“Obedience or rebellion,” was the theme of Father’s homily today, this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time at our Cathedral in Reno. He took the side that the readings are all about obedience. This article takes the counter position.
My God is Jah, set out and came upon My God is Shua, salvation, the Son of Judgment from the Untilled Land Surrounding The Vineyard, as he was tilling with twelve yoke of oxen, dumb animals. He was following the twelfth, the tribe of Manasseh.
Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?”
Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat.
The first act of Elisha is to kill the dumb animal in himself, use it for fuel, and give it to the people. His first act is not an act of obedience, the act of following the social norms, but of rebellion, against those norms. From now on, he will follow a different way.
Father commented about how the prior story in I Kings is about how Elijah killed the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table. It is interesting to note how God never told Elijah to do this.
As a direct result of the action, Elijah flees to the caves where he meets God, and God teaches him that he is not in the strong and violent winds rending the mountains, the earthquakes, or the violent fires. He is in the small quiet voice. He is not in the violence of killing the oxen as represented in the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle to understand God.
Elisha asks to go back to his family, and this is where Luke takes off with the telling of his New Testament story.
As they were proceeding on their journey, someone asked, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered, ““Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
To another he said, “Follow me.”
He replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
He answered, “Let the dead bury their dead. You, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another said, “I will follow you, Personal Name, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus replied, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Elisha is the one who sets his hand to the plow and looks behind. Jesus tells him he is not fit for the kingdom of God. He wants to engage in violence, the killing of the dumb oxen to feed his own family before he goes, and this is not good enough for Jesus. We must let the dead, the dumb oxen, to bury their own dead; we have a higher calling. This is not the calling to obedience, but to striking out in a new direction, the direction of non-violence.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Personal Name, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
James and John are the Sons of Thunder as St. Mark relates, as this relates to their personality. They had not yet learned the lesson of Elijah. If you go after the other guy, they do not rush to learn their lesson, but instead they rush to get even, and you, Sons of Thunder, are the target. Nothing causes people to be out to get you quite as well as paranoia. That is the lesson of Elijah.
St. Paul sums up the lesson for today well:
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. The flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. If the Spirit guides you, you are not under Torah.
St. Paul tells us not to eat the flesh of Elisha’s oxen. Live by the spirit of non-violence. Live by a different way. Do not be obedient to the old way. Strike out on a new one. Follow the spirit, not the earthly ways of violence we see in our world. Follow Jesus and not Elijah, and the sons of thunder.
We need to go back to tilling the land surrounding the vineyard. Jesus talks much of vineyards. He does so in Matthew 20, and 21. Our reading for today is from Luke and Luke takes the theme in the direction of Luke 20. We are the people in the vineyard who God charges with taking care of the place.
God will hold of accountable of how we do, and that means taking care of the vineyard, which is each other. That is real justice, not getting even, being the Sons of Justice like Elijah and Elisha, or the Sons of Thunder. That means rebellion from the ways of the world, and not obedience to them.