A Profound Journey With Christ: Pentecost 3

A Profound Journey With Christ: Pentecost 3

Third sunday After Pentecost: June 30, 2019

Year C, 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21;  Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62       

There is no recording available for this sermon. Please read the text below.

In this morning’s reading from Luke’s gospel, we’re confronted with a Jesus unlike the Jesus most of us know (or want to know). The Jesus we know is the most compassionate and caring individual in history – the one in Luke’s gospel might be called “cranky Jesus”. He appears at first glance to be overbearing and insensitive.

Someone says he wants to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus replies basically “are you ready to rough it? We not staying in the best inns, you know.”[1] Then he tells another that it isn’t ok to take time to tend to his father’s funeral. That’s the part of Jesus that is difficult to understand – this isn’t a Jesus we know or understand. We all know that customs and rituals are so much a part of our lives in the church, so it’s often difficult to fathom the meaning of Jesus’ words. I have to say – if anyone told me that I, quite literally, couldn’t go to the funeral of someone very important to me, I’d have a choice word or two in response.

But there’s a deeper meaning to Jesus’ words, a deeper point in Luke’s gospel.

We focus so much on what we see as the insensitivity of Jesus that we often otherwise overlook the whole point.

You might have heard that I read an additional verse of the gospel. When I was transferring the reading, I failed somehow to copy and paste verse 51 of Luke’s gospel, which is the first verse. In the Version from the Message it reads, “When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”[2] In the New Revised Standard Version the first verse reads “when the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to Jerusalem.”[3]

A seemingly simple sentence, but it contains so much.

Jesus knows where he’s headed. This is not long after the Transfiguration when the disciples saw Jesus shining in glory on top of the mountain with Moses and Elijah and heard the voice saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.”[4] So, here we have Jesus, and the Message does a really good job of getting this point across – we have Jesus gathering up his courage and steeling himself for what is to come.

Jesus is telling the disciples and those who want to follow him, this discipleship isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it’s very costly if you follow me. Jesus is telling his disciples that the cost is very high.

In today’s world, some refer to this as radical discipleship. That’s what Jesus would be referencing when he talks about “the dead bury their own dead”; you, go proclaim, go announce God’s kingdom.

The radical discipleship that Jesus call us to is meant to lead us to help transform our world, to make it a better place, to make it the place that Jesus wants it to be.

And there’s a cost to that kind of discipleship. That’s the cost that Jesus is describing in this gospel. The great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book entitled, The Cost of Discipleship. It really speaks to what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel from Luke. We could do an entire series on Bonhoeffer and perhaps we will, but it’s fair to summarize Bonhoeffer’s work in the following way.

First, Bonhoeffer’s work appeals to Protestants because Christ is always at the center.

His commitment to social justice appeals to liberal Protestants, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, and Mennonites.

Also, Bonhoeffer believes that Christians should not retreat from the world but act within it.

And, finally, Christians must be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

The problem for Bonhoeffer in living out his Christian values, the problem for us is that in becoming truly Christian, we are often presented with new problems because it is not easy to follow Christ. It is not cozy. It is not comfortable. And it is certainly, quite often, counter-cultural. Look where Christ’s journey led him – to a cross.

It is hardly likely that the cost of our discipleship will be as high as Christ’s or Bonhoeffer’s, who died in a Nazi concentration camp not only because he refused to compromise his Christian convictions, but because he actively sought to live them out. Bonhoeffer didn’t take the cozy way out afforded him; he was an academic and he had a faculty appointment at Union Seminary in New York City at the beginning of World War II. He returned to Germany to be part of the resistance, and he died for it. Most of his family did as well.

The powers of the world, certainly the powers of Germany, did not want to hear Dietrich Bonhoeffer, regarding the well-being of Jewish people. It was their wealth, comfort and power that mattered.

How easy is it to see that in our own world. The well-being of children is ALWAYS our priority. Following Jesus is real and the cost is real. “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock, again and again.”[5]

Costly grace in 2019 means that we have to speak to the powers of the world as Christians, as receivers of that grace that Jesus has given. Costly grace means saying “no, we don’t accept babies being separated from parents, we don’t accept as meet or right, to use our Rite I language, not giving children beds, diapers, clothing, soap.” No rationalization ever makes this acceptable in the sight of Jesus Christ.

Following Jesus is real. We are called to follow Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, the way to our freedom, the freedom described by Saint Paul in Galatians. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.”

In freedom, in love, Jesus reached out to us, invited us to follow him, so that we can be free, so that we can live generously, so that we can live as God wants: living for one another, with one another. Living in Christ, with Christ, and through Christ.

Jesus invites the disciples, invite us, to see things differently. He wants the disciples to respond differently to the Samaritans than would be the norm. He is calling on the disciples to make a difference. And he calls on us to see things differently and to make a difference.

How we see things makes a difference. George Bernard Shaw (not Robert Kennedy, I might add) said: “SoCalle men see things as they are and say why: I dream things that never were and say why not?”

Jesus is the person who said, “why not!” That’s the Jesus we find in today’s gospel. The status quo isn’t acceptable to Jesus. This is the Jesus we know, not the cranky Jesus. This Jesus is a man of courage; a man of belief; a man of integrity. This Jesus was the catalyst for a movement with a new vision for life and society.

Jesus was a healer; Jesus’ healings who us God’s compelling compassion for people and show us the priority of people over laws. Jesus advocated the policies of compassion, of love for all.

If we are to live a life based on the way laid out for us by Jesus, it is a life that will be a life filled with courage.

None of us can ever have the same impact as Jesus, if you and I do what we can in a small way, if we change the life of one person, we have changed their lives and those acts will be our contribution to the world that Jesus envisioned.

Do we walk in the way of Christ?  Or do we walk another way?  At some point, it all has to go back to Jesus. Why are we here? What are we called to do?  A life of comfort or the willingness to put our hand to the plow and not turn back. Are we really ready and willing to follow?

It’s about walking the way of Christ – walking the way of Samaria into unknown, and perhaps even unfriendly, territory. It’s about the work we at have committed to in our outreach, in our food pantry, in our community meals. Doing all these things is a wonderful start. God and Jesus always call us to do more – to reach our of our comfort zone – to walk the way of Christ.

We are called to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the place we can, and in all the ways we can.[6] Even when it challenges us to our core. That’s when we become the church and the people that Christ called us to be. That’s when we follow the profound journey that Jesus has set for his disciples.

[1] Luke 9:58, The Message, ed. Eugene Peterson

[2] Luke 9:51, The Message

[3] Luke 9:51, New Revised Standard Version

[4] Luke 9:35, New Revised Standard Version

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”

[6] “John Wesley’s Rule of Life”

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