude may be appropriate: while we all offer prayers and laments for what happened, those alone aren’t nearly enough -- we are also urgently called to take some sort of meaningful action... a paradigm that also should be at the forefront of our daily lives as well. Here’s a preview:

Fit for the Kingdom
by Chris Keating
Luke 9:51-62; Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Grief was the one visitor Orlando would have gladly turned away last week.

Sucker-punched by a series of unrelated events, the world’s theme park capital set about the task of burying its own dead. Shock and grief mingled with tourists and travelers. The deaths of a rising pop singer, 49 persons at a crowded gay nightclub, and a little boy grabbed by an alligator at a Disney World resort tore at the city’s pulse.

Responses to the tragedies plunged Orlando into more twists than a rocket-propelled roller coaster. For a while the city became the number one destination for the world’s thoughts and prayers. And while prayers and thoughts for those near Disney’s Magic Kingdom are important, Jesus’ words in Luke are not words of comfort but challenge for those seeking the kingdom of God.

As news about the mass shooting circulated, congregations prayed and politicians tweeted. While some preachers used the tragedy to condemn homosexuality, others prayed for the victims and stood in solidarity with the LGBT community. Prayers convey strength and comfort, which was part of President Obama’s message to families of those who had been killed and injured. He reminded them “our hearts are broken too.”

Yet as he has done countless times before, he told the nation that prayerful intentions may not be enough. “Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, why does this keep happening?” Obama said. “And they pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage.”

As Jesus heads to Jerusalem, his message takes on that same sort of urgency. He sees those oppressed by evil and beset by disease. He looks into the faces of the grieving. But he doesn’t say “Go and pray” or “Take a moment of silence” or even “Hmm... let’s think about this.”

He says, “Come and follow me.”

There are plenty of excuses, of course: one guy needs to arrange his father’s funeral, and another needs to say goodbye to the folks at home. But like many of our responses to the increasing numbers of mass murders, while they may sound reasonable enough, they lack the urgency Jesus demands. Or, as he says, “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
There’s an urgency about the kingdom, and Jesus reminds us that it’s time we heed the message.

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter