This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Trinity Sunday, 30 June 2019.
There is so much in all the readings today that choosing one theme is almost impossible.
We have the familiar story of Elisha wanting with all his heart to be able to have the spirit that Elijah has, but not just that but a double portion, so that he may follow Elijah’s footsteps and be as good if not a better prophet than Elijah.
We then have Paul’s advice to stand firm and to love our neighbour as ourselves, to live by the Holy Spirit and not allow ourselves to be drawn away from God by materialist desires. To live by the fruits of the Holy Spirit and allow the spirit to guide us through our lives towards the Kingdom of God.
All three of these people were called by God to a mission, Elijah and Elisha were prophets, Paul a disciple each with their own mission to complete.
Then Luke describes the way Jesus was turning towards Jerusalem. We know that Jesus had a special mission that only he and God knew.
Luke begins by telling us that Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem. Up until this point Jesus has spent the majority of his adult life in a region known as Lower Galilee and from Capernaum, he would go out to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God and then return to Capernaum. Jesus rarely went too far from Capernaum or stay away for too long, but now he had set his face towards Jerusalem where he would take the Gospel to the heart of the Jewish faith and to its centre, the Temple. We all know what consequences where to come from this act, but this was Jesus’ resolve – his sheer determination to obey God’s will, whatever the outcome.
He hadn’t particularly set out to go to the Samaritan village, if he had he would have spent more time with them and they would probably have received him, but he had one thought on his mind and that was to go to Jerusalem, to do God’s will and he really didn’t have time to spend with the Samaritans. His disciples were angry at the way the Samaritans treated Jesus and wanted to punish the them, but Jesus didn’t want them punished and the disciples didn’t seem to understand the urgency of the mission Jesus was on.
I’m sure there are many of us that when have planned to do something, if someone interrupts those plans we tend to shun them, not intending to be rude, but it’s just that we have got to do something and we don’t have the time to be diverted from the task we are on. Our minds are set on the task.
This is what Jesus was trying to demonstrate in the way he proceeded to Jerusalem. His mission was to preach and proclaim the Kingdom of God, something that his disciples would have to do once he ascended and they had to be committed to doing it. They had been called by Jesus and their focus was to be on following, watching, listening and learning from him and Jesus had to make sure they were ready and willing to carry on his mission once he was no longer with them in person.
They then proceed to pass through another village, again Jesus doesn’t stop, but as he is going through someone asks to follow him. Jesus doesn’t really seem to encourage him and responds by saying, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ At first to me, this seemed to be a funny sort of thing to say, but after reading others thoughts on the matter, Jesus is basically saying, I can’t offer you riches or financial stability, in fact I can’t even offer you a place to stay and that makes sense. Followers of Jesus had to provide for themselves.
When Jesus then invites someone else to “Follow him” he is met with what seems to be a reasonable excuse, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ However, Jesus’ response seems quite hard, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ We have no way of knowing if this man’s father was dead, he could have meant let me stay with my father until he dies. Metaphorically, burying the dead in this case may mean leaving the comfort of what we know behind and venturing out into unchartered waters.
A second man states, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ Another response, which to us today may seem unusual, but when a farmer is ploughing his fields, to ensure he has straight lines, he cannot veer to the right or left and so looks forward all the time.
Jesus was calling those who would give up everything — family, friends, their job to look forward and to follow him. What he got instead was excuses.
We live in a world of excuses, just listen to any politician, or maybe I’m being a bit unfair, as I’m sure we all have, at some time, had to make our own excuse, but Jesus doesn’t want excuses. He wants commitment.
This passage is about discipleship and being called. Following Jesus we know is not a one-time event, it’s a lifetime commitment. Discipleship was Jesus’ long term goal. He didn’t leave a temple for us to remember him by, he left disciples to spread the Gospel and he puts the Kingdom of God at the centre of that discipleship.
Being disciples is costly, it means being committed to the ministry at hand and looking to what we can do and not to what we have done, looking forwards to the future not backward into the past. To find new ways to keep our hands on the plough, to look forward and to find different ways to proclaim the Kingdom of God, whenever and wherever we can.
Jesus kept his sight on Jerusalem, knowing the dangers he would encounter, but this was God’s will, this was his mission.
Jesus is still calling people today, “Follow me!”
Are we ready and willing?
Let us pray:
- Our Father, when Jesus calls us to follow him, may we never offer excuses.
- Instead, may we be willing to give up everything and follow.
- May we be guided by the Holy Spirit to do your Will.
- In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Christine Hardy Reader @ St. Margaret’s & St. George’s.