This past Sunday, I filled in for my pastor who took a much deserved vacation of sorts. I don’t mind public speaking, so leading the service is not a big deal, but when it came to the sermon, I just couldn’t read what I’d been given.
Make no mistake, it was not because the sermon pastor had written for me wasn’t excellent. Pastor is a journalism major and a gifted speaker. It was a great sermon, and I’m sure everyone would have been quite happy hearing it, since it said what it needed to say quickly and to the point. But I’m sure it hasn’t taken long for the perceptive reader to deduce that very little of what I say is quick and to the point.
So I improvised, but as little as I could in good conscience, knowing that I’d likely put much of what I didn’t get to say on Sunday here in this blog. But I’ve had quite some time to think about the reference passage, and so I’m sure I’ll find that I even need to trim my thoughts here up a bit.
The passage was from Luke 9, verses 51-62. This includes the section traditionally called “The Cost of Following Jesus”.
There are 3 different conversations with 3 different men recorded in this brief passage.
Man: I will follow you wherever you go.
Jesus: Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said something like this. If sincere, it’s the promise of a child, if insincere, it’s an idle promise to the naive. I doubt the man would have thought Jesus naive, so it’s safe to assume this is a sincere promise made of ignorance. I don’t think Jesus is trying to emphasize the cost of following him though.
If we talk about the cost of a new home, there are quite a few factors to weigh in my decision. How much I can afford, both for the down payment and associated fees, and then the monthly cost of my home and all of the payments associated with ownership? Where will it be located relative to my work, church, schools, etc.? How much room will I need for my family, hobbies, or business needs?
But when discussing following Christ, these questions are all moot. Christ isn’t interested in how much we’re willing to give up. There’s no barter system, no economic or social tradeoffs. We are to give up everything.
The Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Following Christ isn’t going to make you rich, at least by worldly standards. It’s not going to give you a great resume. It’s not going to make you popular or successful. In fact, everything you had considered a necessity now becomes even more than a luxury. Everything is a gift, even where you lay your head.
But honestly, I think Christ is giving even more insight here. The foxes and birds have homes, Christ did not, at least while he was on earth. His followers don’t either. This place is not my home, I am a stranger and an alien here. Christ came to show me the way home. He wants us to follow him where he is going. He wants us to follow him home.
Jesus: Follow me.
Man: Lord, first let me go and bury my father.
Jesus: Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
First… what a word… Though burying your father is of course noble, it is a priority we can not place before following Christ.
But I think this is even more than a reordering of priorities. Let the dead bury their own dead. We all bury our dead. I buried my mom 6 months ago. Let the dead bury their own dead… Is there even another option?
But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Yes, there is another option. It is living out the new life we’ve been given. It’s the living lifting up life, the exact anti-thesis of the dead burying their own dead.
Man: I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good bye to my family.
Jesus: No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.
First, again… and yes, I agree, this is about priorities. But it’s also living with intention, focused on our mission. If you’re going to plow, plow. There’s no looking back. While we’re given the same warning as Lot and his family, it’s not for the same reason. He was told to not look back on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or he would be punished. We are told to not look back on our past with regret or we will be ineffective.
It is true, these 3 passages are about the cost of following Jesus. We must be prepared to give up everything, our dreams of success, our family, and our past. But I claim the insights are even more directed. It is Jesus himself telling us to live life with intention as he leads us home. We are interested in the cost of following, he is interested in our acceptance of the invitation home, on our mission as heirs to this heavenly kingdom, and living with focus and intention while we are in this foreign land as his ambassadors.
Hey, bud! Good thoughts. This post reminds me of something I read recently from St. John of the Cross, so I thought I’d share: “The soul remembers the words of the Bridegroom in the Gospel, ‘No man can serve two masters,’ and therefore in order not to lose God, he loses all that is not God. He who truly loves makes shipwreck of himself in all else, that he may more easily gain the object of his love.”
Betsy just pointed me to your blog, so I’m catching up on it :-) BTW, if you want to see some ridiculous and not very funny comics I’ve been making on my lunch break at work, check out www.monkeybarcongressman.net. Maybe in the future they will be funnier, but no promises. Today I am rewriting the dialogue to an Archie comic – that may show up there soon, when I get the comic scanned in and change all the voice bubbles :)
Miss ya, bro,
Posted with : The Way