I need help and advice about this – my husband says I need to tone it down before Sunday. If you can make helpful suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s Gospel story is about a journey. Jesus and the disciples are on the way to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was in an area called Judaea. Jesus was setting off from Galilee, which was another territory. There were two routes to go from Galilee to Jerusalem, the quick and hazardous way or the slow, safe way. In between Galilee and Judaea was Samaria. For reasons going way way back, the people of Judah hated the Samaritans, and the hate was mutual.
Jesus and the disciples decide to take the route via Samaria. Jesus sends some of the disciples on ahead to fix up a place to stay overnight and organise some food. However, the village won’t take them in. Jesus and the disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, so they are not welcome.
The disciples are offended by this response. They want to get their own back, so they think they can call down fire and brimstone to destroy the village.
Where are we in this story, especially after the outcome of Thursday’s referendum vote? Gateshead voted 56.8% in favour of Brexit.
So let’s look at the different characters in the story.
Jesus and the disciples are crossing territory in which they don’t belong and where they know that relations could be tricky. It feels to me like we are going into unknown territory. It won’t be like going back 40 years to before we joined the EU. The world is a different place.
There is a way in which we are like the villagers. We have rejected our membership of and partnership with the European Union, which was set up after the Second World War as a way of working together to bring peace to Europe and to the world. As a country, we said to Europe, “we want to go it alone. We don’t need you.”
One of the reasons why some people voted to Leave was because of their fears around immigration – on the one hand, it was around people coming to Britain from Eastern Europe looking for work, and often doing the work that British people just wouldn’t do. On the other hand, it was also about refugees coming from places of war and violence. When you talk to the people who have been given leave to stay, you hear terrible stories about what they have been through. So some people might interpret the outcome of the referendum as saying to all these people, “you are not welcome here!”
Actually, I think a key reason for people choosing Leave is that they blame the EU for the impact of the recession and the austerity measures. Personally, I am not convinced that you can blame the EU for all of that. What I am afraid of is that the next few years will be even more difficult. It is easy to forget the benefits we have received from the EU: the hundreds of thousands of pounds given to St Chad’s Community Project in the early years. More recently, Gateshead College has been given nearly £11m. The Sage and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge also came about because of money from the EU. The Angel of the North got £150,000 from the EU of the £800,000 it cost to install. We just won’t get funding like that in the future.
But the decision has been taken. We have to live with the consequences. Over the next few weeks and months, we will see how different groups will respond to the outcome of the election.
How will our EU partners respond to the rejection of framework in which we work together? Will they call down fire upon our heads in the way they treat us? If they did, you could understand it. We have taken the bat and ball away from the game. We don’t want to play any more. The other kids are not going to like it. They won’t feel any responsibility to help us or to cooperate over trade agreements or security issues. France has already said that it won’t make any effort to stop migrants at Calais trying to gain entry to Britain. Why should they? We have told them we don’t want to work with them any more.
How will those who campaigned for Remain respond? The Prime Minister has already announced that he will hand over the reins to someone else. The Conservative MPs and then the Conservative party will vote for a new leader, probably in September. On Twitter and Facebook on Friday, people I follow were distraught about the outcome of the vote. The Bank of England has set out contingency plans about how to steady the economic ship in this period of turbulence. It really matters how we handle the complicated cutting of all kind of political and economic ties with the EU.
In the story, the disciples were angry with the villagers. They felt hurt and rejected, just as some people in Europe feel hurt and rejected. The disciples are all for calling down fire and destruction. Jesus rebukes the disciples for wanting to get their own back. Destroying a whole village is not an appropriate or gracious answer. We all need to be gracious. We are in the position we are in.
It may be OK. I pray that it will be OK in the end, and that things will settle down. But it will take time.
The Gospel story is one little incident on the journey to Jerusalem. It comes at a point in the Gospel where Jesus has already told his followers twice that he is going to be betrayed, to suffer, be killed and then rise again, and the disciples are struggling to come to terms with that. They don’t believe it, quite frankly; they don’t want to believe it. Jesus knows that Jerusalem is where it’s all going to come to a head. Jerusalem is the place of suffering and crucifixion. There will be only one outcome to the story. Suffering and death. But that will lead to the final transformation – resurrection.
There will be trouble ahead, as the song goes. We will have to face the consequences of the vote, and it won’t be plain sailing. It means massive change. What I am afraid of is that the people who will bear the brunt of the transition are the people of Bensham and Teams, who don’t have a lot of money and don’t have a lot of opportunities, many who are dependent on benefits, many suffer poor health. We pray that the dance of transformation, of new life, is further down the line.