Click here 2013-07-07<——- to listen along.
Jesus said, “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you”
For Open Space today I considered dumping a large sack of live snakes and scorpions on the floor so that as a test of our faith in Jesus we could all have a go at walking on them and see who gets bitten.
As weird as that verse is, it’s not the one that caught my attention this week. What kind of killed me was when Jesus said these 2 things 1) Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you and 2) whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.
To put this passage in the context, and look, I know all of you totally went to church last week AND totally remember the text we read but just in case I’m wrong I’ll remind you that in the previous chapter Jesus called the 12 and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. And when they were sent ahead to a village and the village rejected them,
those guys were so totally full of themselves that they came back and literally asked Jesus if in response to being rejected by those villages they should just rain down fire and destroy them. Um, yeah…at what point did that become an option? Jesus must have given them the head thump that rang through eternity because I can almost still hear that now.
But to be honest, I can also kind of relate to the disciples. Because to put this in the context of my week, I have to admit that when some jackass posts comments to my blog that say: Nadia, the only righteous thing you’ve ever done was get married and have children. Your husband should be commended for tolerating such a heretic”…I too want to say “hey Jesus, should I rain down a fire of counter comments and burn this idiot?” since that kind of thing feels totally justified to me.
And when I have a relationship that is broken and I have tried to do what was mine to do, apologize for my part, try and keep an open heart and they won’t go for it. When I offer them my peace and they do not receive it…I don’t then tend to just peacefully walk away certain the kingdom of God has still come near to them.
Usually what I do with the hurt from that is alternate between wanting to rain down fire on them and wanting to rain down fire on myself. I either become obsessed with all the ways they are wrong or all the ways I am wrong, neither of which feels too great. And when I have a conflicted relationship I tend to think about all of it WAAAY too much.
It’s like I rent out free space in my head to them. Free rent for a hostile tenant. As though over thinking something can restore a relationship or make sense of myself or human behavior in general.
So what really killed me this week was thinking about how in our Gospel reading for today that Jesus had some crazy things to say about all of that: like if someone does not share in peace that our peace actually returns to us, and how Jesus said that if we are rejected we should just kick the dirt from our shoes and know that the kingdom of God is still near to those who reject us and that we have been given authority over the powers of the enemy and nothing shall harm us.
I was kind of floored by that and started to wonder: man, how much do we allow other people to be the source of our peace? You have peace when your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t in “one of those moods” You have peace when your boss gives you enough praise. You have peace when you are sure that none of your friends are unhappy with you. You have peace when your teenager or young adult child is making all the right decisions. You have peace when you just completely isolate yourself from others that way they can never hurt you.
But it’s not helpful to make other people the source of our peace when, as our text says, not everyone shares in peace. Not everyone is up for this, maybe not your boss or your friends or your parents and if you extend peace to them and they do not take it, that peace is not wasted – Jesus says it returns to you - and you know why? because they were not really the source of your peace to begin.
If they reject you, don’t rent out free space in your head to them, kick off the dust. They are no longer your business. They are God’s business. But, just to be clear, that doesn’t mean we get to take some kind of spiritual high ground in the matter either –because if Jesus said kick off the dust and say to them “The Kingdom of God has come near you”. That means they get the same promise from the same God that you get even if you are a person of peace and they are not. That’s grace and no, it’s not fair. But it also means that when we are the ones rejecting others and not receiving their peace that the kingdom of God is still near to us.
Which basically means that God will do God’s thing whether we get this stuff right or not. Because it is finally grace and not retribution, grace and not being right, grace and not smack-talking idiots that will redeem you and me and this whole beautiful broken mess of a world.
Because Jesus ushered in a different kind of kingdom than I would usher in. And in Jesus’ kingdom, there is a source of peace that is not other people. But to be clear, the source Peace of in the kingdom of God is also not ourselves and our spiritual practices. Peace in the kingdom of God does not come from achieving a personal feeling of total well-being…I mean that feels awesome and there is nothing wrong with it, but when troubles come, when relationships are fractured, then no matter what I can’t manage to maintain that peaceful “feeling”. So I really hope that’s not what Jesus is talking about here.
Peace is that place where everything is generous and open; where the virtues of the gospel – mercy and forgiveness and love and justice – are the core and guide for living life. And if this peace is offered and not accepted that is never a waste. For this peace returns to you because it is a gift; it is a grace, and it is something that God desires before we do, and longs to give to us.
So maybe peace is less of a feeling and more a way of being and doing that originates from God.
Because God and God alone is our real source. That’s not just religious jargon…I mean it quite literally. You came from the very breath of God. There is that within you, the imago dei, the very image of God that can not be hurt by rejection. Which means that when Jesus says he has given us authority over the powers of evil and nothing will harm us, it does not mean that the rejection that happens in our lives won’t hurt. It means it cannot hurt what matters. Genesis tells us that God breathed into dust to create humanity. So it is not your boss, your lover, your friends, your parents or the United States Supreme Court – but the animating breath of God that is the source of your life and your peace.
So go in peace. Because Christ is with you and within you.