St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs: Sunday Sermon

St. Peter's Lutheran Church: Sunday Sermon

Pastor Ronald Wesemann

Sunday, June 30, 2013††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††† Lectionary 13, Proper 8

Pentecost Six††††††††††††††††††††††††† Holy Communion †††††††††††††††† Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.† 52And he sent messengers ahead of him.† On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.† 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"† 55But he turned and rebuked them.† 56Then they went on to another village.

††††††††††† 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."† 58And 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."† 59To another he said, "Follow me."† But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."† 60But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."† 61Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home."† 62Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

When Jesus, as we are told in Luke, set his face to Jerusalem, he wasnít just saying, ďhey, look thereís JerusalemĒ; the point of his setting his face towards Jerusalem, was to let us know that he was on his way there; Jerusalem was now his destination; He was done wandering around; his ministry, his preaching and healing was (for the most part) complete; it was in Jerusalem that he would finish what he had come here to do; it was in Jerusalem that he would die; it was in Jerusalem that he would bring salvation to the world.

The Samaritans were not turning Jesus away just because he was going to the city of Jerusalem, but because it was in Jerusalem that Jesus planned to perform his greatest miracle. Keep in mind, Samaritans were not really all that welcome in Jerusalem; the Samaritans worshipped on the mountains and (you see) Jesus was not heading up into the mountains, but heading to the center of worship for the Jews, Jerusalem. In the minds of these Samaritans, Jesus had chosen the Jews over them and while the Disciples wanted to rain down fire upon them for their inhospitable treatment, Jesus understood and simply rebuked them.

In todayís Gospel reading you get the feeling that Jesus has also picked up his pace. Luke, while he had spent much time telling detailed stories about everything that Jesus was doing and saying, is here (as a way of showing Jesusí urgency) just telling us the facts.

In addition to Jesusí confrontation with the Samaritan village, Luke describes the encounters that Jesus has with three individuals. The first asked Jesus if he could follow along with him. We do not know whether or not he followed Jesus, but my guess is that he did not; Jesus made it very clear that there was no guarantee of even a safe and comfortable place for them to sleep at night. A second man is invited by Jesus to follow, but he wants first to bury his father (understand this does not mean that his father was dead, but rather that his father was old or sick and he wanted to wait until his father died and was buried before following Jesus); Jesus did not have the time to wait; Jesus knew that, as he was heading to Jerusalem to die, he did not have nearly that long. The third man wanted to first say his good-bys and here Jesus made it clear that following him meant moving forward and Jesus reminded the man of the importance of focusing directly in front of him, like when plowing a field, for if you do not, the plow cuts a winding path and field space is wasted. Jesus himself had set his face towards Jerusalem and was not looking back.

And that is where our reading ends, but if we were to read on, we would find that Jesus went on to call into his service 70 others and Jesus sent them out ahead of him in pairs, to prepare his way and proclaim the love of God in Jesus.

The Samaritan village and the first three men may not have measured up but, it is obvious that, many others did. Luke tells us about the Samaritan village and the first three men, not so that we may judge them but, instead, to challenge us, and to have us challenge each other, to not let our feelings get hurt, to prioritize our actions and to move forward in ministry.

Some questions that we might want to ask of ourselves are, ďAre we ready and willing to welcome and follow Jesus, no matter where Jesus will lead us?Ē (And) Are we able to put our creature comforts aside in order to follow Jesus? (And) Are we able to put Jesus ahead of (even) our families? (And) Are we able to follow Jesus wherever he leads us without regrets or second guessing Jesus?

For most of us, I would guess, the answer is, ďI want to, but, not really.Ē We believe, we love Jesus and want to follow Jesus, but we are not so sure that we are ready to take on the discomforts and responsibilities and we seem to feel that it would be just too hard.

Iím reminded of a worker in a linen store in St. Thomas; the worker was just standing around when the manager or owner walked into the room; all around the room the manager saw tablecloths unfolded and laying out on the display tables; when the manager saw the worker just standing around she told the worker to refold the tablecloths and put them back in their bags; the worker looked back at her boss, with sad eyes and said, ďitís so hard man, itís so hardĒ; if looks could kill there would have been one dead linen store employee; instead the person, seeing that look, began folding the table cloths. And as Cathy and I watched, the worker folded the tablecloths very well.

I think, sometimes, we look at our Lord knowing what it is that he is asking of us and we say in our hearts, itís too hard, and so like the people in todayís Gospel, instead of trying, we look for excuses so that we do not have to really do the stuff that Jesus asks of his followers. (And) We, all of us, make these excuses. I hear them every time I ask people to run for Church Council. I do it myself; there are times when I back off from my visitations; times when I just donít want to sit at my computer and work on sermons and newsletter articles, and Bible Studies and other stuff? While there are some weeks that I work long hours and with great dedication and I feel like everything is easy, there are other weeks when everything seems hard; I find it hard to get myself motivated; I find excuses not to visit or sit at my computer; I get done what I have to, but not very much more. Itís so hard man! But, in truth, it is not so hard; it just seems to us like it is, or would be!

Like the linen store worker, we have not been asked to do anything that is too hard for us. Hard or not, I always find myself, happiest, when Iím doing the work that God has called me to do, when Iím visiting, when Iím preaching, when I am meeting with people and when I am writing articles, planning Bible studies and doing the other work of ministry. The 70, who Jesus called and sent out ahead of him, came back to him later glorifying God in response to their experiences in his service.†††††††††††

In this congregation, we have three members who have finished or begun the diakonia program; this is an intense study program designed to help lay people grow in faith, commitment and understanding of the Lutheran Church, its faith and ministry. At least two of them faced the classwork, uncertain as to whether they would be able to do it. All of them have learned that they could and all of them are thankful that they accepted Godís call to participate in the diakonia program and all of them have grown in their commitment to the Churchís ministry.

We, most of us underestimate our abilities and (again) we find excuses to cover our doubts, but we donít have to, and when we donít, we find greater meaning and joy in our lives. Itís not really so hard, man!