June 30, 2013
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – Year C – (Proper 8)
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.
I’m not sure that we can even fathom what that was like.
Apartheid in South Africa had become a Government Institution in 1948 with the rise and election of the National Party. Apartheid principles of separation became the bedrock of their governance.
Though black Africans greatly outnumbered whites, they were not represented in the government, nor were their rights protected.
Mandela, an attorney, rose up in the struggle through the African National Congress Defiance Campaign through the 1950’s. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government.
Nearly 30 years he was kept away in a prison cell.
30 years – what have you done over the last 30 years – imagine being imprisoned since 1983 – and you get the idea of the passage of time.
As Mandela won release in 1990 due in part to the outcry throughout the world;
Times were beginning to change.
In 1994 Mandela was elected President in the first multi-racial free election in South Africa.
And right there is enough for an autobiography.
If Mandela did nothing else; his life would be full.
But he did not stop. He moved forward.
Mandela’s goal was not only to have a government where all people were represented fairly; establishing just laws for all people;
But to move the country forward – through the trial and separation of apartheid – and lead the nation to become one united people.
Mandela was always looking ahead, his eyes forward to a united, peaceful nation.
In order to move forward Mandela instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a court who identified victims of human rights violations and listened to their stories, and who also solicited and received the testimony of perpetrators of violence, who could request amnesty for their crimes.
The creation of the commission was a constitutional mandate in the new government:
The new constitution read:
This Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterized by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of color, race, class, belief or sex. The pursuit of national unity, the well-being of all South African citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society.
There was resistance.
The work of the Commission was critiqued, on all sides; and has been ever since.
But it also has become a model of reconciliation for the world.
Mandela was not going to stop.
He was moving forward toward freedom.
He was moving forward toward unity for South Africa.
He was moving forward for justice.
It seems like we’ve had one of those forward moving weeks this week in the United States as well.
Passions have been high on both sides of the major cases and the courts decisions regarding them.
Some people were hoping when it came to the Defense of Marriage Act that the court would maintain status-quo, hold the line, for fear changes to the institution might be detrimental to it.
Others hoped against hope that change was coming; and that rights, such as the right to be at a partners bedside when they are dying; or the right to pass on inheritance to children; or the right to not be a victim of harassment, was about to be finally assured for another group of Americans previously cast aside.
For those who would say the ruling is a detriment to the institution of marriage, and they use our Holy Scriptures to defend the point we need only to look at:
Abraham, who, in order that he might live safely in the land, gives Sarah to the Pharaoh as a concubine calling her his sister. Later, Abraham conceives a child with a servant because God isn’t fulfilling God’s promises fast enough.
When we use the Bible as a model for marriage we have to remember the great King David,
Who when watching Bathsheba sunbathing on the deck below his, ordered that she come to his chambers, and after she is pregnant with his child, he then has her husband murdered, that she may be his.
Combine these with modern stories where Hollywood marriages last only days….and other marriages are filled with all kinds of abuse…
And we can say that the institution of marriage has always had some issues.
For me, this issue in our courts today is about justice.
For ALL people.
This week, on this particular issue, our country moved forward…
There is and will be resistance.
But we are moving forward. With our eyes on the horizon of a future where all people will be about the pursuit of happiness, and there will be justice for all.
And that is where these events enter our Gospel text this morning….
Jesus was moving forward.
Luke writes:51When 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.
“He set his face to Jerusalem.”
What a great visual. I can almost imagine Jesus, standing on a dusty hilltop,Chin up,
Eyes, searching ahead,
Jerusalem out of sight on the horizon, but present and near in his mind.
I imagine it’s another moment when the disciples, if they caught him in this meditation, would have no idea what he was considering.
It’s a statement of determination, and we experience, as he moves through the land of the Samaritans, that he is determined, there is a look, a way of his being, where
You can see – he is moving forward,
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 toward 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.
We don’t have enough clues in the text to know whether the Samaritans did not receive him because they did not want to, or if it was because Jesus did not want to stay; but we hear again, his face was set toward Jerusalem – that is toward the cross.
The disciples ask if they should command lightning bolts to strike the town.
Like they could pull off something like that?
But Jesus is moving forward, not looking back.
Then finally we hear what moving forward means.
57As 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 plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Moving forward for Jesus means
Going to Jerusalem – to the cross - to his death, and to our salvation.
This progressive movement to the Cross leads to the ultimate act of Justice for all.
For at the cross, all of our sin, all of our brokenness, all of our humanity, is laid out.
At the cross; we are all equal; and from the cross;
Salvation is poured out on all people:
Not regardless of whom we are, but as we are, because of who God is:
God knows our gender, ethnicity, culture,
God sees our differences knows our individual gifts and calls us good.
God knows you and calls you good.
Jesus has his face set – he is moving forward to Jerusalem.
And there is and will be resistance.
Everyone is not comfortable…
There will be debate
The Cross is not for the squeamish or faint of heart
And as Jesus is moving forward he invites us –
Go! Proclaim the Kingdom of God
Freedom and Unity
Justice for ALL People
Our God is leading us, calling us,
Our God is Moving Forward
Our God is Marching On
Proclaim the Kingdom of God.