SUNDAY BETWEEN 26 JUNE AND 2 JULY   PROPER 13

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

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

Collect         Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love fulfils the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Alt 1               Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts, you call us to obey you, and you favour us with true freedom. Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, so that, leaving behind all that hinders us, we may steadfastly follow your paths, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) alt.

Alt 2              God, you set us free in Jesus Christ. Grant that we may live gracefully in this freedom without selfishness or arrogance, becoming servants through love to the freedom of the gospel for the sake of your reign. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002)

Prayer over the Gifts
God of wisdom, receive all we offer you this day. Enrich our lives with the gifts of your Spirit, that we may follow the way of our Lord Jesus Christ, and serve one another in freedom. We ask this in his name.

Prayer After Communion
God of power, we are nourished by the riches of your grace. Raise us to new life in your Son Jesus Christ and fit us for his eternal kingdom, that all the world may call him Lord. We ask this in his name.

First Reading

A READING FROM THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

So the two of them went on.

Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”

Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”

As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”

But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”

When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.                 THANKS BE TO GOD. (2 KINGS 2:1-2, 6-14)

Psalm
Refrain I will remember the works of the Lord.

I will cry aloud to God; I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire; I refused to be comforted. R

I will remember the works of the Lord, and call to mind your wonders of old time.

I will meditate on all your acts and ponder your mighty deeds. R

Your way, O God, is holy; who is so great a god as our God?

You are the God who works wonders and have declared your power among the peoples. R

By your strength you have redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.

The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and trembled; the very depths were shaken. R

The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed to and fro;

The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. R

Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, yet your footsteps were not seen.

You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. R
PSALM 77:1-2, 11-20

Second Reading
A READING FROM THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE GALATIANS

For freedom Christ has set us free.

Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.   THANKS BE TO GOD.

(GALATIANS 5:1, 13-25)

Gospel
THE LORD BE WITH YOU.                 AND ALSO WITH YOU.

THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO LUKE.

GLORY TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.

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

And he sent messengers ahead of him.

On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

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?”

But he turned and rebuked them.

Then they went on to another village.

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, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first 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.”

THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.              PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.

(LUKE 9:51-62)

Sermon.

Let us pray.

Loving God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

AMEN

The mission trip through Galilee is now finished, and Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem. He has completed his preaching and teaching tour. Seminars have been delivered, revivals attended and people have been healed.

Do you notice that Jesus is not nearly as eager to attract or to accept followers as we are?

Many of those, like the disciples in our reading from Luke today, who sincerely intended to follow Jesus went away, scratching their heads because Jesus did not enthusiastically accept them.

Jesus wanted people to follow him whole-heartedly.

He did not downplay or conceal the high cost of discipleship.

Over and over again He spoke of the high cost of discipleship, and urged people not to follow Him if they had not fully counted the cost.

It is not that Jesus wishes to discourage people from following Him.

It is only that He wants those who follow Him to understand what discipleship is about – He seems to be reinforcing the God-given freewill of those who seek to follow Him.

Following Jesus begins with trusting in Him as God’s promised Messiah/Saviour, God’s surest means of salvation.

It is by faith in Him, in His life, in His death for our sins, in His burial, resurrection, and ascension, that people can have their sins forgiven and enter into eternal life.

Following Him is the greatest privilege ever offered to us. But it is not an easy path. And, it is an offer, not anything compelled of us.

In today’s selection, it is pretty plain that the people who offer to follow Jesus as one of His disciples are not from among the 12, but rather part of some larger group of followers.

A man says he will follow Jesus wherever he may go. Jesus seems to have some insight into the mind of the disciple and warns him that to follow Jesus is to be one without a home, for even foxes have holes for homes, but not God’s own Son.

Another man tells Jesus that he will follow Him, but first he needs to bury his father. Jesus presses the man to consider the eternal value of these two activities: (1) of burying the dead; or, (2) of preaching the gospel by which humanity may enter into eternal life.

