Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke 9:51-62

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 9:53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 9:54 When 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?" 9:55 But he turned and rebuked them. 9:56 Then they went on to another village. 9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 9:58 And 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." 9:59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 9:60 But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 9:61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 9:62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


Jesus set his course for us

In the beginning part of this Gospel lesson we are listening in as Jesus and his disciples are traveling toward Jerusalem. It must have been exciting for Jesus' disciples as they were going along with Jesus. They must have gained a sense of his POWER as they walked and talked with the Lord about all that had happened as they traveled and ministered with him over the past several months. Think of all the people they had ministered to! All the people who got healed! Delivered from demons! Fed! Or who heard and recieved the Good News of God's Salvation.

And AFTER being right there -- beside the Lord through it all, James and John began to feel confident that they too could move mountains, wrestle with demons and speak into existence things that were not. The Disciples had become confident in themselves . . . . maybe a little overconfident!!

Can you remember way back to your High School days, (For some of us that's been a long time ago!! For others, it may be a recent or very recent/current memory!) Do you remember what it felt like to walk down the hallways when you were a freshman? Do you remember all those self-conscientious and anxious thoughts that can arise in the heart of a teenager? "Oh no, people are looking at me. Is my hair a mess? Is my shirt tucked in?" There are so many worries when you're a teenager. For me, I think that the self conscious thoughts began around age 14 . . . . Walking down the hallways of the brand new (to me!) Highschool environment was as intimidating as any life expereince I can remember.

The first day of classes at High School . . . It can be both exciting, and nerve racking!

The First challenge is: You have to learn how to walk. Got to be cool, not too whimpy, but don't make it look like you care too much either . . . . I was shy anyway, so eye contact was not an attribute I could perform. So while avoiding eye contact with certain people, I tried to make my body language say that I was interested in speaking to certain people (mainly members of the opposite sex) but one also had to be careful not to stare at anyone, lest you be stared back at!!

Eventually, I had some close friends -- and with a couple of trusted companions at my side I was soon able to walk down the Halls without thinking too much about each step. Eventually, when you get more confident -- you get bold, and you want to draw some attention to yourself! Back in the 70's we used to wear Chucks "All Star" -- Converse High Top Sneakers. And if your were really feelin "hip". You went to the corner drug store and got a pair of those flourescent green shoe strings for the sneakers.

And if you had gotten this confident, you were no longer second guessing yourself. Eventually, I didn't care any more what people's reaction might be to my wild hairdew, or fringed bluejean shorts or whatever. With my friends at my side, I got "The Walk" down. Somtimes I wore a silk shirt and nice slacks, and had a pair of those healed shoes. What I really had at this point was some self-confidence!!

I think that the Apostles now returned from their missionary journeys that Jesus had sent them on, had developed in "Their social skills" to such an degree that they were no longer "second guessing" themselves as to who they were or what Jesus was asking them to do. They were "CONFIDENT" and COOL . . . . so much so, that when the Samaritan People did not provide a ready welcome for Jesus and the "Boys" The disciples were perfectly comfortable ( They were totally at-ease) in suggesting, "Hey Jesus, Do you want us to call down fire from heaven on these no good people??" Won't be a problem Lord . . .. . "We can do it Lord, just say the Word."

Like cocky young teenagers, who've mastered the art of a High School personality. *(STRUTTING) "OH YEA! Here we go I'm BaD!! Say What?! -- Look at me! Right ON! Wanna Fight??" . . . .
Well like I said, maybe they (we) were just a little over-confident!

However, in spite of the cockness that can develop when we get over-confident, it's funny how easily our can Bubble Burst! . . . . Like, take for instance, me -- trying to get a date for the high school dance. Funny how one single rejection from a potential date can send you reeling . .. . down--down--down!! Hello, would you like to go the dance Friday night??" Potential Date answers, "No thanks, that's alright." Or, "I'm busy . . . maybe some other time." Or worse yet, ---------- complete silence!

From their slightly overconfident righteousness, we hear Jesus rebuke his disciples for suggesting the Fire and Brimstone thing for the Samaritans. It seems that, Jesus is not prepared to give up on the Samaritan People. In fact, as we know from other passages of the Gospel, Jesus goes out of his way to tell the Samaritan People about himself and the coming reign of God. Recall the Words of the Samaritan Woman at the well, "Come and meet a man who told me everything I had ever done before, can this be the Messiah?"

Maybe it was because Jesus saw through what the Disciples were thinking, They did not have the people's welfare in mind, But were solely focused on their own New Found identity as Miracle Workers -- Part of a Select FEW given the task of Proclaiming God's
IN--BREAKING REIGN. It was true they had been granted some privileged power, but it was not given for the sake of DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!

Rather, the Disciples were told to proclaim the Good News. EVEN as we hear Jesus challenging his "Would Be Followers, i.e., all of us who say we want to follow Jesus: Are we truly willing to associate ourselves with Jesus when "he has no place to lay his head?" Are we dedicated enough to go where he leads and leave at a moments notice -- without regard to family expectations? An inheritance?

When Jesus says to the one person about "Letting the Dead bury their own dead", perhaps he means that this person would prefer to wait until his father has died, take care of the funeral, then settle his father's the estate . . . . After handling these family obligations -- he would have "a more secure financial position" with which to follow Jesus. Very logical thinking isn't it??

Jesus says "NO!" Jesus asks for faith and trust to come in our lives ahead of monetary security . . . "Go and Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you!" Remember how Jesus told the disciples to "take no bread for the journey, no bag for the road?" AS we go in obedience, we are to place ourselves in a position of being "Fully reliant on God", trusting in Christ to supply what is needed (what we desire for our lives). We need to place our confidence in him!

In our own lives as Christ's followers, we are also given special privileges and responsibilities, just as James and John had in those early days. You or I might be feeling confident enough in our faith to call down condemnation on others around us whom we see "not living up to the high standard of God." But we must also take time to slow down in our Self-Righteous thinking, we need to examine our own motivations:

If these who are guilty of transgressions are judged, what good is the Gospel of peace that we are called to proclaim??

Is it right for us to pray "God's punishment" on someone who has rejected us . . . . or broken the law? Ought we not pray that "God would soften that person's heart and enable them to turn from their wicked ways? If we pray mercifully for those who seemingly reject Christ (or us) . . . then it seems more possible that, by the Holy Spirit, they will become open to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. And wouldn't this kind of prayer bring the glory to God? Sure it takes a lot of faith . . . . probably a lot more than calling down God's wrath!!!

After all, Jesus came to bring us LIFE and that life rich and abundant!! An abundant life is one that becomes filled with the love of God. YOU And I TRULY know this abundance at work in our lives since we are called by the name of Jesus and are fed by his heavenly food.

So let us not be overconfident in our zealousness for punishment of the wicked, but let us leave room for the SPIRIT to work on the hearts of unbelievers or those who are antagonistic to the Gospel of God.

PRAY for those who persecute you, PRAY and ask the Father to soften their hearts and to give them saving faith, even as we have known and lived by.

AMEN

Read more writings of Pastor Jon