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JULY 4, 2010: FOURTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Isaiah 66:10-14
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12

Because of space limits, I couldn’t mention anything last week about the importance of Jerusalem for Luke. At the beginning of chapter 9, the evangelist has Jesus and his disciples begin their long journey to Jerusalem. From that point until Jesus’ triumphant “Palm Sunday” entrance into the capital city, he and his followers are “on the road.”

For Luke, Jerusalem is not just the place where Jesus suffers, dies, and rises from the dead, but also the place he expects all Christians to visit. We, as other Christs, must also suffer, die and rise in our daily lives. Luke believes every follower of Jesus is constantly on the road to his or her Jerusalem. The city is much more a theological than a geographical place for the evangelist. It’s similar to our speaking about certain individuals “meeting their Waterloo.” Most people who employ that phrase probably don’t even know in which country the “original” Waterloo is located.

Ironically the authors of both our first and third readings want their readers to go to Jerusalem; Luke for the reasons I gave above, Third-Isaiah, in order to rebuild the city the Babylonians had wiped off the face of the earth in 586 BCE. Jerusalem is also in ruins when Luke writes around 85 CE. (The Roman army, in 70 CI, had replicated the Babylonian destruction.) But Luke seemingly could care less whether the city is rebuilt or left in ruins.

Third-Isaiah encourages Jews still in exile in Babylon to return as soon as possible to rebuild both the holy city and its temple. The prophet sees the restored city as a source of comfort and security for all Jews. “As a mother comforts her child, so I (Yahweh) will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.”

I presume Luke also looks at his theological Jerusalem as a place of comfort and security, since it’s only in our suffering and dying that we actually attain the life Jesus attained. Nothing is more important for Luke than our reaching Jerusalem.

That seems to be why Jesus is so strict with the 72 apostles he sends out ahead of him in today’s gospel passage. “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way. . . . Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered you. . . . Do not move about from one house to another.” In other words, “If you accidentally agree to stay in the house of the worst cook in town, don’t switch when the best cook makes you an offer.” Not even people’s rejection of their message of peace should stop them from continuing their journey. According to Luke, only determined, goal-oriented people will have their “names written in heaven.”

Without using Luke’s journey to Jerusalem metaphor, Paul conveys the same basic Christian message. “May I never boast,” the Apostle writes, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Returning to the theme of Galatians, he continues, “Neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” That’s the same new creation Paul referred to back in chapter 3 when he wrote about Jesus and his followers no longer being restricted to Jew or Gentile, slave or free, not even male or female.

Paul eventually mentions something all Christians share: the “marks of Jesus” on our bodies. He isn’t speaking about the “stigmata” here. He’s simply referring to the marks of suffering - physical or psychological - which all followers of Jesus carry around with them.

South African theologian Allan Boesak once remarked, “Jesus will make only one request at the pearly gates: ‘Show me your wounds!” These are the wounds which mark us as frequent visitors to Jerusalem.