Ordinary 13C – June 30 , 2013 – I’ve Got Something for You To Do
As you know during the past week the Supreme Court of the United States limited the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act and then declared the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. How could the same Court have done both?
In the gospel reading today the disciples who followed Jesus of Nazareth, who taught them to show compassion for everyone, wanted to destroy the people of a village in Samaria. How could the disciples have wanted to do both? We will come back to this question in a moment.
Orthodox Rabbi Brad Hirschfield said that the Supreme Court, which is an imperfect institution, actually voted for equality in both cases. According to the rabbi the Court is saying that all people should be treated the same no matter who they are or where they live.
Most polls and studies do show that acceptance of same sex marriage is increasing in this country suggesting there is support for the Court’s decision. What a timely act for the LGBTQ community which celebrates Gay Pride Sunday today.
On the other hand most polls and studies indicate that although much progress has been made, racism and classism still exist in this country. This implies that the Court was wrong to rule against Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Perhaps this country has not changed that much since 1965. Minority groups still face prejudice and suspicion and the gap between wealthy and poor Americans continues to widen.
There are probably different opinions about these Court decisions in this congregation. So, we ask the question: What do you and I understand about the gospel for today?
If we were to sum up the basic teaching of Jesus of Nazareth what would we say it is? The answer in part is found in the second passage from the Letter to the Galatians. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. This is not an easy thing to do. And, if we accept that challenge to love without compromise, Jesus would also say, pick up the cross and follow me.
Last week we discussed that picking up the cross means embracing what it symbolizes — the injustices and sufferings in the world and to do our best to eradicate those evils. This week the gospel shows just how difficult it is to carry that cross.
According to the story Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and had this eerie feeling that death awaited him there. He and his entourage were passing through the region of Samaria. His advance team learns that Jesus was not welcomed in a Samaritan village and so the disciples wanted to destroy it. Jesus scolded them for even thinking about that.
The story goes on. As they take another route the disciples pledge their loyalty to Jesus. One disciple asks if she could go and say good bye to her parents first. Jesus surprised her with an answer similar to the one we heard in the first reading. Let the dead bury the dead. Now what could he possibly have meant by that riddle? One interpretation is this: “I have something very important for you to do.” “Are you serious about accepting this responsibility?” “If so, leave everything and everyone behind. Let’s go forward, let’s not look back!”
Jesus was saying that helping and treating one another equally is our top priority, above all else. According to John Pilch, this story about the hatred between Jews and Samaritans in today’s gospel presents a challenge for contemporary American believers: “should we allow cultural and historical differences to divide us?” 
That is why both actions of the Supreme Court are significant for us. Treating one another equally is not easy. We also heard in the second reading that Christ set us free and we should not submit to any sort of slavery. That is our inheritance (Ps 16). But finding that freedom to live as free persons is difficult. You and I may not be imprisoned in anyway but there are many others out there who are.
As we get ready to celebrate Independence Day this week it is a good time, once again, to read the Declaration of Independence. Here’s a famous line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all persons are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Word of God said this a long time ago!
Last November, Bill Moyers gave a paper called “The Religion of Inequality” where he stated, “The gods of the religion of inequality have failed. They are false gods. Once we admit this, Moyers said, we can get on with the work of liberating the country we carry in our hearts.” 
1 John J. Pilch. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1997) pp. 103-105.
2 Moyers, Bill. “The Religion of Inequality” Forrest Church Lecture Series, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY 11/12/12, p. 15