The Pas Propers / Ordinary 13 – Pentecost + 3
30 June 2019
I Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Psalm 19 BCP pg 345
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9: 51-62
Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,
you call us to obey you,
and you favour us with true freedom.
Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son,
so that, leaving behind all that hinders us,
we may steadfastly follow your paths,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
How does God come to us? How does God call us to the extraordinary lives we’re living, in God’s name?
The readings for today, all of them, really, give us some great examples, some great ways to live out the Call of God, the Will of God in, for, and through our lives.
Today we see Elijah ‘call’ Elisha to be his successor as the Prophet of Israel, as God has directed. And we know that’s not a popular job, in Elijah’s day. After all,, in today’s passage from 1 Kings, he’s on the mountain, before God, running for his life from Jezebel and the priests of Baal who have promised to kill him.
But God has a plan, and in this plan, Elijah has many more years to serve God, but he also needs to mentor his successor, Elisha.
At the same time, today we see Paul’s advice to the Galatians on how to live good, God-centred lives.
And in the gospel, today, we see Jesus respond to a number of people who come to him, and a number of people to whom Jesus invites, them, us, to take up the call to follow.
“57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” (Lk 9:57-62)
In looking at this we can see the kinds of objections that our lives and hearts put before us, as Jesus calls to each of us, to our hearts: “follow me.” (Lk 9:59)
And Jesus knows each of our hearts. God knows the objections that we, ourselves, put before a call to follow, a call to serve each other, and God each in our own unique way.
And in each case, Jesus turns our ideals, our thoughts of what ministry is like, on their ears, and this makes us really uncomfortable.
To the first man, Jesus points out that there isn’t a regular base from which Jesus centres his ministry. “57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”” (Lk 9:57-58)
Either Jesus knows that the life of an itinerant preacher isn’t one for that man, or he’s challenging him to change his perceptions of ministry. At the same time, Jesus knows that this particular life leads us all to the cross to witness Jesus act and God’s ultimate love for all of humanity.
And this is significant, that we, all of us, need to discern how and where, and in what way we are called to live out our vocations, as the followers of Christ, as the children of God.
In my own life, the call to ordained ministry wasn’t a one-time thing. It wasn’t something that came along, out of the blue, when I was 18, and then never again. Instead, it came up time and again, until I recognized it and followed where God led, and continues to lead me to serve.
I needed to be in a place in my own life to hear the call, to feel the need to follow where God leads, still today. It’s an ongoing learning process of how to live my life in a way that embraces the love of God for all of humanity.
Jesus knows better than even we, today, that his path leads to the cross, so that we, today may pass through the cross to stand before the throne of God. At the same time, God knows we are each called, individually to places unknown and ventures of which we cannot see the ending.
And we are all called, each one of us, in our own unique way, through the promises of baptism, through the moving of the Holy Spirit, through the love of God and the teachings of Jesus.
We’re called to love, we’re called to serve, we’re called to seek out and to find, to encourage, and to support, to love and to guide all of humanity.
At the same time, God allows us to decline God’s offer to follow where God calls, to follow the path laid out before us.
And yes, God knows the barriers that hold us back, today, but they may not be barriers for us, for our ability to follow where and how God leads us tomorrow, and we are able to see this in the gospel for today
As I said, my call to ordained ministry wasn’t a ‘one time call’ from God, at the age of 18, when, clearly, I wasn’t prepared to follow where God was leading at that time.
But it returned, time and again, when I was seeking for guidance, in my life, when circumstances fell into place to listen to what God had been calling me to do for almost half of my life, at that point.
And it continues, still today, renewed each morning, when I wake and wonder what it is God wants, needs from me, today, to fulfill the will of God in and through the world.
And if we’re waiting for time to be right, well sometimes it’s never right to take that bull by the horns and to follow where God leads. Sometimes it’s the act of forward motion that breaks that pattern of waiting for the time to be right, and in looking back we see that it’s now, when we decide to move forward instead of standing still.
We see this in the gospel, for today, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” We see this in our own interactions with God and with our neighbour. (Lk 9:51b)
In today’s gospel, we see several people come and go, but we also acknowledge that the disciples remain with Jesus throughout these encounters.
We see one man looking to follow, but looks for stability in his vision of a life of ministry.
Another looks to the needs of the dead and the family left to grieve, but he is still encouraged to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:60b)
Yet another wants to reassure the family who will be left behind, should he heed Jesus call to follow.
There’s a phrase that seems to fit these situations, or rather its opposite, its corollary. That phrase is that one is “So heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.”
So, the opposite, then, would be that someone is so earthly minded that they’re no heavenly good. And this brings us back to today’s gospel.
This brings us back to Jesus and his apparently contradictory answers to those who say, who claim that they want to follow, but put up barriers, and roadblocks, and don’t see the stars align in such a way that will allow them to fulfill the will of God in and for their lives, and ours to be followers of Jesus.
Lately I’ve been interested in the Camino de Santiago. This is a pilgrimage walk. Religious pilgrims have been following this path since the middle ages.
At one time, in the life of the Church,, in Europe, to receive absolution for sins, the sinner would be commanded to go on pilgrimage. They’re directed to abandon their lives, and to walk to a destination. The popular three pilgrimages, in Europe were: Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago. Each corresponds with a Holy Site in the church, in the world, and the journey, then, to such a site would enable the walker to receive absolution for their sins.
Today, such walks are taken for tourism, for recreation, to commune with nature, etc. Every walker has his or her own reasons for undertaking such a walk. But also, in such a way, each walker is following where God has taken him or her, and each walker is following in the footsteps of those who have gone on before.
I think that this is the reason that this pilgrimage, this hike, this month, or more long walk appeals to me; because this has been, and continues to be a path of or to faith for generations. Because this goes through a beautiful part of the world, because this advocates moving at one’s own pace yet all reaching the same destination, eventually.
And we see the same with responding to Jesus call to “Follow Me.”
Jesus calls us to follow. At the same time, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:51b) He’s walking toward his crucifixion, and he knows this. At the same time, he hopes to inspire others to carry on the work he’s begun. He has the disciples, but they’re only twelve against the world.
The disciples need help in their work to share the gospel of Christ throughout the world. We, today, still need help with the same task. So, Jesus recruits.
We don’t know if the first man was turned off by Jesus response: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Lk 9: 58)
For all we know he could have continued with the apostles and the disciples, learning from Jesus about the love of God, for all of humanity.
For all we know, he became someone to whom people listened, because he has that love of God in his heart, because he has the teachings of Jesus all around, because he wasn’t rebuffed by the words of Jesus. But instead he was energized by the challenge that not all doors are open to the love of God, today, but they may open tomorrow.
And yet the call is still there. Jesus still looks at each one of us, and utters those words “Follow me!”
How will we ‘step up’ as today’s lingo states and address the challenge that stands before us?
How will we allow the love of God, the teachings of Jesus to fill us up and be expressed in our every action, our every word? How will we be pulled from our ‘humdrum’ to be all that God knows we have the ability to be?
Another phrase came to mind, as I wrote. It’s satirical, but still apropos to today’s situation. It says: “It was one against a thousand. It was the toughest one we’ve ever fought!”
And, there are some days that will seem like that, but sill with God at our side, in our heart, guiding our actions and words, it will still be the toughest fight others will face.
All we have to do is heed Jesus words: “Follow me” and the world will never be the same, again.