June 26 2016 CCC LUKE 9:51-62
Have you ever felt you would like to take some words of Jesus, but leave others out? A little bit like shopping at the grocery store. What do I want today?! That sounds extreme doesn’t it. Yet the reality is that is how we are. We have certain ideas about Jesus… the good shepherd, going after the lost seep… We like those because we feel that can include us because if we slip up, we know he’ll come running to us. A little bit à la Carole King, ‘Winter spring summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I’ll be there…you’ve got a friend’.
That is the Jesus we like and love, our friend who runs to us when ever we are in need!
Then we get texts like today’s…not quite so sweet but we cannot ignore them! What are we to do? Let’s take a look at them and see what we can discover.
We read that Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. He sets his face to Jerusalem. He knew where he had to go. He is determined. He sent messengers ahead to prepare his arrival in a Samaritan village. They would not welcome him and his entourage because the Samaritans had a long standing animosity towards the centralized worship in Jerusalem. If Jesus was headed there, forget it, he was not welcome. Now not receiving guests really went against the middle eastern tradition of welcoming guests, so one can see how deep the animosity was between the Jews and the Samaritans, and it was mutual.
When the others heard about the villagers’ refusal, John and James suggest an appropriate response in their mind…DESTROY THEM! Jesus sets the record straight. No way!
Now that is the Jesus we like, compassionate. No problem with that. They head on to another village.
Luke introduces a set of three situations that are all around discipleship, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, what it means to say yes to Jesus. This is where it can become interesting or uncomfortable.
Before going any further, I want to talk about what I heard last Saturday at our diocesan synod meeting. Michael Thompson, General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, spoke about a resolution that will be coming to our national synod in July that will propose dialogue between the Mennonite Church and the Anglican Church. Having been a Mennonite for 40 years, my ears perked up. This was being proposed because Mennonites have always been a people who were not part of the power base of society, they were not the decision makers, they were on the margins. The Anglican Church, on the other hand, use to be part of the power base of Canadian society. That is no longer the case. It is being suggested a dialogue might help the Anglican church reposition itself. What does it mean to be the Church from the margins of society? Why I raise it today is, I suspect, the dialogue might focus on discipleship. These three situations in today’s gospel passage all refer to following Jesus, and that is what discipleship is all about and that is the Mennonite ethos, following Jesus. In the Anglican tradition, there is definitely reference to discipleship but the Eucharist is what plays the central role. So today, I will be giving you a glimpse of what some of these future discussions with the Mennonite Church might bring as we look at discipleship from the margins.
The first situation is when someone tells Jesus in a moment of commitment, I will follow you wherever you go.”. Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
What might that mean? Jesus is obviously using overstatements to make a point. The person wants to follow Jesus and Jesus is telling that person, it won’t be easy. The road of the disciple is a hard road. You can see that what the Christian Church had been for centuries, a power player or at least a power broker, was not at all what Jesus had in mind. The disciple not having a place to rest his or her head, even if Jesus was using an overstatement, was not living in palaces. Fortunately, over the centuries, the Spirit continued to blow reformations into the Church trying to bring her back to what Jesus had in mind.
In 1937 Germany, during the rise of Nazism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote his book, The Cost of Discipleship, challenging people to recognize that being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, had implications on your daily life.
Today, we must be careful not to follow into the trap of the Gospel of success, if you are faithful to Jesus you will be blest with wealth, and prosperity. Sorry folks, that is not the case. Jesus was telling us rather that the way of the disciple may well be at times be hard.
In the second situation, it is Jesus that says to another, Follow me and it is the individual who says, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Sounds like a reasonable request. One commentator mentions though that this could have been a broader reference to, let me wait till my father passes away, then I will be free to follow you. But Jesus says then, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another overstatement to make a point.
The Kingdom of God is so important that the disciple has to set his priorities, and proclaiming the vision of the reign of God, has to come first. Jesus’ disciples are to make it loud and clear, by what they say and by what they do, that God’s reign is near and that happens as each disciple, that is each one of us, lives it!
In the Gazette this week, there was a write up on the executive director of Action Refugiés Montréal, Paul Clarke, who went from being a banker to working with refugees. It was a beautiful testimony of a man’s journey of discipleship, of following Jesus. He mentions that at his church, at the beginning of the service they are asked to put their hands on their lap and think of what their hands have done in the past week to help others or to make the world a better place. Imagine if we ask ourselves that question every night?
Jesus call us as disciples to recognize that the way is not always easy, it can be hard. Jesus also call us to proclaim the reign of God by what we do and say. We are to live out a vision of a better world, that is what the reign of God is all about and that is what it means to proclaim the Kingdom of God! LIVING IT IS TO PROCLAIM IT!
Now the last teaching on discipleship has once again someone say to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but he adds, let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Again this sounds reasonable…Jesus’ response though is clear, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Overstatement number 3 to make a point.
I have never plowed a field behind cattle. The closest I have come to it, is using a rototiller to plow up a garden, but it is close enough. You cannot let yourself get distracted. If you do, your line will be all crooked. But Jesus is really not talking about farming. He is talking about discipleship, following him. You cannot spend your time looking back, you have to look forward to the reign of God.
This so important for us. We cannot spend our time looking back with nostalgia to what the Church was in her glory days. Sorry friends, those days are over. If we want to follow Jesus, we need to be looking to the future and what we are called to be NOW, TODAY, as disciples of Jesus. Yesterdays answers were yesterdays answers. Today and tomorrow’s answers will be where the Spirit leads, because the Spirit will lead us if we look forward to the Reign of God.
There is a contemporary hymn that I would like to read a couple of verses to that captures beautifully the vision we are called to live towards.
Beyond a dying sun I saw a vison on the sea, of golden sails full billowed on the wind. And echoing above the waves a voice called after me, God’s dwelling place is with you till the end. I see a new world coming where everyone is free! And all shall be God’s people in justice, love and peace.
Though hatred rages on the wind and wars defile the land, I see those golden sails still coming strong, for through the eyes of faith still shines the vision of the Lamb, and over weary earth there rings this song.
I see a new world coming where everyone is free! And all shall be God’s people in justice, love and peace.
The road of the disciple leads us into the future where the Vision of the Kingdom of God is our goal!
Sisters and brothers on the journey, today’s gospel passage is all about discipleship, following Jesus. Jesus is our friend that does come to us in our need but Jesus is a friend that says come and follow me.
Jesus tells us the road can be hard. Palaces are not part of the package.
Jesus tells us we are to proclaim today in our lives the reign of God.
Finally, the disciple cannot be looking back but has to look to the future because we are motivated by the vision we have of the way God would see the world. We do see a new world coming.
One last thing, I would like us to keep in mind when we come forward in a few minutes to take communion, that we are in effect saying YES, I WANT TO FOLLOW YOU JESUS. As you share then in the bread and the cup, the Spirit will guide and bless you on the Jesus journey. Amen.