3rd Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who sets us free
to love and serve our neighbor. Amen
Welcome to the time after Pentecost,
the long green season
that will take us all the way to the end of November and Christ the King Sunday.
Sometimes this season is called Ordinary Time
and that fits in with our lessons
that seem to address the question:
how do we live as disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus in our ordinary lives?
what our lessons tell us
is that Jesus’ understanding of ordinary
is very different from the world’s understanding of ordinary
and that can be uncomfortable for us.
The Jesus of our gospel today
is an uncomfortable Jesus
because he’s not accepting any excuses,
there are times Jesus says,
that are so important
that everything else must take a back seat,
even very important things.
Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem,
he is going to his death,
which he will die on behalf of all humanity
Jesus knows that there is nothing more important than this
and he calls for followers to accompany him
but what Jesus is about to do,
is so difficult, so painful, so inconvenient
that some he encounters simply don’t receive him,
they can’t handle Jesus headed toward Jerusalem
so they don’t even try
There are others though
that make a half-hearted attempt,
it’s the soft rejections,
they say sure I’ll join but first let me take care of this other
important thing then I’ll follow,
and Jesus is having none of it.
He says “follow me” to one person and their response is:
“let me first bury my father” But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
no “but first let me”
And this is uncomfortable,
because the reasons the people cite
for delaying their following of Jesus
seem good and reasonable,
it’s hard to argue with caring for family obligations,
and it’s hard to argue with letting loved ones know where you’re going
and yet Jesus calls them excuses
for avoiding the hard yet crucial task in front of them.
There are times, Jesus says,
when following him
is so important that there is no excuse to be made for delay,
not even those that seem good and reasonable.
And we struggle with that,
because the crucial moments of following Jesus
are the most difficult,
and we as humans are very good at coming up
with seemingly good and reasonable excuses not to act,
not to follow Jesus,
or to delay following Jesus.
And Jesus is having none of it.
We are in such a moment in our country
where Jesus is calling us to follow him and is accepting no excuses.
This is the moment where children are being separated from their families
and kept in prisons without adequate food, water and sanitation.
There is no excuse,
no but first let us,
that could make this okay,
there is no reason reasonable enough
to justify turning our heads
or making excuses for why this is the way it is right now.
And to be clear It is not a matter of lack of resources,
multiple news agencies have reported on people
bringing donations of diapers, toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children
only to be turned away by those in charge.
This is a crucial moment in following Jesus,
who brought children close to him,
who valued bodies so much that he healed all the suffering who came to him,
who though he was God became human,
body and all,
a body that got tired and hungry and thirsty,
a body that was broken on the cross in the ultimate form of suffering,
a body that experienced death just like all bodies will.
But, Jesus body and all,
rose from the dead,
he changed the rules,
now death no longer has the final say
and by changing the rules
Jesus freed us from fear.
When we are afraid we serve ourselves,
when we are released from fear
we are to serve others
this is the heart of discipleship.
Paul in our second reading
reminds the Galatians:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”
then he reminds them that
“for the whole of the law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Freedom in Christ
is freedom that is to be used to set others free,
as opposed to freedom of the world
which is license to do whatever we want,
to work for our own benefit
often at the expense of others,
often to calm our own fears
that make self-preservation the order of the day.
But again Paul reminds us, Christ has already preserved us,
“those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”
joined to Christ in baptism
we have been made citizens of heaven,
so that, in Christ
death is not the end
just a stop along the way
and this frees us to face the fears of the world.
We affirm this at the beginning of funerals with these words:
“When we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (ELW Pastoral Care, 233-234)
Christ has already done this for us.
Past tense, completed action.
The challenge of discipleship
is to become who we have are.
To live following Jesus,
this ordinary time,
we will be exploring how we practice living as disciples,
and because we sometimes practice better with tangible tasks
we will offer a discipleship practice for each week,
a simple exercise that will help us to live into who we already are.
Our discipleship practice this week
is to name an excuse you have made
to avoid following Jesus,
and then to do one small thing
to follow Jesus in spite of that excuse.
You are called to freedom brothers and sisters,
the freedom of Christ works through you to free others.
Let us live into that freedom together,
and may Christ be with us all. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.