Here is the Wordle of Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke 9.51-62, the text of it follows below.
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’* 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then* they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But Jesus* said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'
I am struck by the Wordle which highlights the words 'Jesus', 'Lord', and 'go.' Those three words for me point to Jesus' desire to go, to be active in the ministry that God has given him. I am reminded of that passage from Isaiah 55:11,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Jesus is active in proclaiming and showing the love of the Lord, of God, in Word and deed and none of Jesus ministry is fruitless. Even the most hopeless of Gospel situations, spoken into by Jesus, ring aloud with the hope of resurrection.
And yet this section of the Gospel seems to be a passage about barriers to that active proclamation of the Gospel. He is rebuffed by a Samaritan village and when he is the disciples instead of responding in love, or just ignore it, respond by asking whether God should punish their hardness of heart. Yet those closest to him have misunderstood the hospitality of the Gospel which offers even the Samaritans - the most despised of near religious cousins to good Jews - the fullness of the goodness and grace of God.
The barriers are also placed by Jesus himself. Even reasonable requests for social etiquette - saying farewell, burying the dead - are unreasonable when confronted by the Gospel. A Gospel which consistently asks the disciple - are your priorities consistently God-ward? Where is your treasure?
Jesus seems to say that family ties, friendships, work are all important, they are lifegiving and enriching now, but in the economy of eternity they count for nothing in the face of an offer of eternal life.
Jesus says - hear and accept the offer of Life from the Lord God - or not... and watch it go on by, head down, onward to those who will receive it....