Pentecost 7

This sermon is proof that done is better than good.

“All things being equal, would you consider it a good idea to interrupt Jesus? Does our Savior need cutting, a bit of shushing now and then, or perhaps some retrospective editing? The Lectionary seems to think so and with all due respect to the good folks who compile the… Lectionary, I can’t see how it became their job to leave certain things on “the cutting room floor,” as it were.

“If you are Steven Spielberg, then you always shoot more scenes than can fit in the finished movie and it’s only after you see how they all turned out that you can determine which scenes slow the movie down, end up being extraneous, or just didn’t turn out that well. So you cut them. You sit with your film editor and begin selecting and slicing. Back in the day, real pieces of celluloid were cut and tossed aside. Today it’s all digital, of course, with the deleted scenes getting saved somewhere else on a hard drive, perhaps only to be revisited some day in case they decide to release an “Extended Edition Director’s Cut” on BluRay.

“That’s all de rigeur if you’re Steven Spielberg. Because then, of course, the thing you are editing is your movie. But the Bible isn’t my book or a committee’s book and so just because in the middle of Luke 10 Jesus begins to sound some definite notes of judgment and condemnation for those who reject the message of the Kingdom’s approach, that doesn’t mean we can edit that out, skip it, pretend it’s not there. This wasn’t just a hiccup in Jesus’ teaching at this point—he hadn’t had a bad pizza that was coming back up on him for a few moments before he returned to the kinder, gentler Jesus the Lectionary tries to create by sequestering the other stuff.”1

Here’s the other stuff: “Woe to you, Chora’zin! woe to you, Beth-sa’ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Caper’na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.”

Our friend Father Mitch is fond of saying that you can’t have the Good News without the bad news, and this is the bad news. Woe to you. Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you. This is bad news for the people who reject God, who reject the people of God when they come to bring a little healing, a little peace, a little Jesus into our broken world.

This is bad news; woe to those who reject God when He comes to save you. It’s not always pleasant news to hear, but we need to hear it. Unfortunately there are those who do little but spread the bad news, who corrupt the news both good and bad and then use it for violence. It’s not hard to think of those who would proclaim woe to others and not unto themselves, people like Westboro “Baptist” protesting the funerals of our servicemen and women, or the TV evangelists who are so quick to put the blame on anyone who doesn’t look or think like them. That kind of thing is not reminding people that there is bad news; rather it’s telling people that they are bad news.

That’s not what Jesus is doing here, obviously. “Even when Jesus tells his disciples to wipe the dust of the rejecting town off their feet, he still tells them to conclude their comments with yet one more reminder that “the kingdom of God is near” and who’s to say that we cannot speak those words through tears of love and compassion? Jesus does not tell these people to placard their message on signs that say “God Hates You!” but to speak the truth in love and to do it urgently…”2

The truth is, there is some bad news: those who reject God do so at their own peril, and the results are less than pretty. There is also good news, of course, in that when listen to Christ speak to us in Scripture, when we keep His words in our hearts instead of on the cutting room floor, then the Kingdom of God has not only come near to us but settled in us, taken root in us and in our community. The good news, then, drives out the bad news, and that’s the best news I’ve heard in long time.

1Scott Hoezee, This Week

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