Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Sunday, June 30 — Pentecost 6

Sermon for Sunday, June 30 — Pentecost 6

face_toward_jerusalemSermon on Luke 9:51-62

First Sunday sermon preached at Heavenly Host Lutheran Church

Note:  Preaching twice on Sunday morning is different for me.  I actually recorded both this past Sunday.  I’m posting the early service as I felt like it might have been a little fresher.  I don’t know.   As usual the audio of the sermon can be heard by clicking the link 39 Sermon for Pentecost .mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is from the Gospel for today.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (ESV) This is our text.

This is a great text to preach on as a new pastor for a congregation.  It’s the kind of text you want to hear a new pastor tackle because these are the some of the hard sayings of Jesus and most folks want to know what kind of pastor it is that the Lord of the Church led them to call to this pulpit and altar.  Will the new guy read such hard words as this: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” and backpeddle?  Or will he let them stand as the Lord’s own radical call to discipleship that they are and have been throughout the centuries?

Jesus begins His journey to the cross; He has set His face to go to Jerusalem.  Already in Luke chapter 9, Jesus has begun His journey toward Jerusalem.  We know what will happen when He gets there.  He knows already what will happen to Him there; “He has set His face toward Jerusalem”.  Jesus is not a victim of circumstance; he went to Jerusalem on purpose.  We know that at the end of Jesus’ journey, He will be rejected but the journey there is also filled with rejection all the way to the end.

Heading south from Galilee down to Jerusalem means passing through the region of the Samaritans.  They are the first to reject Jesus.  The Samaritan folks in this village did not want to host a traveling Jewish prophet and teacher.  When James and John see how Jesus is rejected, they ask whether they should call down fire from heaven to burn the place up.  I don’t think this is an idle threat on their part.  Jesus has already sent out the Twelve to preach the kingdom of God and heal.  They know the protocol.  “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Lk 9:3-5)  Not only have they been rejected, but the teacher has.  It’s time for judgment.  And yet, it is not quite the time for burning the place down.  Jesus rebuked them and they moved on.

Further on, they meet three would-be disciples along the way.  Ever moving toward Jerusalem, Jesus meets each one.  Taken together, they combine to make a stark picture of Jesus’ radical call to discipleship.  This is the way of the cross, the way of rejection.  This is not the wide, easy way.  The goal of the journey is the cross where Jesus will be lifted up, to death and burial with Jesus and to Easter Sunday morning and the resurrection.  The goal is finally affirmation and eternal life but the path is the one of rejection and death.  To travel on this path we must not hesitate to break all ties that bind, even those of family obligation.  The family that matters is the family of God.  “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  These are hard sayings because the way of discipleship is hard.

Luke does not record the responses of any of these three would-be disciples.  The question of whether they followed Jesus is not nearly as important as whether you will hear the call of Jesus and follow him or whether you will persevere by faith in Jesus along the journey you have started.

Even without the Supreme Court decision this week, we should be already well aware that we are living in rapidly changing times.  The influence of the Christian Church in society is waning; even the basic building blocks of society are being redefined.  Rather than heading into uncharted waters, we’ve seen all this before.  Those Church leaders with the perspective of history are saying that we are returning to kind of society that was present for Early Christian Church.  If that’s the case, we’ve seen all this before.  We’ve already lived in a time when the influence of the Church was little to nonexistent.  Our ancient fathers and mothers in the faith persevered in the face of stark opposition to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the order of creation God had set forth in the Scriptures.  The difference is, they had yet to be influenced by the watering down of the faith that is evident in so many quarters of the Church, even in our own.

Jesus responses to these three would be disciples.  Why are we so quick to try and soften their blow?  Our ancient fathers preached like Jesus does here.  Cyril of Alexandria said that the first would-be disciple who claims to be willing to follow Jesus anywhere is presumptuous, attempting to grab for himself apostolic honor without realizing that to follow Jesus means to take up his cross.  Basil the Great noted that disciples of Jesus must learn that God’s way takes precedence over our way and that human obligations cannot stand in the way of Christian discipleship.  Father Cyprian is puzzled that anyone who had escaped the world filled with the devil would want to return to it.  Why is it, that in the Early Church, these sayings, while hard, contained the essence of the faith, and in our day, they are seen as “extremist.” Or if they are useful at all, they are hyperbolic rhetoric from Jesus which we must attempt to soften or explain away altogether?

Fellow pilgrims and disciples, Jesus words are clear.  “Follow me.”  We know the path.  It is not easy.  We will fail along the way.  We will endure the Lord’s rebuke because of our failure to follow Him in the way that we should go.  But we know the end of the journey.  It is the cross of our Lord for us.  It is there that our failure was judged and condemned in Him who bore it in His own flesh for us.  And it is at the cross of Jesus were we find the forgiveness of sins and the essence of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  We know there is no other way that leads to life except to follow Jesus and follow Him to the cross.  We follow Him who goes before us and leads us through suffering and death to resurrection and life everlasting.

That is the kind of pastor the Lord has called to the office of His Holy Ministry in this place.  One who plainly states the radical call to follow Jesus.  One who has failed so often in that call.  One who has found His sin judged in the body of Christ on the cross and forgiveness of his sins and life and salvation in the cross of Jesus Christ.  One who joins you in saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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