Canon Claude Schroeder (Luke 9-51-62)
In our Gospel today Luke tells us, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This marks the beginning of what the bible scholars call the “Travel Narrative” in St. Luke’s Gospel, in which, over the course of ten chapters Luke tells us what happened as Jesus left Galilee with his disciples, and walked down the pilgrimage route to Jerusalem. Starting today and continuing to the end of November, we are going to be taking in some of the highlights of Luke’s Travel Narrative, which is for us an extended teaching on the Christian life, what does it mean for us to follow Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem?
We talk about the journey that we make through life, that begins with birth, and carries on into childhood and adolescence. We grow up, go to school, and get an education, get a job, and maybe get married, start a family. Then comes retirement and old age, where we eventually get sick and die. That pretty much describes our journey through life, does it not? That’s certainly what you will read in the obituary, and that what you will hear in the so called “eulogy” at the so-called “celebration of life.” All of which raises the question, “Is that it?’ and “What exactly was the point? “
In the Christian understanding our journey through life has a goal, what Jesus called the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is the personal presence and power of God in your life. This is God loving you, providing for you, forgiving you, healing you, raising you up from the death ofyour sins to the life of righteousness. It is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and it is the communion of love that is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It is the hope that through all we are given to suffer in this life, we will come to share in the glory of God.
Through His birth, baptism, temptation in the desert, preaching, teaching, miracles, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, sending of the Holy Spirit, and coming again in glory, Jesus
Christ has prepared for you place in that kingdom, and is something we experience and enter into, not just when we die, but throughout our life. Our journey through life, begun in baptism, is a journey with Jesus into that kingdom. It’s a journey into the centre ofthings: the crucified heart of God. This is where we are headed.
This morning a harsh word from St. Paul on the possibility of our not reaching the goal. “I am warning you,” writes Paul to the Galatians, “as I warned you before: those who do such things (what Paul calls the works of the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God.” but then a more encouraging word, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
Luke tells us that Jesus sent messengers on ahead of him on his journey. They entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him, but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem.
This was not a great start to the journey. The Samaritans, whom Jesus had loved and ministered to, here give him the cold shoulder. Why? Well, the Samaritans had set up their own church with their own priests, and their own Bible. If you want to meet with God, you don’t go to church in Jerusalem, you go to church here with us here in Samaria. Besides being just wrong, because salvation is of the Jews, (the children here at St. Mary’s are going to be studying the Jewish roots of the Christian faith) what the Samaritans did here was horribly inhospitable, which in ancient culture was a terrible sin.
Note to self: on this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, I will face opposition. I will encounter rejection.
It’s not a question of “if,” but “when.’
The question is: How do we respond when the roadblock goes up?
You’ve got to love the reaction of James and John, whom Jesus given the nickname, “Sons of Thunder.” True to character, James and John wanted to call in an air strike.
“Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
Let’s napalm these suckers and watch them fry.
Don’t James and John know that revenge is a dish best served cold? Don’t they know that when somebody does you a bad turn, you don’t immediately fire back. Wait a while, let things simmer down, and then, and only then, when they least expect it, do you whack them, and whack them good!
Not quite sure this is what Jesus said when as Luke tells us, “He turned and rebuked them.”
Where were James and John back in Chapter 6, when Jesus instructed the disciples, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you?” (Luke 6. 27). Must have slept in that Sunday…
This journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is a not an easy path to walk. The reason it’s not an easy path is because it is a non-violent path, and the world we live in is a violent place.
The American theologian Stanley Hauerwas once wrote,” To say you’re nonviolent is not some position of self-righteousness — you kill and I don’t. It’s rather to make your life available to others in a way that they can help you discover ways you’re implicated in violence that you hadn’t even noticed.”
Is this not what Jesus did throughout His life, and on the Cross? He made Himself available to us in such a way that we discovered our implication in violence that we hadn’t even noticed.
Hauerwas writes, “In order to follow the path of non-violence as Jesus sets it out here we need to learn to be vulnerable to others in such a way that we need one another, ” which is what church is all about.
Our Gospel lesson continues with a series of encounters between Jesus and three would-be disciples where it seems that Jesus Himself is throwing up roadblocks that would prevent people from joining him on his little road trip. But is He putting up roadblocks, or taking down the roadblocks we put up?
