The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for the last Sunday in June, 2016

This morning, we return to another reading from Luke’s gospel that speaks not only to the costs of discipleship from the perspective of three different individuals, but also to some confusion about what was happening and what Jesus was expecting in the way of commitment.

We begin with a story about the two brothers, John and James, sometimes known as brothers of thunder or seekers of retributive justice, who bring a strange request to what they perceive as a lack of hospitality from the Samaritans. 

“Shall we bring down fire from heaven?” they ask. 

Imagine their surprise at being rebuked by Jesus for what seemed to them an appropriate and timely response to being inhospitably treated.

Following on from there, we have Jesus’ challenging response to those who might imagine following him on an ‘as can be fit into one’s busy schedule’ approach. 

Here in this passage, we learn that following in Jesus’ footsteps requires a much more definitive ‘yes’ and ultimately, a complete re-jigging of beloved priorities.

Just in case, we, too, might imagine ourselves able to negotiate terms of response to Jesus’ call, listen carefully to how skillfully Jesus reminds his would be followers into an almost unfathomable paradigm shift of self understanding or responsible care-taking. 

Here, Jesus reminds his listeners that where he is going will carry all and any who choose to follow far beyond their previous notions of what is right and appropriate.

Listen with care to what it causes you to feel uncomfortable as Jesus responds to the niggling doubts and excuses as offered by three faithful ones who discover they are not quite ready to say ‘yes’ to following in the way.

The first, it would seem is need of taking care of some family duties having to do with death; the second having to do with saying a proper goodbye; and the third from the perspective of completing certain tasks so as to be unencumbered in the saying of ‘yes’ to God’s call through Jesus. 

Were the three inclined to procrastination and or to a lack of commitment to following in the Way of Jesus?   

Or were they, like us, good and faithful ones, in need of tying up the loose threads of their lives, promising themselves and each other, that one day soon, they, too, would be ready to fully engage in God’s call?

In all three cases, Jesus reminds them that he is inviting them into an entirely new way of living together with such urgency that family ties, where household responsibilities, even the potential to reminiscence  about what went before might be viewed as frivolous or counterproductive or paling in comparison to being invited into leadership for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom.

Reading from the gospel according to Luke 9: 51-62  (taken from the New Revised Standard version, pp. 1979, the Harper Collins Study Bible, Harper Collins Inc. 1989)  

A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to Jerusalem.

And he sent messengers ahead of him.  On their way they entered a village of Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set to Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw it, they said:  “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

But he turned and rebuked them. 

Then he went on to another village.

Would-Be Followers of Jesus

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go”

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.”

But he said, “Lord, first let me go and 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 to him, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me 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”.

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. Thanks be to God!