This morning’s sermon was preached away from the pulpit in oral narrative fashion. The notes below shaped the structure of the sermon.
So, do you like to travel? Of course, you do … I see all the places you go on your FB pages. Jesus liked to travel, too. Today’s lesson begins ten chapters of travel for Jesus. He is traveling to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him on Golgotha. That theme of traveling may not seem obvious to us … but in Greek it is clear. The Greek word for “travel” or “journey” shows up five times in the first seven verses. None of the five words in bold print speak about traveling. But it is there.
51When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When 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?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village. 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And 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.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
But we’re not traveling to Jerusalem today. We’re on a journey of faith. Come along for the ride. It starts with our baptism, of course. We go along for the ride – our parents decide for us. Then we get to know Jesus when we are 2, 3 or 4 – our early years – a time to love Jesus. Then we become teens – confirmation – we ask questions. We get either closer to God at this time, or more distant. That spirit can last a long time – some never leave it.
We reconnect again – as adults or parents. We start the cycle all over again with our kids. One thing is different, however– we age, and our lives change. And out travel gets tougher. Because life is more complicated.
Jesus himself acknowledges that. We see in the second half of our lesson. Jesus encounters three people. One says he will follow. No place to lay his head – he is told he will never quite feel like he is at home. Another asked to follow Jesus. He is reminded that God’s priorities may not be our priorities. One final person is asked to follow. He is called to leave his past behind and embrace what is ahead of him.
These are not ironclad laws we are called to observe. They are responses to specific encounters with individuals. It is Jesus’ way of reminding us our world becomes different. That we are sometimes called to unexpected priorities. That the world looks different through God’s eyes.
I’ve blabbed enough … so I’ll close with the words of Nicholas Butler. He was featured in the “I’m a Lutheran” page that is part of each month’s Lutheran magazine. Butler is a novelist and short story writer whose first novel Shotgun Lovesongs became a best seller. Here are some of his words about how the world looks different in our journeys of faith, and how God speaks to each of us in our particular lives.
Butler writes … I believe in being good to other people, in making art, in trying to be patient, in seeing beauty in the world, in leaving the planet better than I found it …. To me, church is a place where I wrestle with big ideas, my own beliefs and doubts, and where I share positive time with my family …. To me, grace means a new beginning, a new perspective, an unexpected enlightenment …. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. For me, this life is a journey, and my faith is a component of that journey.
What does your faith journey look like, I wonder? Amen.