Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 6th Sunday after Pentecost, 26 June 2016
Proper 8 Year C RCL: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
When we go for a walk,
“we usually find out something about our companion,
& this is true even when we travel alone...”1
Even when we travel alone, we usually find out something about our companion, says Jim Buchanan in Labyrinths for the Spirit.
How many of you have walked a labyrinth? How different has it been each time you've walked?
Labyrinths come in different designs, such as the simple design you have on a slip of paper in your order of worship & this lap labyrinth's path based on the one in Chartres Cathedral in France.
As we walk with God [or our fingers do the walking], the labyrinth leads us on a winding path to the center & leads us out differently.
[My lap labyrinth came in handy after foot surgery & is helpful when weather prevents walking outdoors or having no time to go to one of our Diocese's labyrinths, such as Church of the Servant's indoor labyrinth at Wilmington, or the outdoor ones at St. Francis by the Sea, Salter Path, & farther away at All Saints at Southern Shores. See online at:
Like a labyrinth, today's scriptures lead us on a winding path. They repeat, circling around themes of pending leadership changes, human conflicts, spiritual issues, guidance of the Holy Spirit, travels from place to place.
Today we walk with Elijah & Elisha to several places & with Jesus & the Disciples as they walk to Jerusalem. Before Elisha travels alone, he & Elijah start their journey at Gilgal, which means “'circle', probably of stones,”2 as one source notes. Think of a circle of stones such as the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral's stone floor, England's well-known Stonehenge & evidence of labyrinths in the Southwest & in Northern Mexico.3
As we journey through our scriptures today, we hear repetitions. Paul says “live by the spirit / live by the spirit”. Elisha says “I will not leave you. / "I will not leave you.” Jesus hears the promise: “I will follow you. I will follow you.”
We hear Elijah & Jesus as they near the time for each to leave life on earth. We hear distraught / distracted disciples, who don't quite get it. Elisha sees the vision assuring him he has received his request, yet he's unsure of his power & tests the waters (literally).4
Like Elisha, James & John are unsure about power, & Jesus rebukes them for wanting to destroy the Samaritans. They don't get it that Jesus' power is different: it is the power of love & peace. They don't get it that the Samaritans are faithful to their belief...5 & hear Holy Scripture differently.
We hear Holy Scripture differently in our day. We live in a different context. As we grow & change on life's journey with God, we see with new eyes, we hear with new ears.
As we read Scripture in community, we see with many eyes & hear with many ears. Holy Scripture is God's Living Word that forms us & lives in us – the church, the Body of Christ that is St. Francis, God's Holy temple (as our collect says).
Author Walter Brueggemann says in The Book That Breathes New Life,6“The (Bible) gives (the community)... the energy & courage for a life of obedience.”7
To obey, we must receive the command in a way we can understand. We hear in our scriptures about people in different communities, different times & contexts, people like us who know the value of life in community, life in relationship that reflects the image of God.
Elijah relates like a father to Elisha & asks what he can do for him. To us, Elisha sounds greedy: “I want twice as much spirit.”
Actually, he follows biblical principle: this is the inheritance the Bible specifies in Deuteronomy for the eldest son (Deut. 21:17).8
Like Elijah, Paul expresses fatherly concern as he urges the Galatians to live into their God-given worth, the worthiness that comes from Jesus:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
To love others as yourself means you must love yourself! You must love yourself!
Paul names the fruits of the Spirit, which include love, joy, & peace. In our Gospel we glimpse the world of peace that Jesus embodies. Jesus calls us to stretch ourselves, stretch out our hands & arms in love, joy, peace,
stretch ourselves to trust God's guidance,
to trust each other.
My Beloved Brothers & Sisters, as we stretch ourselves, we must keep the main thing the main thing.
The main thing in the Bible is God,
as Theologian Karl Barth says in The Word of God and the Word of Man that Brueggemann quotes.9
God's Word lives in us.
God's Living Word is our companion on
this sacred journey of life.
Buchanan, Jim. Labyrinths for the Spirit: How to Create Your Own Labyrinths for Meditation and Enlightenment. London: Gaia Books. 20007.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Book That Breathes New Life: Spiritual Authority and Biblical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2005.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://www.labyrinthos.net/photo_library05.html Accessed: 25 June 2016.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Merriam-Webster. Smartphone Dictionary app. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2012.
Nave, Orville J. Nave's Topical Bible: A Digest of the Holy Scriptures. Nashville: The Southwestern Co. 1962.
New Oxford Anotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
“Old Labyrinth Nazca & North America “. Mid-Atlantic Geomancy. Accessed: 25 June 2016. http://www.geomancy.org/labyrinths/nazca-north-america/index.php.
1 Buchanan, Jim. Labyrinths for the Spirit: How to Create Your Own Labyrinths for Meditation and Enlightenment.
Contents page, quotation from Clark, Thomas. Distance and Proximity.
2 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. P. 348.
4 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 728.
5 New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. P. 1259.
6 Brueggemann, Walter. The Book That Breathes New Life: Spiritual Authority and Biblical Theology. P. 15.
8 Jewish Study Bible. P. 728.
9 Ibid. Brueggemann. Book That Breathes. P. 18.