Proper 8C / Ordinary 13C / Pentecost +6
Week of June 30, 2013
2 Kings 2:1-14
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus issues three short Wisdom sayings in response to people who want to fulfill traditional family obligations before following Him:
- “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
- “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (vv.60)
- “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (vv.62)
So what are we to make of these sayings? When interpreting Luke, it helps to go back to Luke 4:14-21, where Jesus preaches His inaugural sermon in His hometown of Nazareth. Inaugural sermons are important, because they are statements of intent for everything that follows. First, Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
Then, as all eyes in the synagogue are on Him, Jesus rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant, sits down and simply says “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (vv.21). So in Luke, Jesus’ ministry begins with the statement of intent to proclaim that the Gospel (good news) is already here. The Year of the Lord’s Favor is upon us, and we should act accordingly: release the captives, heal all blindness and free the oppressed (see “Right Here, Right Now: Inaugurating the Jubilee”). It is a statement of liberation in the here and now – not in the idealized past, and not in some spiritualized, Heavenly future.
After the historic Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality this week, there were predictably a number of people who were unhappy with the ruling. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said “The lines are being drawn between states that stand with natural, traditional marriage and states that redefined it” (New York Times, “Both Sides on Same-Sex Marriage Focus on Next Battlegrounds”). So Mr. Perkins wants to make the here and now into a battleground for tradition (the past), rather than proclaim it as the fulfilling of God’s good favor.
The Year of the Lord’s Favor is about release and liberation, here and now. The Supreme Court’s repeal of DOMA has released thousands of loving, same-sex couples to have their life commitments recognized and respected by the federal government. Loving, same-sex couples in California have been liberated to pursue life commitments that are recognized and respected by that state. Instead of perpetually waiting for the other legal foot to fall, same-sex married couples can now be free to focus their lives on living out God’s grace and mirroring God’s love in the present.
Here is where the three short Wisdom sayings mentioned above come in: It is impossible to proclaim the Good News in the here and now, and simultaneously pine for the past. The Kingdom of God is in the hands of those who look forward as they plow ahead, not backward. Those who want to pay tribute to dead values rather than proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor are not a part of the unfolding, liberating Kingdom – they are stuck in the land of the dead past where everything is done the way we’ve always done it. It is not comfortable proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s favor – there will be no place to lay our heads and no comfy tradition that we can rest on. Rather, we will be building the road as we travel on it. But the Good News is that God is already there with us.
Perhaps instead of grousing over the lost past, we could do as the Washington National Cathedral did on June 26 and let its bells peal out joyfully in celebration:“We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants. Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere.” – Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral.
Go forth and proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom, here and now!