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Edward F. Markquart

Series C
Three Sermons For The Price Of One

Pentecost 5   Luke 9:51-62

[Three sermons for the price of one: 1) historic conflicts; 2) King James Version adds 28 Bible verses; 3)  “wantabe” disciples]

Usually, when I preach a sermon, I go to work on the text; I try to find one central idea.  I take that central idea, create an introduction and weave that central idea throughout the rest of the sermon, and then restate the conclusion at the end.  You know it; you have been listening to this form of preaching for a long time. 

Well, today it doesn’t work that way.  Today, there are three parts to the sermon, like three mini-sermons, all for the price of one, but there is no central, connecting theme.  

It is the very nature of human beings that we have historic conflicts with other people. That includes historic conflicts with individuals, with other groups of people, with other nations, races and religions.  We have these historic conflicts; they are historic.  That is, they are long term and they are deep; they are conflicts in which you have deep feelings of anger and resentment; they are historic conflicts which cause you to explode over little incidents, exploding much more than you know is appropriate for such a little incident.

For example, we have long-term historic conflicts with members of our family. You do. I do.  The littlest thing can explode into a major conflict.  For example, I remember my sister Rene and my mother as we were growing up.  They had a historic conflict.  It happens all the time in families.  My mom would say the littlest thing, and that would push my sister’s button, and she would just explode.  Many of you live in similar situations between a mother or father or son or daughter, a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle, somebody with whom there is a historic long term conflict brewing.  And the littlest incident results in a major explosion.  

You may have such a long-term historic conflict with your neighbors.  Perhaps your neighbor’s dog has been barking outside your bedroom window early in the morning for the past twenty years.  Or perhaps your neighbors have let their trees grow up and get interfere your view and they won’t cut them.  Or perhaps your neighbors allow old cars parked all around their house and junk up the neighborhood and reduce property values while you still pay high taxes on that property.  You have these deep, long term, feelings inside. The littlest incident can set you or them off.

We know that there are long standing historic conflicts between the races.  Such as between blacks and whites in the race riots in Los Angeles.  And what seems as just a little incident, just a small thing between two people, just ignites into a ful-fledged race war.

We know that there are long term standing conflicts between religions; between Muslims and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims, Christians and Jews, Sunnis and Shiites.  And there are long-term historic conflicts between nations:  the French and the English, Germany and the rest of Europe, the Serbs and the Croatians, the Indians and the Pakistanis. The list goes on and on.

 And the bad guy?  It is rarely ourselves.  It’s the other person who causes the problem, who sets off the conflict, by something stupid they have done.   

Well, it is with this mood and awareness that we approach the gospel lesson for today.  It is a story about little incident that explodes because of a deep seated historic conflict. It is a little known story about James and John.   It is not one of the great classic stories from the Bible.  In fact, it occurs only once, in the Gospel of Luke.  It is the kind of story which is easily forgotten; I personally had forgotten all about this little story as I reread it in preparation for today’s sermon. 

The story goes like this.  Jesus was up north in Galilee, and he was getting ready to go down south to Jerusalem, and he had to pass through the land of Samaria. And the Jews and Samaritans, as you know from previous sermons and Bible studies, the Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other very much.  It didn’t take much for them to set off against one another.  I mean; they didn’t talk with each other or walk with each other; they didn’t intermingle or intermarry; they didn’t chit and they didn’t chat with each other.

And when any Jew was on a pilgrimage to come from northern Israel down to southern Israel, and had to pass through Samaria, the Samaritans and Jews often harassed each other.  There was a long-standing historic conflict between the two nations.  Who knows the origins of it all! We do know that a hundreds years before, the Jews had burned down the Samaritans temple, and the Samaritans were really mad about that; that was only a hundred years ago.  But nations and races and families do remember certain things for a hundred years. 

Well, Jesus was getting ready to go down south, and he was going to go through Samaria, and he sent his disciples there in front of him, to make preparations. And he sent two of his disciples, James and John, into Samaria.  Now, I would never suggest that Jesus made a mistake sending these two hotheaded Jews into Samaria, but I sometimes wonder about it.  As you may remember from other Bible stories, these two brothers were called the “sons of thunder,” who had thunderous personalities, thunderous tempers, and thunderous prejudices.  Jesus sent down the “sons of thunder” to Samaria.  Was a mistake made to send those two?  I’m not sure.  And so James and John went to this small Samaritan village;  they came to a little town in the road where prejudices run deep and real.  And they went into that town and text says that they were not sufficiently “welcomed”, and that set the two hotheads off.  Just a little thing; they were not properly welcomed, and that set the two of them off.    It didn’t take much to set James and John off; it didn’t take much to make them mad.  They came up to Jesus who had just entered the village and said:  “Do you want us to call down the fires of hell and burn these people up?  Let’s burn up those Samaritans, just like Elijah called on the fires of heaven to burn up those 400 priests of Baal.  Why don’t we call on God to send down the fires of heaven and burn up all these Samaritans? Burn ‘em up; they didn’t welcome us.” A little of an over-reaction, we would say?  Just because they hadn’t been properly welcomed?   Little incident?  Big explosion?  And the Bible says:  “Jesus rebuked them;” James and John, that is.  He strongly corrected them for their explosion of rage and feelings against the Samaritans.  And he said: “ That is not my Spirit, for the Son of Man came not to destroy, but to save other people.”

William Barclay, the great English theologian, said that this passage in the Bible, although not well known, teaches tolerance like no other passage in the Bible.  This passage is the best passage in the Bible that teaches tolerance.

This quick anger over little incidents happens all the time.  .... Such as a parent who sets you off.  You have this long term conflict with your parent; the littlest thing happens; and you go into a slow burn or a fast rage?  Yes, for many of you? Yes, of course; if we are honest, there are a whole bunch of us who have long term historic conflicts with a parent.  ....  Or such as a teenager who sets you off.  The littlest incident, and the bomb goes off.  Does anyone here not have that happen? .... Or such as a husband or wife, and the littlest incident sets you off, and you know its not the little incident, but the thousand of similar little incidents which have happened before and this latest incident is merely the trigger?  ...Such as with your neighbor, a work associate.  And when the person does the littlest thing to offend, the anger explodes over nothing. 

If you have such feelings; if you have such attitudes; such inner passions in your heart based on historic long-term conflicts with someone (parent, child, sibling, co-worker); Jesus will rebuke you, will strongly correct you.  The Spirit of Jesus doesn’t like those feelings inside of you, and neither do you.  .....  Do you really like those feelings inside that are so easily triggered against someone you have long-term conflicts with?  Do you really like those feelings?  Noooo.  Are those feelings, so easily triggered, are those feelings God pleasing?  Noooo. Are those easily triggered feelings inside; are they the Spirit of Christ?  Noooo.   You are like me; you don’t like them either.  And so you listen to the word of God that says:  “Create in me a clean heart o God, and put a new and a right spirit within me.  Restore to me the joy of loving.”  No, we do not like those easily triggered hostile feelings within ourselves; and we want God to heal us of them.

O yes, such are the feelings of the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament.  O yes, Elijah called down the fires of God from heaven to wipe out the 400 prophets of Baal; but Jesus would never do that.  That is one of the crucial differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Between Elijah and Jesus.  There is an enormous difference between the two.

The best commentary on this passage is a story about Abraham Lincoln who many people think was the finest and most spiritual of all our presidents.  During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was being criticized for not being harsh enough and severe enough on the soldiers of the South; and one time, after a battle, a general from the North came up to him and said:  Why didn’t you destroy your enemy?  And President Lincoln answered with those famous words:  “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?”  The word of God touched Abraham Lincoln’s heart and he said:  “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?” That is a great quotation.  It is like a Bible verse from the inspired lips of Jesus:  Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend.”  That’s what Jesus wants of us:  to destroy our enemy by making him my friend.

I know that the feelings of anger and resentment run deep in many of your hearts today, and mine.  There are some of you who have deep feelings of anger inside of you, where you wouldn’t mind if such a such a person were punished immeasurably or had a string of bad luck happen to them.   And Jesus says:  “That is not my Spirit.  Let me heal your heart.”

That’s the first sermon. But that is not enough.  We need to go a little farther in the text for today, and now we are going to have a Bible study.  In this Bible study, we will discover that the King James Version of the Bible has added 28 words to this story for today.  Adding 28 words is a no-no.  This passage is a wonderful illustration of the way that the King James Bible added an extra 28 words, based on a latter manuscript. In other words, it is an example of an error in the King James Version of the Bible and illustrates why so many denominations do not use the King James Version of the Bible.

(The following can be omitted but was very fascinating for the people in our parish.)

In your bulletin, you are going to find an insert, that has two columns and a bunch of scribbling on it.  Now, you have to have one of these in your hands for the next part of the sermon. Do you all have this insert?  Please raise your hand if you don’t, so we can get one to you.  This part of the sermon will not work unless you have this insert. 

The King James Version of the Bible was translated in 1611.  On the far right column, is the Revised Standard Version, translated as you can see by the note, in 1946.  And if you go down on the right column, it says under verse 54.  “And when his disciples, James and John saw it, they said, Lord, do you want us to bid fire down from heaven and consume them?”  And you see that little “I”;  footnote; and so you go down to the bottom of the page;  and in small italics (are you with me)  under “I’, the footnote says:  “And other ancient authorities said, as Elijah did.”  That’s why I included material about Elijah in the first part of the sermon.  That’s an insertion in the King James Version of the Bible.  ....  Now let’s go back to verse 55.  “But he turned and rebuked them” and you see a little “j” there, as a little footnote.  And then you go down to the bottom of the page and it says under “j” in the footnote:  Other ancient authorities add, “and he said, you do not know what manner of spirit you are.  You are not to have that spirit, for the Son of Man (I), came not to destroy, but I came to save them.” Now these verses, first “I” and then the “J”, add 28 words, 28 words that are in the King James Version of the Bible but are only an italicized footnote in the Revised Standard Version.  ...  Now at the bottom of the page, do you see more writing or scribbling there;  it says 28 words.  Now these 28 words that are in italics, are not found in the oldest, most ancient manuscripts of the Bible.  Our oldest manuscript of the New Testament is called “S”. Do you see where I have written “S”;  that is the manuscript called Sinaiticus because it was originally found near Mount Sinai, at an old monastery near Mount Sinai;  and it was written in about the year 350 AD.  Do you see the next letter “A”? That stands for the manuscript titled “Alexandinus” and that was found in the old Egyptian library at the city of Alexandria, and it was written in about the year 425.  And the next letter is the letter “B” for “beta”; and it stands for Vaticinus and it represents an old manuscript of the Bible that was found in the archives of the Vatican in 350.  And those three manuscripts, Sinaiticus, Alexandinus, and B which is Vaticinus; those are our three most ancient manuscripts of the Bible.  If any Bible verses are not in them; those Bible verses don’t get included in the Bible.  So these 28 words which are in italics are not in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible; they are not in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible; they are not in the New International Version of the Bible; they are not in the Good News Version of the Bible; but, they are in the King James Version of the Bible which is the far left column.  You go to the far left column, on verse 55, and you notice there where I have my brackets around those 28 words; those 28 words are in the King James Version of the Bible.  Now the reason that they are in the King James Version of the Bible; if you go down to the far right column again; these 28 words are in Codex D; that is, it is a manuscript from the year 500.  These 28 words were added sometime between the year 350 and 500.  Do you understand?  These 28 words were added sometime between the year 350 and 500, and the King James Version of the Bible was based on that manuscript written in the year 500.  But with archeology, we found three wonderful manuscripts in the nineteenth century. All three of these manuscripts that I mentioned to you, S, V, B, were all found in the nineteenth century; therefore they were not available to the writers of the King James Version; and that is why the Revised Standard Version and New International Version are better translations than the King James Version of the Bible. We at Grace Lutheran Church do not use the King James Version of the Bible; it is based on errant manuscript support.

Now, why is all of this so important?  First, some people have the feeling that the King James Version of the Bible came floating down from heaven and every single word is the final authority of the Bible; that is not true.  Or some people think some of our ancient manuscripts came floating down from heaven (take the bulletin insert, hold it high, and let it float to the floor) and are the original pure source from God. This is not true.  Our manuscripts are wonderfully reliable, but they didn’t come floating down from heaven.  Our manuscripts were hand-copied from one generation to another by a group of people called Scribes.  Not having a Xerox machine, they copied each letter and each word.   The point is:  our ancient Greek manuscripts didn’t come floating down out of heaven like a piece of paper in the wind.  Second, the King James Version of the Bible is not as good as translation as the other translations that I have mentioned e.g the RSV or NIV.  The King James Version is based on a manuscripts copied after the year 500; our most ancient Greek manuscripts hadn’t been discovered yet.  Third, in certain denominations, they teach that the Bible is “inerrant.”  In fact, most denominations which push the King James Version of the Bible,  push the idea that the Bible is inerrant;  it has no errors in it.  But I have just proven to you that the King James Version of the Bible, has an error in it of 28 words which were added between the year 350 and 500; and there are other, similar kinds of errors of transmission of the text.  In other words, we are part of a moderate, Lutheran denomination; we do not believe that the Word of God, the Bible, is inerrant.  We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  Fourth, if I would teach and talk this way to you in many other denominations, I would be fired immediately.  I could not be a pastor in many denominations because I use the technique called “textual criticism” or “manuscript criticism”.  ...  Well, I thought that this passage was such a good illustration how errors, how 28 extra words, had crept into the Biblical text of the King James Version.  It was such a good illustration; I just couldn’t resist talking about it today.  That ends the Bible study for today. 

Part 3.  Now in the gospel story for today, when Jesus left the Samaritan village, and went on their way to Jerusalem, three people came up to Jesus and they wanted to be his disciples.  It happens all the time.  There is something very attractive about Jesus of Nazareth; and when people get acquainted with Jesus of Nazareth; their immediate reaction often is that they want to be his disciples.  They were wantabes.  We all understand the mood of the word wantabe; that people wantabe part of a gang or a group.  And you would expect that Jesus would say, “Come on board,” but consistently, Jesus does not encourage wantabes to become his disciples, but he seems almost to discourage them.  Because to be a disciple of Jesus takes a greater commitment than they may be willing to give. 

So, in the text for today, the first wantabe comes up to Jesus and says:  “Jesus, I want to be your disciple.  I will leave everything.  I will leave everything and follow you.”  And Jesus said:  “You don’t understand what you are asking.  For foxes have holes and birds have nests, but I have no where to lay my head at night.”   To follow me is more important than the having the safety and security of a home.  And the person said:  Whew.

Then the second wantabe said:  Jesus, I would love to be your disciple, but first, I need to bury my father.  My father and my grief is very important to me. And Jesus replied:  Let those who are dead bury the dead. Ouch.  The kingdom of God is more important than your grief over the death of your father. 

And the third wantabe came up to Jesus and said:  Jesus, I would love to be your disciple, but I first must say good-bye to my family. I love my family; and I first must say good-bye to my family.  And Jesus said:  A person with his hand on the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.  You can’t plow a straight line if you are constantly looking back. To plow a straight line, you gotta keep your eye out front; you gotta keep your focus out front; and if you are going to be my disciple, you can’t constantly be looking back at your family.  If you are always looking back at your family, you are not fit to be part of the kingdom of God.  

And so three wantabes come up to Jesus and say, “Jesus, I want to be your disciple” and Jesus seems to discourage all three of them. 

Now, today, I need to make a quick teaching footnote.  Have you ever driven a tractor with a plow behind it?  How many of you have done that?  I see that most of you haven’t driven a tractor with a plow behind it.  Just a few of you.  Another question:  how many of you have driven a mule with a plow behind it?  Hmmmm.  Just a couple.  So, if Jesus were teaching today, he probably wouldn’t use the analogy about a farming using a plow.  So I need to change the analogy.  It goes like this:  Imagine yourself driving a car is rush hour traffic, bumper to bumper, without a rear view mirror and you are always looking back.  If you don’t keep your eye on the center line in front of you and the cars in front of you, what is going to happen?  You are going to have an accident.  If you are driving the car and always looking back into the back seat at your family, you will have an accident. If you are always looking back at your family, in the back seat, if you don’t keep your eye on the road, if you don’t keep your eye on Christ, on the love of God, you are going to have a major accident and hurt yourself and others.  You are not fit for the kingdom of God.  Seek first the kingdom of God.  Keep your eye on that center-line out in front of you.

Now, in this part of the Bible passage for today, there are two fundamental problems that we are facing.  The question is:  can we love our homes/apartments/living spaces too much?  And the answer is yes.  A resounding yes.  We can love our homes, condos, apartments, farms, acerages, vacation-homes too much.  Whereas Jesus said:  “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Our homes can easily become too important to us.  You know that; so do I.  I love my home.  I really do.  I love my home.  Sitting in my kitchen.  Sitting on my deck.  I love being where I live.  And you know what?  Loving my home and my kitchen and my garden and my view can get in the way of me doing the work of God.  And for you as well.

The modern word that is used to describe this phenomenon is “cacooning,”  cacooning in my castle, my house, my condo, my apartment, safe from the struggles and the evil in the world out there.  Faith Popcorn, an American thinker about the future, coined the word “cacooning.”  It is a great word, and describes the life of so many of us who are so totally wrapped up in our little worlds, like a cacoon, you can’t even seen outside and what is around you.  At least in a nest, you can see the world around you, but not in a cacoon.  Cacooning is being so totally wrapped inside my little safe world, not at all concerned for God’s big world of pain out there, not at all concerned for a world of hurting out there that needs to be healed.  Cacooning is contrary to the kingdom of God.  Yes, we can love our homes too much and have them become the focus of our primary energies.

And the second problem we face is this:  loving our families too much.  The first wantabe says: Let me first bury my father before I come and follow you.  And the other wantabe disciple said:  Let me first say good-bye to my family before I come and follow you.  I must tell you:  I love my family......tooooooo much.  The question is:  can you love your family too much?  And the answer is yes.  A resounding yes.

Sometimes, when you are part of a family, it can be so difficult and so painful.  Sometimes, it quite easy to love God and God’s kingdom more than one’s family; at that moment, one’s family is a gigantic headache.  We’ve all been there; done that.   And at other times, when you are part of a family, it can be so good.  It can be so good, you don’t want to touch it for fear that the fragile bubble will burst.  I live in such a moment.  I love my family...deeeply.  And it is very possible for someone like me and someone like you to love your family too much, where you are constantly looking into the back seat of the car to enjoy seeing your family there, that you don’t keep your eye on Christ out in front of you, and the things of God and the justice of God and the poor of God.  Where I am so preoccupied with my little family that I forget God’s larger family of the whole earth.  I am so obsessed with my little family that I don’t have the energy and compassion to care for God’s family around the globe.

(Omit this section to save time on the sermon, but use it as helpful commentary to understand the text:  Jesus one time told a parable about this.  In fact, the best commentary of this passage for today is Luke 14.  Jesus invited numerous people to the party, to the banquet, to the great ballroom, and the people had numerous excuses why they couldn’t come:  The first person said that I would love to come, but I just bought a new field; I just got a new job; that new job of mine is just so time-consuming; my job is so consuming, I just don’t have time for you.  The second person said:  O Jesus, I would love to come to your party, but I just bought five new oxen.  I just bought a new camper; I just bought a new boat; I mean, I am busy; I am a teenager; I have track and soccer and swimming and baseball; I have all of these really wonderful things which are really important to me; and I just don’t have time for you.  And then the third would-be disciple said:  I chuckle when I read it; it is so appropriate to our family situation:  We would love to come to your party, but we just go married; we have to go finish our apartment; we have to get our furniture, our apartment decorated, our home redone; we are so busy being married that we don’t have time for you.  ....In all of these stories, Jesus persistently reminds us that  those of us who love the good things of life;  that can get in the way of keeping our eyes on Jesus and the love of God in front of us.) 

This past week I read an absolutely wonderful quotation from Dr. George Caird.  He is my favorite author on the book of Luke, and he gave me this wonderful quotation:  “The most difficult choices in life are not primarily between good and evil, but the most difficult choices in life are between what is good and what is best.”  And home and children and family and jobs:  these are all good; they are absolutely wonderful; but they are not the best.  The best is Jesus.  The best is the love of God.  The best is the kingdom of God.  The best is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The best is doing the work of God in the world.  The best is taking care of all of God’s family on the globe.  All the other things of life are good, but they are not the best.  Keep your eyes on the best.

I didn’t know what to preach on today:  James and John, the sons of thunder, with their thunderous prejudices, thunderous personalities, and thunderous tempers; and the Samaritans did just a little thing wrong, and they exploded in rage, saying, ”God, come down from heaven and punish those people.”    But then I looked at those footnotes in verses 54 and 55, and I saw that the King James Version had added 28 words to the Bible; the King James Version of the Bible did not come floating down directly from heaven; but there are errors that crept into the Biblical text.   But then I got to the end of the passage  that says if anyone is driving along and is constantly looking back into the backseat, they are not fit to be my disciples.  I didn’t know what to preach on, so I preached on all three.  You got three sermons for the price of one.   I know it was long. Amen.

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