The former does nothing that others who are spiritually dead cannot do; the latter proclaims a message by which people can escape the bonds of death and receive the gift of eternal life.

Is that not what the gospel is all about? The gospel is the offer of the gift of eternal life, life that extends beyond the grave.

If one must choose between the two activities of digging a grave, or of preaching the gospel, which is more important?

Another that he wants to bid his family farewell before joining up to follow Jesus.

This requested delay seems so trivial, doesn’t it?

Our response might be, “Well, sure why not, what’s another thirty minutes? No problem.”

Jesus doesn’t seem to see it that way.

He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Why does He say this when the man only wants to go back and say good-bye to his family? Jesus sets down a principle that every farmer would understand: You can’t plow a straight row looking backward.

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you must keep the plow lined up by fixing your gaze on some object ahead, and aiming toward it. Anyone who tries to plow while looking backward is in trouble. It would be similar to attempting to drive while looking only at the rear view mirror.

It is as though Jesus knows that if this man went back to his family to say his good-byes, he would be talked out of following Him.

The principle that underlies Jesus’ teaching in our text is: Anything that competes with Christ for our loyalty must be set aside as an idol.

I must admit that I become uneasy the more I begin to grapple with what Jesus might mean by all of this.

Most likely these interested people would have heard about the wonderful things that Jesus is doing on the mission trip through Galilee. Like the group of 12 that Jesus had earlier called, they probably look forward to the time when they will sit close to Jesus in His power, “on His right and on His left.”

For His part, Jesus gives the downside of discipleship: He follows a precarious life, a life in which the Kingdom takes precedence over all.

To follow Jesus, one must go beyond sentimentalism and kitchy or campy displays of piety.

Discipleship that is based on mere “feeling good” soon dies out when the feeling is gone.

More than feelings, discipleship involves choice and commitment.

Real commitment, however, can only be the fruit of discernment. Discernment, in turn, only happens when there is genuine acknowledgement of all the immediate costs, in addition to the eternal rewards. Jesus helps the would-be disciples to discern by letting them see both the good and bad sides of following Him. (Manila Bulletin, October 4, 2006)

Indeed, the cost of discipleship is high.

One who wishes to follow Jesus must be ready and willing to give up the security of the known and the familiar, to set aside all present and future concerns that could get in the way of sharing the Gospel, and to stop looking back at the past or the what-might-have-been in order to concentrate fully on the tasks at hand. (Manila Bulletin, June 27, 2004)

It is hard to hear.

These, then, are three examples of conflicting commitments. Each one of these three men’s commitment to Christ is nullified or minimized by some other commitment. Each one professes a commitment to “follow Christ,” but only in a partial or restricted way.

Let me point out that every single excuse for not fully following Christ in our text is related to the home or to the family.

We see then that in all of these cases there is nothing really wrong with what these people propose.

There is nothing wrong with having a commitment to one’s family; there is nothing wrong with having a home; there is nothing wrong with carrying out your responsibilities to your dead father; there is nothing wrong with saying good-bye—unless these are what keep you from wholeheartedly following Christ.

Ultimately, Jesus is not talking about whether or not one ought to have a home.

He is not talking about whether or not one ought to take care of the funeral arrangements for his father.

He is not talking about whether or not one ought to go back and say good-bye to his family.

Jesus is talking about having the right priorities. Jesus is saying that those who would be His disciples – those who would follow Him – must be those who put Him first, above all things, including one’s family.

Following Christ means putting everything—absolutely everything—aside which hinders our commitment to following Him.

I am not certain that I know what it means for me at this point. But I understand one thing all too clearly: I dare not allow anything, no matter how good it might be, to come before my commitment to follow Christ. And now, I have an even better idea that it will be a tough road to follow down.

Let us pray.

Holy God, please bring to our hearts and minds those things which mean so much to us that, while we may never say so with our mouths, with our lives, we will choose them above serving Christ. Show us the ways in which we can serve and follow Christ first. This we ask in the name of Christ.

AMEN