Devotional Message: The Third Sunday after Pentecost; Year C (6/30/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

1st Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
St. Luke 9:51-62

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

2nd Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Prayer of the Day

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts, you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom. Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that, leaving behind all that hinders us, we may steadfastly follow your paths, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 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.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 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 a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

St. Luke 9:51-62, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Follow Me”

“Follow me.” These are words that Jesus speaks numerous times, according to the New Testament. I wonder how I might have responded. I can imagine saying (at best!), “Can I get back to you in a week? If I could make sure my wife isn’t scheduled to travel out of town, make sure the boys are set with what they need, pay a few bills, finish a couple more items on my to-do list… then I’ll follow you wherever you want me to go” I can also imagine Jesus saying to me: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus has challenging words for his prospective followers. To the one who offers to follow him anywhere he goes: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To the one who wants to attend a parent's funeral before following Jesus: “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” To the one who wants to become a follower, but simply wants to say goodbye to family and friends: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

These are words that knock us back a step or two as well. How do we appropriate them to our lives? How do we interpret them and share them with friends and neighbors, most of whom are just as busy and committed as we are?

It is helpful to remember how this lesson begins: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus, cognizant of his fate, begins moving towards Jerusalem and the cross. This is the turning point of the Gospel. Everything he does from this point on will contain in it shadows of the cross. Jesus is aware of how important this mission is. He wants his followers to be aware, too.

It will be dangerous, and demanding, and unless they are absolutely committed, they will never make it. So he teaches them. You think having a home is important — following me is even more important. You think taking time to bury your father is important — following me is even more important. You think letting your family know where you are is important — following me is even more important. Jesus is trying to teach his listeners that there is nothing more important than the mission he is about to address. For those who believe in him, there is nothing more important than being faithful in following him in this mission: not homes; not parents; not friends, not even family.

Today we are cautioned by the words of this Gospel lesson. We are cautioned to take stock of all that God has chosen to share with us as blessings, and make sure that they remain just that: blessings from God, intended to strengthen and encourage us; not distractions from the ministry God calls us to accomplish. God has chosen to work through human beings in order to touch the world. There is much that you and I can do, to see that others hear the good news about Jesus. We are called to constant examination and re-evaluation in our lives, making sure that nothing is able to prevent us from following with our whole hearts. May God help us to be faithful followers; faithful witnesses!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What does it mean that Jesus’ face is set to go to Jerusalem?

  2. How does this change his relationship with his listeners and followers?

  3. What is his response to those who want to take care of business first?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What does Jesus call me to leave behind, in order to follow faithfully?

  2. What am I most reluctant to be without?

  3. How might removing this from my life strengthen my discipleship?