Friends, the text for today contains many parables, healings, and teachings all by Jesus. I am going to take few minutes to reflect upon some of them and to come up with some lessons.
After Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman whose faith had saved, he traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. He started a movement composed by few regular men and women. A movement that grew to spread across the whole world.
Today our world is full of disturbances and destructions—the rocks, thorns, wars, natural calamities, etc. that collude to prevent God’s Word and God’s calling from taking root and bearing fruits. However, we are assured that when we cry out for help, somehow storms are calmed down. I thank God that EMM got it already and has decided to do the right thing.
Jesus exhorts us to function as light. To go out into the world and proclaim the good news of love and compassion. To use the gifts that God has entrusted onto us. We need to be the light to the hungry, to the stateless, to the asylum seeker, to the oppressed as well as to the oppressor. Jesus asks us to be the voices of the voiceless. Remember, we are Jesus’ mother, his brothers and his sisters when we do welcome a stranger in our midst and when we put our resources together to help the needy.
Jesus’ mission is about choosing regular people, empowering them and sending them to tell the story. The vision of his ministry is about radical welcoming and ethical leadership of his followers: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest,” He says. During this time and age when wars and all sorts of life destructions are found all around us, we are called to raise the dead, to heal the sick and the world, and to feed the hungry.
When Jesus and His disciples were about to go through the Samaritan village heading to Jerusalem, Samaritans refused to welcome them. Our natural human tendency is to follow our traditions that are not always that good. This reminds me of a country that went through a terrible war that forced people to flee for their lives. While fleeing, they were so mistreated in those foreign lands to the point that they were even blamed for some natural misfortune like droughts that would occur in those lands. What would you expect from those mistreated people? Their natural reaction would be to say like James and John, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But no, that is not the Jesus’ way. Jesus prefers to go to another village. It is costly to follow Jesus, yes, but it is worthy it. The way of Jesus is peace, love, forgiveness and compassion. Sometimes it is refraining from using the destructive power that one might have. That is the way of Jesus of Nazareth.
His mission is about breaking down the walls that divide. He teaches that generosity is part and parcel of God’s mission. As EMM welcomes refugees and gives them back a sense of life and hope that they’ve lost once uprooted from their motherlands, it lives out that generosity. EMM has understood Jesus’ meaning of love: “Love God, Love Neighbor” as the Good Samaritan did.
Friends, as I move to my conclusion I would like to say this: during this time when the world is messed up by wars, hatred, etc. let us strive to make a difference and try to follow Jesus’ way. Let us work towards building bridges and tearing down what divides us. Today let us proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom of peace, love, compassion and humility. Thank you for listening and may God bless you. Amen.
The Rev. Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa, Th.D.
Currently Director of Transition Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Ntagengwa spent his early years in Rwanda, where much of his extended family still lives. In 1988 he earned a certificate in accounting and economics from the Ecole d’Economie et de Commerce de Janja, in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, and then completed his Bachelor of Divinity degree at St. Paul’s United Theological College in Limuru, Kenya, in 1998. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican diocese there. In 1999, he moved to Boston, where he completed his master’s degree in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School in 2001 and his doctorate in Ethics and Missions at Boston University in 2008.
His dissertation, “Cycles of Violence in Rwanda: Ethical Leadership and Ethnic Justice,” explores theological and ethical models for relationship that could be useful in curtailing centuries of violence in that nation. Before fleeing to Zaire in 1994 where he coordinated a small refugee camps at Eveche Anglican de Bukavu for a year, Ntagengwa held different leadership positions in Rwanda as Financial Administrator of an Episcopal hospital, Regional Representative in Butare of Banques Populaires and as a chaplain of a high school in Musanze. In the Diocese of Massachusetts, Ntagengwa has served as a Supply clergy, Associate Priest at St. Peter’s, Cambridge, Associate Priest at St. Paul’s, Brockton, Assistant Priest at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan and, before he joined the Bishop Staff, as Priest-In-Charge at St. John St. James Church in Roxbury. He also worked with the Refugee Immigration Ministry in Malden as Case Manager and Director of Direct Care.
He and his wife, Christine, live in Everett and have three children, Jean-Fidele, Peace and Moses.