The lectionary reading for today misses out verses 11-15. Another example of the decision makers deciding that those verses are too difficult for us to hear. I thought it important to hear what they say so we read the whole lot. They’re all about rejection. “Anyone who rejects you, rejects me; and those who reject me, reject the one who sent me.”
Jesus sent out seventy-two of his followers to proclaim that the reign of God was near. Pairs of disciples were sent to proclaim a new way of being in the world. They were told to go with nothing. No backpack, no sandals, and no money with which to provide the essentials.
Like lambs Jesus sent his followers into the midst of wolves. No self-respecting shepherd would expose vulnerable lambs to wolves. Jesus would have made an awful shepherd. Leaders are supposed to protect the ones they lead. Yet here the writer, we call Luke, has given us a story that casts Jesus in the role of a reckless leader who demands an equally reckless vulnerability from his followers.
This was written about 50 to 60 years after the life of Jesus. A time when the full force of the Roman Empire was being felt upon the Jewish people and upon the followers of Jesus. They lived in fear for their lives. Venturing out into the world would have struck fear into those who knew the ferocious power of the Roman Empire. Wolves would have seemed timid when compared to Rome’s cruelty.
Yet, in our story, Jesus sent his followers like lambs into the midst of wolves? Totally unprepared. Totally vulnerable. Totally dependent upon the kindness of strangers; Strangers, who this story, are characterised as wolves. At the moment this country desperately needs people to work on the land, in hospitals and in care homes.
So, why are some British people unwilling to accept refugees and immigrants. People who have often fled from one pack of wolves only to encounter another pack of wolves when they arrive. When we convince ourselves that the most important issues are those of maintaining the status quo, we become the wolves.
Luke raised the spectre of the city of Sodom. The horrific destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Destroyed because they failed to care for widows and orphans and not helping those in need. According to the Bible the depravity of the city of Sodom showed itself in their refusal to offer hospitality to the travellers who came to them needing shelter. Very few Biblical scholars, nowadays consider the sin of Sodom to be homosexuality. Throughout the Old and New Testament, it is made clear over and over again that the quality of a people was revealed by how they welcomed travellers who had no resources.
I was reminded of a quote by Meister Eckhart from the 13th Century who wrote, “every creature in all of creation is in and of itself a word of God and is a book about God.”
If we want to know God, we need to look to those created by God. Every weary traveller who flees without any resources to care for themselves is a book about God. Every traveller who arrives here without resources to care for themselves is a child of God.
I believe that at one time or another we are all lambs and sadly, too often we are also wolves.
This is clearly seen in the war in Ukraine and very vividly in the iniquitous virtual total ban on abortion in the United States of America. I accept that is my personal view. Yours may be different.
There’s a definition of “spirituality” that I like. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”
We can choose to listen to fears that there is not enough space or resources here in the UK and huddle together like a pack of wolves to protect what is ours or worse attack those who are ill prepared, to care for themselves.
Alternatively, we can choose to listen to the Bible that insist that we offer hospitality. May the Love that is God, shine through so that we can recognize our oneness with every person we encounter.