Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Our lectionary readings invite us first to listen as Paul continues to write to the believers in Galatia—offering them spiritual direction as they learn to follow the way of Jesus.
Yes, Jesus has set us free from slavery to the judgment of the law, and from slavery to sin. But this freedom does not mean we are free to do anything we please. Rather, Jesus sets us free from the clutches of sin and our old nature so that we are free to choose differently; free to listen to the guidance of the Spirit, free to love our neighbor, free to love our true self, free to love our enemy, and to express the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
This week the lectionary readings in Luke 9 offer us an illustration of how the early followers of Jesus were being discipled by Jesus into this gospel freedom.
We enter the gospel narrative as Jesus is walking south to Jerusalem, first through Galilee and then into Samaria. The Samaritans, on hearing that Jesus was Jerusalem bound, refuse him hospitality. James and John—those “Sons of Thunder”—react in murderous anger masked under the guise of prophetic and religious zeal:
Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?
On hearing their abusive question, Jesus turns toward these two brothers, and directs their attention first, away from the villagers who refused hospitality, and towards themselves and what it is that is driving them. Their anger had exploded into murderous violence. Then he directs their attention towards himself and his ways of being and doing:
You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.
Alvarez de Paz, a seventeenth century spiritual guide, helps us understand what is meant when the word ‘spirit’ is used in this context: an internal impulse by which a person feels urged to do something. Throughout the scriptures and the writings in Christian spirituality this gift and work of discernment of spirits is noted as being central to the work of spiritual guidance. John—this disciple whom Jesus names a Son of Thunder– comes to recognize the internal impulses of misdirected rage, and tells the believers in one of his letters to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I John 4:1). It is this kind of discernment Jesus calls James and John to make as he invites them to see their reaction of anger and vengeance in the light of who he, the Son of Man, is and what he is about. He has not come to destroy lives, but to save lives.
Following Jesus calls us to differentiate ourselves from family habits, the world view we may have been brought up with, the value systems imbedded in our culture, the impulses which drive and control how the world’s system works.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he invites us to notice what the fruit (inward and outward expression) of the Holy Spirit is. This helps us notice and discern the various impulses and drives within us.
Invite the Holy Spirit to help you get in touch with various impulses in your life:
- those places where you lack love and compassion for others
- those times when anger blocks your presence for God, for yourself, others
- your frustration with “little” people, tasks, the seemingly insignificant
- your need for control
- other impulses which take over drive your life
Now reflect on the ways in which the impulses of the Holy Spirit are at play and
are influencing and leading your life (see Galatians 5:22-26)
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
6/17 Monday: Luke 9:51-56
6/18 Tuesday: Luke 9:57-62
6/19 Wednesday: Psalm 16
6/20 Thursday: 2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14
6/21 Friday: Galatians 5:1,13-25
6/22 Saturday: Luke 9:51-56
6/23 Sunday: Luke 9:57-62