Reading: Luke 10.13-16
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
Yesterday we reflected upon Jesus commissioning seventy believers to journey in love and peace as they spread the Good News of the gospel. Jesus assured his followers that the harvest is plentiful, in other words, that there are many who want to hear the message he brought to earth. Of course, Jesus was not a starry-eyed idealist. Jesus knew that there would be those who would reject him and his messengers. As he sent out the seventy he told them that where they were rejected they should wipe the dust of such communities from their feet. Jesus knew that the Christian mission to the wider world would not be easy.
As the centuries have passed, different interpretations of how the love, peace and forgiveness of God might be experienced in this world. For some, the heresy of universalism provides a level of comfort that contradicts the message of today’s reading. Those who espouse universalism believe that to profess a faith in Christ is sufficient to earn God’s forgiveness for ever. For those who hold on to such a doctrine there is nothing else to do. For such people we just have to feel that we are able to commit ourselves to Christ and then go on living the same old life, because God has, once and for all, forgiven our sinful ways. Put in these terms it is not difficult to see why universalism is a heresy. If it were the truth we would never have to pay any attention to passages from scripture such as that which describes the sending out of the seventy.
Today’s reading ends with a stark warning. If we do not heed the message that Jesus has brought to us, we will be subject to the harshest of judgements. To profess the Christian faith is to accept a challenge. To live the Christian life is to set aside our self-reliance and to travel the path of love, peace, service and self-sacrifice that was modelled for us by Jesus himself. Entering into a relationship with God is not a one-off moment in our lives. As we seek to journey closer and closer to God we need to accept that we are called to take risks and to suffer the inconvenience of putting the needs of others before our own.
I pray that we might all find the strength and the courage to avoid the condemnation that awaits those who cannot separate themselves from their own desire for comfort and self-satisfaction.