51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I began my ministry in the Salt Lake City suburbs of Utah. My community was over 92% LDS; but Salt Lake City itself had far more “gentiles” as the Mormons referred to us, about 50% when I was there. I have a good friend who is Jewish and he always used to urge his Jewish friends to come out from Connecticut where he was from so they could experience being called a gentile for a few days.
Serving in an LDS community was a real blessing for me. I think it gave me a heart for anyone who feels like they are an outsider. It also made me look at some of the things we do differently. The Christians of Utah sometimes did not conduct themselves well, I have to say. I think some of it was born of their minority status. They would sometimes heap scorn or derision upon LDS beliefs and practices. I did not concur with the LDS, but they did me little harm and I know that the only way they would come to faith in Christ with me was through love. I was saddened to see this. One never mocks another person into faith.
Jesus rebukes James and John who wanted to call down fire upon the Samaritan village who rejected their Lord. He moves on to another place. He had his face set for Jerusalem, the place where He would lay down his life for the world, including all the folks who hate Him. The first baptism which I ever conducted was a recently retired fellow, a former Mormon, who had been married to a member of my parish for well over 30 years at that point. Through the gentle persuasion and persistent love of spouse and others, he had finally heard Jesus’ call to discipleship. It would have been so easy to reject this fellow for his obdurate refusal over the years. I am so glad that those who went before me did not.