- 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 & Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
- Galatians 5:1, 13-25
- Luke 9:51-62
First Reading: The ascension of Elijah
In ancient Jewish tradition, Elijah becomes one of two missing mortals from the biblical narrative.
Like Elijah, Enoch was understood to have been taken up into heaven on the basis of this information in Genesis 5:
When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him. (Gen 5:21-24 NRSV)
Both Enoch and Elijah become significant figures in the development of apocalyptic eschatology since they were deemed to have access to otherwise secret knowledge about the divine intentions.
- In the case of Enoch, we have the development of the traditions now found in 1 Enoch (still part of the Ethiopian Bible), 2 Enoch (from the Old Slavonic Bible) and 3 Enoch (a Kabbalistic Jewish text).
- In the case of Elijah we have his eschatological role in canonical texts (understood to be the messenger of the covenant in Malachi 3:1; cf. Mark 9:11-13 and parallels).
On the significance of the ascension of Elijah for Luke, see the lectionary notes for Ascension.
Second Reading: The fruit of the Spirit
In this section of his letter to the Galatians, Paul is offering instructions for their life together. As part of this, he develops the idea of two contrasting sets of fruit:
- fruit that comes from “the flesh” and needs to be constrained by the Law
- fruit that comes from “the Spirit” and is beyond the scope of any law
This kind of fruit is characterised by 9 different virtues:
It is possible that Paul is developing the traditional saying attributed to Jesus – 041 Trees and Hearts, but it is perhaps more probable that a common Jewish religious metaphor lies behind all these examples. In any case, Paul does not connect his instruction with traditions about Jesus nor with a direct revelation from “the Lord.”
Gospel: Turning towards Jerusalem
This week’s Gospel is a significant turning point in Luke’s narrative.
- From the baptism of Jesus by John until now, Jesus has been active in Galilee.
- At 9:51, Jesus acts in synchronicity with his destiny and prepares to travel to Jerusalem.
- Every incident from here on will happen “on the way to the cross”
Luke begins with two short episodes that develop the theme of discipleship:
- a Samaritan village refuses to offer hospitality to a pilgrimage group bound for Jerusalem
- three would-be disciples seek excuses from the immediate cost of discipleship
The incident with the Samaritan village is not unexpected (given what we know of Jewish/Samaritan relations at the time), but it does jar with Luke’s representation of the Samaritans in his narrative:
- the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)
- the tenth leper (Luke 17:11-19)
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19 NRSV)
- the conversion of the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-17)
The cost of discipleship is the major focus of this week’s passage.
Three no-nonsense sayings capture the stark realities of discipleship:
- homelessness – 101 Foxes have Holes – attested in Thomas as well as in Q
- loss of familial ties – 145 Leave the Dead – attested only in Q
- perseverance – 146 Looking Backwards – attested only in Luke
The first two cut right across the normal social expectations of the time, while the third underlined the sense that this journey, once chosen (whether by Jesus or by any of his followers), could not be reversed. There would be no escape clause for Jesus in the story that now begins to unfold, and there will be none for any who follow his way.
It is interesting to observe that the final stricture (no turning back) is found only in Luke, and is not attested in the much earlier Sayings Gospel Q. Is it possible that Luke has created this saying on the model provided by the preceding example, to meet the needs of his own audience in the early 2C (or even mid-2C) when increasing social pressure might have influenced some converts to Christianity to recant?
- 041 Trees and Hearts
- 101 Foxes have Holes
- 145 Leave the Dead
- 146 Looking Backwards
- 251 Jesus to Judea
- 445 Inhospitable Samaritans
Liturgies and Prayers
For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt’s web site
Other recommended sites include:
- Amazing Grace – AHB 129
- Brother, sister, let me serve you
- Come as you are
- Father welcomes all his children
- Halle, halle
- One church, one faith, one Lord – AHB 456
- Rejoice in God’s saints – AHB 470
See David MacGregor’s Together to Celebrate site for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre.