|Fall morning in Cheat Lake, WV|
They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:37This verse comes at the very end of Chapter 17 of Luke's gospel. Jesus has been sharing several sayings and stories trying to help his disciples get clarity about his message and his mission. This final section recalls the stories of the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom as cautionary tales for his followers. Life goes on as it usually does until a cataclysmic event happens that destroys everything. He looks froward to the disclosure of "The Son of Man," a title drawn from the Book of Ezekiel which Jesus uses for himself. That disclosure will be as destructive as the two historic events and it will be just as selective. Those who hear his message but fail to change their lives will be destroyed and those who listen and change will be left with life everlasting. It is a stark choice and Jesus uses stark language.
Just before the verse quoted, Jesus voices once again a message of the Great Reversal: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." Those who seem so full of life with possessions (even more than they need), achievements, wealth, power, influence, knowledge, reputation are the ones who run the risk of losing everything even their very life if they become so focused that they lose sight of the reality of the family of the Divine One within them and within everyone and everything.
As we have been reading Luke during this Ordinary Time, we have been reading about Jesus journey toward Jerusalem and the reality that awaited him there. He had a strong sense that his life of preaching and living the law of love would bring him into conflict with the "powers that be" in that urban center and further that the conflict would likely result in his death. Throughout this journey, he was constantly choosing his path which meant that he was constantly choosing to focus not on his life but on the deeper reality of his membership in the family of the Divine One and the implications of that reality for his day to day living. He is asking his followers and me to make the same choice today and every day. He is asking me to live as though my divine son-ship (adoptive though it may be) is the only reality of my life. In short, to live the life of love that 2 John speaks of in today first reading:
But now, Lady, I ask you,When the disciples ask him where all this is going to happen, he answers with this enigmatic saying about vultures and dead bodies. The exact meaning is certainly unambiguously clear but a meaning that has significance to me does. Where will this death occur in my own life? His answer is simple: Look those areas of my life where I seek to preserve my safety and security and I will see vultures circling this refusal to lose my life in order to gain true and eternal life. Look to those areas where I seek to preserve my comfort. Look to those areas where I seek the approval of others. Look to those areas where I crave success. Those are the areas where the vultures are circling what will become sooner or later a lifeless carcass.
not as though I were writing a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning:
let us love one another.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;
this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.