the one where we realize it's not all that easy...
June 27, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from June 26, 2016

Text: Luke 9: 51-62

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

I remember a while ago I was in a discussion with a few people and I or someone asked the question, “So – what’s it really like to follow Jesus?” There were quite a few answers from the group of 5 or 6 that were gathered around that table, but one really stuck with me – and not for the best reasons. It was an older person who chimed in with, “Well, I don’t think it’s all that hard. Just be good, come to church. I think it’s rather easy…”

And since then I’ve always wondered why living this life of faith is considered by some to be ‘rather easy.’ And it strikes me because I’m not too sure this life of faith is very easy, in fact it can be downright difficult and something at times I naturally don’t want to do – because this life of faith at times is counter to what we think and expect. Nowhere in our scriptures does it state that the ones who live the life of faith will have an easy, carefree life. A life filled with treasures, wealth, and good fortune.

No, our scriptures don’t say that at all and I always question those who proclaim that living in faith or ‘true deep faith’ will grant each of us that.

I question that line of thought and thinking because of things that our Lord says – especially in our gospel reading this morning.

This morning we take a shift in Luke’s gospel, his ministry in Galilee is ending and he’s heading out. Jesus’ face is set on Jerusalem, but the path he takes will be windy and long. Along the way he will teach further and deeper into the life of faith that he proclaims, he will meet many who will come to the faith, who will seek to be healed, who are curious about who this Jesus fellow really is.

This morning, we see the beginning of this journey and those who Jesus will meet and the faith that he proclaims.

Everything that Jesus says this morning isn’t the easiest of things to do. In fact, what Jesus tells us this morning is counter to what the world proclaims and what we would expect. In this short snippet of Jesus’ ministry, we begin to see how radical this life of faith is that Jesus is proclaiming.

And we begin with the guys who usually take the longest to ‘get’ Jesus – his closest friends and disciples. Jesus and his band come to a Samaritan town and he is turned away. The disciples’ immediate response is to call down fire and death upon those ‘dirty and shifty’ Samaritans (remember the people of Israel and Samaritans did not get along at all). For the disciples, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to further distance the Samaritans from the life that they are living and proclaiming with Jesus.

That’s how we normally react when someone hurts us or offends us right? If we feel we’ve been wronged in some way, our first thought is to get even in some fashion, to hit them where it hurts too, so that they can understand what I or we are going through. If we are honest with ourselves and others – that is indeed our first thought – no matter how brief – it is still our first thought.

Yet, Jesus rebukes the disciples. We don’t know what he says as he nips their thoughts in the bud, but we do know that in just a few more chapters he’ll tell a parable where a Samaritan is the stalwart of the life of faith.

As Jesus continues to journey on, three individuals come to him wanting to go with him, to journey with him, to live the life that he is proclaiming. Each one essentially says, “Yes Jesus! But, first…”

Now, as we view these words we are immediately put off by the responses that Jesus gives. Let the dead bury their own, whoever looks back isn’t fit, the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head like the animals do.

Each of those responses makes us pause and think – what is Jesus actually saying.

We pause and question because what Jesus says in response to those who follow him are counter to what we would consider to be good and thoughtful things to do.

To the first, Jesus is saying that if you follow me – you won’t have a home. Even the animals and the birds will have better accommodations than I will or you will. The mere fact that we side with Jesus means we are against much of what the world proclaims. The life of faith that is lived in service to others, the life of faith that stands up against the powerful voices and forces of the world, the life of faith that puts us at odds with many things and people and ideas. Jesus is telling this follower that life isn’t going to be easy. Be prepared.

The second individual asks to bury his father and Jesus’ response borders on uncaring and rude. How could the one who calls for the care of those in need not ‘allow’ someone to mourn? Yet, this week I heard an interesting interpretation to this. Typically, during this time when someone dies they are buried within 24 hours. The mourning process and the rituals surrounding death didn’t really allow people to just ‘go off’ at will. So, there are some who think that this man is essentially saying, “Jesus – I want to follow you, but first I’m going to wait until my father dies and I have to bury him.” Yes, he could die in 10+ years, but he could die tomorrow – so let me bury my father first.

In that light, what Jesus says still seems cold, but not nearly as frigid as before. Following Jesus and the life he proclaims isn’t about when ‘you’re ready’ to do it – it isn’t done on our terms. It is Jesus who calls us into this life and when you are called – you’re called. The life that Jesus calls each of us into is not one that is lived on our terms.

Finally, the third individual wants to bid his farewells – seems pretty reasonable. Wouldn’t want your family to worry that you dropped off the face of the earth and disappeared. Yet, Jesus’ response again seems cold and harsh. But, even in his response we can see some truth. For those who have ever farmed – especially in the way that the farmers of this time would – those who didn’t have the luxury of plotting a course in a machine and sitting in an air conditioned cab, but relied on an animal to move them – you couldn’t look back. You had to stay on task, looking forward to make sure that the animal in front of you pulling the plow stayed straight and true. If you looked back constantly, your field wouldn’t be able to yield the fruit of the harvest to its fullest.

In every response that Jesus gives, he gives us a small parable to interpret. And I don’t believe parables are to be taken literally, they are intentionally stated to put us on edge, to make us uncomfortable, so that we can truly see where Jesus is coming from. Where in those frayed moments we are able to see and hear what Jesus calls for us.

That the life of the world is full of those ‘easy’ things that we love so much – like the works of the flesh that Paul talks about in our second reading. His list begins with those pretty huge things that I hope are infrequent, but then moves on to those things that are far more frequent jealousy, quarrels, anger, carousing. All of those things that we are inclined to do. They are the easy things in our life that we fall into.

Yet, the life of faith that we are called to helps us live into the fruits of the Spirit – those things that don’t necessarily come natural to us, that God calls us to live into.

And as we read the beginning of that list, we see that it doesn’t start out too difficult – love and joy. Those don’t seem to be that difficult, but the list continues: peace, patience – well, that one might be a little difficult especially when that person is at the ATM depositing their whole life’s worth – and now they dropped their card…, generosity – but, it’s mine..., faithfulness – but, I’ve got this going on today – I’ll get to it tomorrow…, gentleness – I did it, why can’t they?, self- control – I’ll only do it one more time, I’ll only have one more, I’ll only make one more remark…

When we look at the fruit of the Spirit we can realize that those aren’t really all that easy to live into. There are so many times that we fall short, where we don’t come close, and we continue to fall back into the works of the flesh.

Yet, yet – though the life of faith isn’t the easiest of endeavors – though it is counter to the world and what is innate in us, we are still able to live into that life – enjoying the fruits of the Spirit because we have been baptized and claimed in this life. We have God present with us – the one who has come down to be with us so that we might be free to serve and live.

That Christ is here dwelling within us because of his death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus is there to guide us in this life, calling to us continually to turn from the works of flesh and live into the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus comes to us in the words and actions of those around us, those who shine the light, stand for the oppressed, who care for those in need, and who call us into that life of faith as well.

This life of faith – it isn’t easy, but thank God we don’t have to do it alone. Amen.

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