You don’t have to wait long to hear it. Shortly after some natural disaster be it hurricane or tornado, some TV preacher, usually someone like Pat Robertson will come on the air and blame God for the disaster and say that it is his retribution for, insert the sin of the month here, like homosexuality, same-sex marriage, liberals, I mean after all liberals have been responsible for someone of the most reprehensible things on earth like ending slavery and women’s suffrage.
These fake Christians as I like to call them, what you to be afraid of God because if they can make you fearful of God you will send more money to them and they can buy more private jets and limos while you continue to barely get by, hiding in some corner, afraid of a God that loves you. Recently these guys have been calling for executions of people they disagree with and say that if we do not do what they say God is telling them, God will bring his wrath down upon the earth. No, some people might think that these TV, worrier more about ratings and the money people send them, preachers are God’s wrath, but I will leave that for another day.
Today we should focus on the love of God and the fact that no matter what we do, God does not send his wrath. How do I know this, simple, Jesus.
Let’s take a quick look at Genesis 9:8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between you and me and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between you and me and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
With all of the rain, we have had these last few weeks I have seen some pretty amazing rainbows in the sky, this is a good reminder of the covenant between God and humanity something I like our TV preacher friends should remember.
But let us now turn to today’s Gospel passage from Luke.
Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem; he is determined to go there regardless of the consequences. Because he did not have a smartphone and could not access trip advisor to find a decent hotel for him and his friends, he sent some people ahead of him to prepare things for him. They came to a Samaritan village, and they were not welcome there. We all know the hatred that exists between the Jews and Samaritans it is legendary, like the Yankees Red Sox thing.
The Samaritans did not want Jesus to stay with them, they were foreigners and maybe the Samaritans were afraid that they would steal their jobs and health insurance or something and although they were one of the wealthiest towns in the area, they did not have any room for people that looked and talked differently than they did.
Perhaps the disciples should have reminded them of the Passage from Leviticus, you know that Book that the TV preachers and others like to quote from: selectively
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
Enter James and John. Now, these two guys are usually pretty solid, but they went off the rails a little here. They asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Perhaps they had watched Pat Robertson the night before and heard him speak of how God likes to cause destruction to people, even innocent people and so they felt compelled to call down fire upon them. The Passage we heard this morning simple says that Jesus rebuked them. The Passage does not tell us what he said, but I can only imagine.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of people I have sat with over the years I have been in ministry who feel, for whatever reason, that God does not love them. Time and time again they tell me their story about how some preacher, minister, priest, rabbi whatever has said to them that they are sinners and God does not love sinners, how could He? This type of church behavior is so prevalent in some circles that it now has a name, Post Traumatic Church Syndrome. The church, in the name of Jesus, has caused so much damage over the years trying to scare people into conformity with a particular way of living.
At the start of every service we welcome people here with the words, no matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. I hope we mean that when we say it because people are hurting just beyond the walls of this church and they are looking for a safe place of welcome and acceptance. Many of these folks have been shunned by their family and their church.
Jesus is a love everyone sort of guy. He told them earlier that if a town does not accept you or the word you preach just leave, shake the dust from your feet, and go. We cannot compel people to believe, oh it has been tried, the crusades, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, any number of Holy Wars, laws, legislation, TV preachers threatening God’s wrath and the like. We cannot force people to believe.
As we see in the story from Luke this morning, Jesus does not choose to punish those who are reluctant to support him, even today. Instead, we are reminded again and again that our is a Savior of love, who is not about punishing all who resist or compelling everyone to get in line or face the consequences, but one who invites those who believe to walk the journey with him. Not everyone is ready or willing to take that journey.
In my “From the Pastor” column this past week, I wrote about the “call” and asked the question of what God was calling you too. We have to determine for ourselves what our “call” truly is but I can, without hesitation, tell you that the call for all of us is to simply love and support those that need it. Unless we are willing to start there, the rest of it is useless.