The End of Excuses (Luke 9:51-62)
Karyn L. Wiseman
I'm a news junky and the last few weeks have been intense to say the least. They have been filled with tragic, uplifting, historic, and profound moments. Here are a few:
We commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the storming of the beaches on D-Day during World War II and remembered the sacrifice of those brave souls who fought to bring freedom to our world.
A woman reached the critical number of delegates to be declared the presumptive nominee of a major political party for the presidency of the USA. Some celebrated and some did not, but it was a historic moment for Hillary Clinton and for our nation.
We remembered the life of an iconic human being and boxing champion upon the death of Muhammad Ali. He was a polarizing figure but a man of great peace, conviction, and honor.
We remembered the #Charleston9 on the anniversary of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina and mourned once again the double tragedy that comes from the intersection of racism and gun violence.
We spent time trying to process and reflect on the largest mass shooting in US history in Orlando, Florida at a gay nightclub called Pulse. It was devastating and hard to fathom on so many levels. Tragically, 49 LGBTQI lives were cut short and dozens were injured by homophobia, terrorism, and gun violence.
These stories took up a lot of TV airtime and received a significant amount of digital and print space in our news media.These stories were covered wall-to-wall on our 24-hour news cycles. They were hard to miss.
But we also largely ignored another massive story that has been growing significantly over the last months, but that has actually been with us for years. The world refugee crisis. Thousands of people flee their homes every day taking virtually nothing with them.
And over the past few weeks over 1,000 of those refugees have drowned in their attempt to flee Syria and the crisis in their country for the possibility of a better future.
Did you catch that? Over a 1,000 people - men, women, children, and infants - have drowned over the past few weeks in the Mediterranean Sea.
And the story has not received even a small amount of attention in the press or in our national psyche. We're barely aware of it here in the US. But the refugee crisis is enormous. There are millions of displaced refugees fleeing wars, violence, political unrest, poverty, and so many more issues that cause untold despair.
Why haven't we noticed? Well, we seem to have some excellent excuses.
We've been busy. We've been occupied with other things. We've got things to do, people to see, and places to be. We've had kids to take care of, meetings to attend, photos to post on Facebook, soccer practices to cut oranges for, kinfolks to bury, graduations to attend, birthday cards to send, and so much more.
We live in a culture that honors the busy. We live in a culture that gets obsessed with the big stories, but often that is very dependent on whether or not the story resonates with our personal interests, political leanings, religious beliefs, or it depends simply on what catches our eye.
What caught my eye about this story was twofold. First was the stunning image of an aid worker holding the lifeless body of an infant who drowned while his parents were attempting to flee horrible circumstances in Syria for a chance at a better life. What caught my eye was the innocence of this young life cut short. What caught my eye was the strained and devastated eyes of the man holding the lifeless body of a Syrian refugee - dead too soon.
Second was the harsh descriptions of the refugee crisis and insensitive comments about immigrants in our political and social contexts. A certain politician has proposed a complete ban of persons coming into the country because of their religion. Communities and states have refused to accept refugees and immigrants entry into their midst. And many people of good will have stayed silent about these comments and proposals. The video accompanying this post shows we have varying opinions but where are the public outcries?
Why didn't we notice? Why haven't we commented and defended these groups of people?
Were we too busy?
The text from Luke shows Jesus with his face set toward Jerusalem and calling folks to "Follow me." But the people either refuse him or have excellent excuses as to why they can't follow him. Does their answer mean never or just not quite yet? We're not sure.
Luke is talking about a readiness for discipleship and the evidence of how often people refuse this call from Jesus is right there in the text. It's all well and good to be asked to follow Jesus, but once we find out what following entails, it becomes a different matter altogether for many who hear the call.
The image at the end of this text - the warning for a farmer needing to plow a field but looking behind instead of ahead - is a powerful one. Jesus used illustrations that matched the context where he was in the particular moment of interaction. He utilized either fishing or farming or city stories depending on his location. The image is clear in this text; a farmer cannot possibly hope to have a straight plow line if they are looking behind them. They have to keep their eyes forward on what is happening right before them. They have to keep focused on what is required of them.
As a culture we get distracted so easily. We take our eyes off of the plow line. We look away and forget the task in front of us. We watch behind us instead of looking ahead at the work we are called to do. We even sometimes fail to get off the couch to enter into the field at all.
So what is the lesson from this text? Jesus tells those he invites to follow him to ignore their excuses and to act.
And this is the moment to ACT!
Now is the moment to reach out to your LGBTQI friends and family to make sure they are ok and to try to understand and support them more openly.
Now is the moment for us to back common sense gun laws to protect our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and so many others from the terror of mass killings in our world, but specifically in the United States right now.
Now is the time to open our doors to refugees longing for a place to lay their head and find home and safety in a world that too often ignores their plights.
Now is the time to denounce the dehumanization of refugees and immigrants and to hold persons accountable for their words when they say these things.
Now is the time to keep focused on the work ahead of us, to support one another, to love each other, and to act in solidarity.
No excuses. It's time to join together to act.
Learn more about #StandWithRefugees at http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2016/6/57625e2e4/stars-ask-you-to-stand-withrefugees.html. Sign the petition to stand with refugees at www.withrefugees.org
Bible Study Questions:
1. What do you do when you feel compelled to act but "life seems to get in the way?" How do you prioritize your time, money, and resources to follow Jesus?
2. What sources for news about the world do you trust and go to in order to keep abreast of recent events? Do youcheck sources with differing views as well? (MSNBC or CNN if you usually watch FOX or vice versa).
3. What makes you act - emotional connections to issues or stories? Personal connections? Religious beliefs? What keeps you from acting? How will you act to address the issues of stopping gun violence, welcoming refugees, and ending the hatred of the LGBTQI community?
For Further Reading:
On the silence around Orlando -- http://johnpeart.org/2016/06/14/to-my-heterosexual-friends-orlando-shootings
On the silence about the refugee crisis --http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/poverty/unbelievable-plight-syrian-refugees-being-ignored
United Nations Refugee Day information -- http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/us/
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