It seems every Sunday when we gather there has been another scene of violence that brings sadness to the world. This week the violent attack and bombing of the Attaturk Airport in Istanbul. This was probably carried out by ISIS or their sympathizers. In recent months Turkey has stepped up their involvement in the bombing of ISIS positions in Syria. As Turkey has increased their violence upon ISIS, ISIS has responded with increased attacks on Turkey, especially in ways that will hurt tourism there for a long time. It seems to go "you attack us, we'll attack you." This is how violence escalates until the stronger side says "no more." Violence is never ending until never again.
In the Gospel today, Jesus sends out 70 of his followers to bring his message. The disciples revel in the power of Jesus' name. When they return home they excitingly tell Jesus what happened. We saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. (But where did Satan end up? Where does lightening strike? Earth, of course!) Jesus expected their reported success, but he tells them that the "power game" is not to be part part of their ministry, but humble service to the world instead. Rejoice that your names are written in the Book of Life.
Jesus knew so well that in the zeal to serve God, it was to easy to end up persecuting God! As it was when Elijah won the contest against the prophets of Ba'al and had 400 of them executed on the spot, and when the zealous Saul persecuted the followers of Jesus, so the disciples had to learn another way: a way that respected all life, even the lives of enemies, as a gift from God. Human culture, with all of its religious underpinnings, feels some deaths are necessary in order to rid the world of evil and achieve peace, goes against the peace that Jesus came to bring: a peace that passes human understanding, where only one death is necessary- Jesus' own.
In our zeal to serve God we often end up persecuting God. Why is this? It is because God is the author of all Life, human and natural. God has answered Jesus' death on the cross with Resurrection. He told his disciples (and us) nothing will hurt you. Jesus' followers can transform human culture from a culture oriented to death in its various forms, to a culture of Life. It will be a slow process that needs much patience. It will take centuries and many martyrs along the way: martyrs in the struggle to bring Jesus' peace that surpasses all human understanding. A struggle that is non-violent to its core.
(Please note: Some of our brothers and sisters think that Jesus is coming back very soon and will slay and punish all unbelievers in great wrath. But this is just a projection upon God, a great misunderstanding of the Book of Revelation, making God into ISIS or the enemies of ISIS raining down terror on each other? This doesn't sound like the Lamb of God who gave Life to the world and left us with his peace. The Kingdom of God will come in fullness on earth, but it will probably take much longer than we think.)
In a few moments we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist where the crucified and Risen Jesus is in our midst. The Eucharist is the place where we learn radical hospitality where everyone is welcome, everyone's story is accepted, everyone is fed the Food and Drink of New Life. Where religious rules aren't important anymore. Like St. Paul said, Whether a person is circumcised or uncircumcised is no longer important, but being a New Creation is everything. When you come to receive Holy Communion today, let Jesus nourish and continue to grow you into New Life. Nothing will hurt you. You belong to Jesus! (emphasis added/lc)