As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, ” I will follow you wherever you go!” Here’s someone who senses there’s something different about Jesus, and wants to be part of that. What eagerness! What enthusiasm! Sign that guy up! Get him church envelopes! Maybe he will serve on the Vestry.
Jesus is not impressed. “Foxes have holes, ands bird of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Following Jesus isn’t just a matter of leaving home, which is hard enough. Following Jesus means keeping company with a homeless person, someone who only finally found a place to rest His head, when He was nailed to a Cross.
Are we willing to follow Him there?
We who crave comfort and we who crave security, and will do what we can to avoid that place of discomfort and insecurity, know what the answer is.
It’s going to be “No.”
But point here is not that we need to somehow heroically wean ourselves off our addiction to comfort and security, and throw away our security blankets, but recognize the division that exists within our own wills. There is part of us wants to follow Jesus, but not if means not being able to sleep in my own bed at night with my own pillow.
IN light of that division, what are we to do? There is only one thing we can do, that is to trust in the promise of God, and that it was for us and for our salvation that God willed to suffer and die upon the Cross. The question isn’t what are we willing to give up for Jesus, but what was he willing to give up for us? It was everything, and because of that I can follow wherever He leads.
To another, Jesus said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” If in our day, a man can’t wait for his father to die, in order to get hands on the inheritance, in Jesus day, a son had to work long and hard in order and save up enough money to cover the expenses of dad’s funeral.
But what does Jesus say?
“Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God!”
What kind of talk is this?
This is “Jesus talk.” It is talk calculated to shock and to shake us out of our complacency, our accustomed habits and ways of thinking, and open up for us new possibilities of believing and behaving.
But perhaps the real question is, “Who is this Jesus who talks like this? Jesus has just laid claim to the title “Son of Man”, in the Bible the person who bears the title ” Son of Man” has been invested with Divine authority to rule over the nations.
In the kingdom which Jesus has established sin and death does not determine your relationship to the living. It is the presence and power of God revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that now has become the determining factor in your life, and in your relationships. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for life and for living.
Here is how St. Paul put it in today’s Epistle, “For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand firm therefore , and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” What kind of slavery does Paul have in mind here? It’s the slavery of doing what’s expected. “Only”, writes Paul,” do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” Jesus sets us free. We are free to love and free to serve.
As a Christian and as a member of this church you don’t have to do anything. But you get to do all kinds of things, things which people around you might not consider normal, things like worshipping God in Church, eating His flesh and drinking His Blood, welcoming the stranger, praying with and for one another, giving your money away, and forgiving everyone for everything.
You are a Christian. In baptism the Church marked you with the sign of the Cross, and anointed you with the Holy Spirit. You now belong to Jesus Christ, the life that He offers you, the life that He holds out for you, the life that He lives in you, and the life that you live in Him, is anything but normal, anything but conventional. It is nothing less than Resurrection from the dead.
Another said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say goodbye to those at my home.” There is that darn “but,” again, and that darn “let me first ” again… Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven.”
So what’s so bad about looking back on your life? As you look back on your life, and as I look back on mine, one of two things happens. We either find ourselves longing to go back, you know to the good old days, are filled with nostalgia, or we are filled with regret, and find ourselves wanting escape the past, somehow disentangle ourselves from the bad moves and terrible decisions that landed us in this mess. How on earth did I get here?
Either way looking back on our lives takes us away from the very’ place where God is, and where we need to be, and that is the present moment. This looking back in order to go back or escape is sure fire method for messing up your future. It’s like driving down the highway, and looking in the rear view mirror.
But in the of Hos Son, Jesus Christ, God comes to us, and takes our face in His hands, and turns us toward Himself and says, “Look at me!”
It’s why St. Paul wrote, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3.13, 14)
Here we see how the kingdom of God not only changes our relationship to life, to death, and to people around us It changes our relationship to time, because this moment in which we hear the call of God heavenward in Jesus Christ is always now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, right here, and right now.
This is really good news, because for all the wasted and missed opportunities of your life up, God is with you, and in this moment presents us with the opportunity to turn our lives around, which is to repent and be forgiven, so that, as we say in the confession, “we may ever hereafter serve and please Him in newness of life.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.