July 1, 2001

Luke 9:51-62

When it came close to the time for [Jesus'] Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, "Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?"

Jesus turned on them: "Of course not!" And they traveled on to another village.

On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.

Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."

Jesus said to another, "Follow me."

He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."

Jesus refused. "First things, first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"

Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."

Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."

<The Message >


1. Story number one -- When folks don't do what we want them to, don't live up to our expectations of them, don't go out of their way to make things easier for us, there is deep within us that primitive brain which says, "kill, kill, kill." We find it all around us. Reduced bombing of Iraq is still bombing. A sanctioned death penalty is still murder whether the person was repentant or not. Legal discrimination, even by an individually helpful organization like the Boy Scouts, is still discrimination. The list could go on and needs to get as personal as you are.

To all of this temptation Jesus has a mantra, "Of course not!"

Try that out this next week. Try saying, "Of course not!" It will get easier.

The United Methodist baptismal ritual begins with questions which require a practiced, "Of course not!" -- "Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?" We respond positively to these questions when we have, "Of course not!" ready to use.

2. Story number two -- continues the tale of the brain raised a notch. Instead of a blatant choice between me and you, and you're out of here, we have the sophistication of excuse.

We don't like to take a look at our self and know that behind the show we put on is someone who is just not up to a radical commitment to life. We claim we are ready to roll, to sign up, to follow faithfully. Behind that is an expectation that participating in a good cause will bring good and ease and comfort. Jesus sees through our bent to easy volunteering and excuses us in advance. The life of the Christian is not expected to be easy (though it does sometimes occur that way for some). The way of Jesus is sleeping on the floor and then being raised on a cross. In some ways this post-Christian time in America is a recognition that civil religion is no longer meaningful and focusing on the presence of God is just too tough. Folks are finally catching on that without commitment they are invited out of the journey (not forever, but for now).

3. If we can work through not actually wanting to go through life without something to call our own, we may hear a call to come and join a journey to GOD. That call comes in the midst of a context of already established covenants to familial and economic responsibilities. So we begin to bargain for time to be sure about the call, time to smoothly make a transition from one covenant to another (knowing the two don't mix). Jesus puts the screws to us with his responses.

We don't hear about the results of Jesus' comments. Did they help the person think and feel within a larger context? If so, did they drop their expectation of reward and responsibility and become part of the 70 or 72 next sent out? Did they confirm the unreadiness of the person? If so, did they go sorrowing away like the rich young man? If so, did they become enemies of Jesus because they were shown up for who they were?

What does your imagination and Christian intuition say about the rest of the story?

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