Homily for 6.30.13
13th Sunday in
O Brothers and Sisters, today’s Gospel reading brings to us the true depth of challenge found in following Jesus. Here we further crack-open the meaning of last week’s pericope and find the raw pulp of an unmediated discipleship. Today’s text leaves us raw and bleeding for it reminds us that we cannot, that we must not, merely seek to fit Jesus into our lives, making sure he stays on the periphery in order to insure he doesn’t take too much from us. Here, in this reading, Jesus is seen most closely as his contemporaries saw him, accosting, arousing, claiming all for the Kingdom.
You will recall, as part of the reading from last week, St. Luke quotes Jesus saying:
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
You may also recall what I said, in part, about these verses:
These words are very likely difficult for us to truly hear. So used are we to somehow fitting Jesus into the corners and weekends of our lives, that the idea of giving up our selves -- losing our lives for his sake -- is well nigh impossible for us to grasp tightly. Sometimes we feel we have it, but then just as quickly we loose our grip and drift back into the world of selfish-ego and self-aggrandizement. Here is our struggle: We are culturally captive. We are more at home in this world, where we find ourselves at the center of the universe than in the Kingdom where Jesus is LORD.
In today’s Lectionary Gospel reading we are surely dependent upon last week’s reading for an immediate understanding of what is happening because these little incidents St. Luke brings to our attention flesh out the...
“If anyone wishes to come after me...”
from last week.
The pericope begins with this expositional statement:
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.
This builds upon what has gone before. Specifically, the Transfiguration comes in between the “take up your cross” statement and today’s four vignettes. Important here is the description Luke gives us of the conversation between Jesus and the heavenly visitors on the Mount:
30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31)
Clearly, Jesus had work to do. His mission, his “departure” as described in the text -- which could also be translated his exodus -- culminates with his work in Jerusalem. This can only mean to be understood as his suffering, death and the surprise of his resurrection. Notice how he was resolutely determined to make this journey, which Luke will then describe from this point in his Gospel to chapter nineteen.
This resolutely determined statement from Jesus, among other things, serves as a warning to his followers. It’s as if Jesus is saying:
“Now, I’ve warned you before that the Son of Man must suffer and die, and I will warn you again that this is what I face. So, listen clearly when I say that now is that time fulfilled. Now is that time close. And, if you wish to follow my way, the narrow way, you too will face the suffering and death I face.”
Having said that, perhaps we are ready for the depiction of responses to Jesus in this four vignettes. Perhaps. Here before us, finally, we see described with some sense of understanding the narrow way which St. Matthew records:
13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mt. 7:13-14)
Jesus instructs the disciples to go to an unnamed Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but the residents refuse the Master any hospitality. We are not told why, just that
they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
This could simply be because of the bad blood that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. The real story, however, is the response of the disciples to this rejection:
the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
But Jesus replies by rebuking not the village but the disciples! And, then he moves on in their journey by visiting another village. The word translated rebuked is the same word Jesus used to correct and censure the wind and waves during the storm in the boat, and it’s the same word used to rebuff the demonic presences he encountered.
Jesus wills us to exercise our own will. If we want to welcome him, so be it. If not, then the consequences will be ours to bear as well. We may choose life abundant, or life on our own. We may follow the narrow way, or “my way,” but not both. But, his disciple must not be the bringer of judgment. Of course they may announce the coming consequences (Lk.10:8-12), but they do not have the wisdom to see how to clearly pass a just retribution.
As they journey on they meet someone who wished to follow with the rest of the disciples:
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
The promise to follow Jesus wherever he goes must be made with a clear and discerning consideration. Remember, Jesus has just been rejected hospitality from one village. He has nowhere to be; he has no place. Perhaps this was still stiff in his mind when a would-be follower makes what seems to be a rash affirmation. Here I am always reminded of the old missionary hymn:
SO SEND I YOU
So send I you to labour unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
So send I you to suffer for My sake
So send I you to loneliness and longing
With hart a-hungering for the loved and known
Forsaking kin and kindred, friend and dear one
So send I you to know My love alone
So send I you to leave your life's ambition
To die to dear desire, self-will resign
To labour long, and love where men revile you
So send I you to lose you life in Mine
So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
To eyes made blind because they will not see
To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not
So send I you to taste of Calvary
"As the Father hath sent me, so send I you"
Next comes another would-be follower, but one with family obligations:
And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This, seems overtly harsh, don’t you think? Who couldn’t wait for discipleship to begin after a funeral? If that were only the point. No, what is in view here must be seen as from the perspective of priority. Who is first in our lives? Whose agenda takes priority?
Let us be careful not to allow our desire to be seen as good Christians fog the land that lies before us now. At stake is the truth that in all things Jesus the King must have preeminence. As I said when we began this homily:
Today’s text leaves us raw and bleeding for it reminds us that we cannot, that we must not, merely seek to fit Jesus into our lives in order to insure he that doesn’t take too much, making sure he stays on the periphery.
Beginning and Ending Well
Finally, the ending vignette has another hopeful disciple saying:
“I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
This case, finally, opens the door to the depth of genuine discipleship, what one author called “a long obedience in the same direction.”
St. Luke would have us understand what is truly at stake following Jesus when he quotes Jesus:
13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13)
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:25-28)
This type of discipleship may be summed up in the word the old timers used: detachment, which in spiritual terms meant:
We hold on to all good things, but not as our ultimate relationship. We love all people and we appreciate all creation, but our only attachment is to Christ.
That is, we prefer the living, risen Christ to all things and all people, which sounds harsh, but in the end this means we can truly love the creation and all people but not from self-interest and scheming to meet our own needs. Rather, by attaching ourselves to Christ first, we love from a purity of motive and an honesty of spirit that is what the true humanness found in Christ, the truly human one, really means.
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”