The Rector’s sermon for June 30, 2019      


2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62


Today’s message in a nutshell is about following Jesus, taking risks, and changing for the better.  Actually, it’s a perfect message for this community of faith approaching a transition.  Following the path that Jesus lays out for us isn’t always easy and sometimes it involves leaving what you know behind and taking a risk.  Taking risks sometimes means letting go of control.  But when the risk involves trusting Jesus, the reward is great!


There is a book written by a man named Jedidiah Jenkins entitled To Shake the Sleeping Self.   It’s an honest memoir of his life, his struggles with his faith and with Christianity.  Following his college years, he had heard time and again how people regretted how fast their life was going by, and he felt it was a strange way to live.  It wasn’t long before he noticed that he, too, was living that way.  Even after college and law school, he hated his job and he wasn’t fulfilled.  And on the eve of turning 30, he felt a call to commit to a powerful personal quest.  He quit his job and spent the next 16 months cycling from Oregon to Patagonia.  And he wasn’t even an avid biker!  In fact, he hadn’t ridden a bike in years.  People thought he was crazy. 


In an interview about his book, he was asked what his hopes were for those who read it.  Jenkins responded, “I hope people who feel stuck feel empowered to take a risk and organize their life in such a way where they could shake it up and do something exciting and different.”  He took that risk when he left the life he knew to follow something deep inside of him that said, “Go.” What he found would change him forever.


Jesus also knew that people who took risks would encounter life in a new way. Today’s gospel passage is the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and to the cross and is part of a section that details discipleship…a form of taking risks.   Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he travels through Samaria.  The Samaritans don’t welcome Him.  Jesus keeps going.  His disciples want to eliminate the rude Samaritans because they didn’t welcome Jesus.  Jesus says, “No.”  Then he says, “Even the smallest, insignificant animal has a home, but I don’t, at least not here on earth.  Following me isn’t easy.  You’ll have to leave behind things that you feel are important.  You’ll have to do things that might put you at odds with your friends and family.  If you do not do as I require, you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.”  What’s left unsaid is,  Following Jesus, no matter the cost, will lead you to eternal life.


The Samaritans were smart people. They were some of the few who recognized that Jesus was on a mission, but they decided from the beginning that they wanted nothing to do with it. We don’t know exactly why.  Perhaps they thought if Jesus had a one-track mind toward Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have time for them, and truthfully, f you don’t let someone in, you can’t be hurt.  It makes us wonder what would’ve happened if they had taken the risk to allow him in, and how it would’ve changed their lives.  This is exactly what Jesus talks about in the second part of this gospel lesson: how taking a risk to follow him and letting him into one’s life is what it takes to be a follower of Jesus.


It is in a new village that Jesus encounters people who are interested in following him, but they don’t seem to understand what it will take to do so.  One man says that he has to go bury his father first.  Another man wants to say goodbye to his family.  And Jesus is none to pleased with those responses.  He answers very harshly, “Let the dead bury their own dead.”  That’s quite an intense statement, but Jesus is saying that to follow him, a person has to be willing to let go of the past.  There has to come a time when a person who desires to follow Jesus has to leave what is comfortable. It’s time to move out of the “known” waters and experience “uncharted” waters.  It’s time to step outside of your comfort zone. It’s time to move from the known into the unknown. It’s time to really take a risk to discover more meaning in life.


Jesus knows what the end of his journey to Jerusalem looks like. He knows that once his life and ministry have come to an end, his followers and his closest disciples will experience life in a new and different way. If they take the risk, they will reap the benefits.  But following Jesus isn’t easy.  It comes at a cost.  It takes risk and boldness to follow him and He wants people to see that and to understand it.  So, he encourages them because he knows that their lives will be radically different, moving them in new and perhaps even difficult directions.  He even uses imagery of plowing to remind the people of the importance of looking forward toward a new future.


When plowing, he says, if you look back, your path will swerve. The furrows won’t be straight, so you must always look forward. If you leave behind what you have and look forward toward Jesus, you will see that his life means something in your own life’s journey.  Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem has deep meaning, and if people risk following him, they will be part of something big and great.  But if they allow life to get in the way, they don’t have what it takes to be a disciple, Jesus says.


Being a disciple changes things.  It isn’t easy, but the reward is great.  When Jedidiah Jenkins left the life he knew in order to pursue a journey about faith and finding himself, it was a risk—a huge risk.  He knew that. He knew selling all his possessions and journeying for 16 months on a bicycle wouldn’t be easy, but at the end he would learn that it was worth it.  He was part of something that changed him in a way he wouldn’t completely understand. He would meet Jesus and God in new ways that had a lasting impact on his life.


Being a disciple and a follower of Jesus is the same. It’s not easy to be a Christian in today’s culture. It’s risky to be a disciple, but we know that it changes us. Being a disciple gives us a new identity. No longer are we just people, muddling along, day after day, but we are beloved children of God, created in His image and loved unconditionally by the One who saves us and sets us free.  We live knowing that there is hope for the future, and we live in hope for the present world as well.  Being a disciple means being able to answer the question “How is my life different because I follow Jesus?”  Could the answer to that be that we have learned to let go?


Think about the Samaritans:  Their desire to be in control led to shutting Jesus out.  They expected to meet Jesus in one way, and it caused them to miss out on an opportunity to welcome the Savior of the world!  The question for us is:  Does our control ever get in the way of us letting Jesus into our lives?  Maybe the control in our lives is a distraction from Jesus. We spend a lot of time and energy being in control, but we know that the world is a chaotic and unsettling place. When we try to control our lives, our hearts get trapped.


Jedidiah Jenkins spent a lot of time controlling his life and making sure he was successful, but it left him empty. It was when he finally let go of that control and trusted in God that he experienced new life.  Very often, being a disciple is about just that:  Letting go of control, letting go of our past and taking risks.


As followers of Jesus, we throw ourselves out into the world and trust that God will met us and hold onto us in good times and in bad, and he will bring us to the other side.  Jedidiah Jenkins did that, and he met Jesus in a new way.  He questioned his faith, but he came out stronger in the end.


Today’s message is about following Jesus, taking risks, and expecting something wonderful.  In the coming months, while our life here might seem unsettling at times, remind yourself that you are followers of Jesus, disciples of the one, true God.  Following Him means taking risks, but trusting in his vision means…the reward will be great!

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |