There is a theme that runs through our reading today from 2 Kings and the Gospel of Luke which is, are we able to see God’s action in the world around us? And if so, are we willing and able to be participants in God’s action?
In the 2 Kings text this idea plays out through the famous story of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah’s time on earth has come to an end. Elisha wants to take over, take the mantle from Elijah, and continue with the prophets ministry of pointing the people to see God in the world. Elijah tells Elisha that in order for him to do this he must first prove that he can in fact see God action as witnessed by the amazing ascent of Elijah into heaven on a chariot with rivers of fire all around him. Elisha is able to see the ascension of Elijah and so picks up Elijah’s mantle, his cloak, and carry on the prophet’s ministry with the Hebrew people.
The problem for us in this day and age is we seldom recognize God’s action in the world around us as actually coming from God. When people respond to disaster and tragedy with love and compassion, with both financial and hand on assistance, we think that is people acting on their own volition. It is however equally possible that God is acting in and through us, using us as willing participants in God’s ongoing creation and recreation of this world.
Our reading from Luke offers a similar idea. Jesus has come to the time in his earthly ministry on this Gospel when the foundation has been laid and now it is time to turn toward Jerusalem. This is a somber turning point for Jerusalem leads to the crucifixion. Jerusalem is the place where people fail to see that God’s love is being fully manifested in the world in and through the life of Jesus. Jerusalem leads to the complete and total rejection of God’s love and action in the world when people turn on Jesus and crucify him.
But first, before heading to Jerusalem Jesus sends the disciples out to tend to the Samaritans, a people who live in conflict with the Hebrews. Like any other conflict between groups of people in our world, whether it is people on differing sides of women’s health care, abortion, marriage equality, or affirmative action – issues that have been so prominent in the news this week – or between different religious groups or different ethnicities – Jesus sends the disciples out into the world to remind everyone that God is a God who embraces diversity. God created this world, in all of its complexity and diversity, and God loves it this way. Jesus going into the heart of the conflict of his day and time, into the land of the Samaritans, reveals this to us today. We are to do likewise – go into the land of the Samaritans of our day and time and embrace one another with love and compassion – even if we do not nor will not see eye to eye on certain matters, we can see eye to eye in the notion that God loves us as we are, diverse. We do not need to try and make everyone be exactly the same as the other.
The only way for God to convey this message and reveal this reality in the world today is for us, people of faith, to live as God desires. This means we love God, love self, and love others. For Christians in particular it means that we live as Christ’s hands and feet and heart in the world.
One way I’d like us to do this, live as Christ’s hands and feet and heart in the world, is to participate in the Flat Jesus project. Based on the internet app, “Flat Stanely” and developed by a clergy colleague, the idea is, we take Jesus with us where ever we go.
You can find your own if you don’t like one of these. Take Jesus with you into your home, sit Jesus at the kitchen table or dining table. Take Jesus with you to work. Take Jesus with you to the park or on a walk or to yoga class. And then take pictures of Jesus in the various places you have taken him. Email me the pictures and I’ll put them on our Facebook page. It’s a little silly – but sometimes God calls us to be silly. Let’s be silly with Jesus and have some fun. But let’s also remember that in reality Jesus can only go where we go, for we are Jesus’ hands, feet, and heart in the world today.