Monday, June 27, 2016

Sermon June 25-26, 2016

Title: Those who follow Christ follow by faith!
Text: Luke 9:51-62

62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Theodore Roosevelt was certainly a leader. In 1901 he became the youngest President of the United States following the assignation of President William McKinley. But, Theodore was also a follower. He followed the lead of his father, Theodore Senior, who inspired him in his servant leadership; he followed mountain man Bill Sewall into the wilds of Main following the death of his own father … keeping up and learning from both Bill and his son to live in the wild and endure; he followed Joe Murray, a lieutenant of New York’s Jake Hess political machine into the Assembly of Albany politics.

On his honeymoon in Europe he followed a few guides up the Matterhorn a 15,000 foot peak which had remained unconquered until 1865. He was an author, writing the Naval War of 1812 from a historian’s perspective as almost a hobby. He nearly chose science as his field of endeavor with his love for birds and the outdoors. He was Lieutenant Colonel of the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War … serving with distinction.

As both a leader and a follower TR wrote:

“A leader should aim to build a life based on service …”

Those who follow Christ follow a servant leader by faith!

In the Gospel reading for today we see Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. This is a very important time in the life of our Lord. Jesus knew what awaited Him in Jerusalem and he was determined to set his sights there.

Dr. Arthur Just in his commentary on Luke also sees it as important as his two volume set on Luke begins the second volume with this pivotal verse. Jesus is resolute. He will not be turned away. His reason for becoming man, the incarnation, is about to be realized. Jesus is moving towards the cross.

The Samaritans turned away the messengers of Jesus as they went to prepare lodgings for him. This brings the wrath of James and John to a boil looking to call down fire from heaven to consume them – bringing to the disciples the Lord’s rebuke.

Notice as Jesus continues on his way, his call to those to follow him, brings a variety of excuses.

59 Jesus called to another, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

There is nothing here to indicate that this man’s father was dead or even near death. For all we know this man’s father could have been in good health with years to live. The point is that to follow Christ requires a denial of self and self-interests and all earthly ties.

60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.

Here again Jesus calls him at his bluff saying if he’s dead you can’t really help him and there are people that can take care of his remains but also there is a connection to our spiritual state of being dead in sin and to this Christ calls him to, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Or …

Tell those that are dead, or dying … that there is life eternal in me, Jesus.

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

Another excuse of an earthly nature, “I must say farewell to those at home,” when the real excuse is I really need to go home now because I’m not really excited about following you.

62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Those who follow Christ follow by faith!

Ill.

There is a story that a pastor tells of plowing a field when he was a young boy:

He says, plowing a straight furrow was easy, I thought. I didn’t need my father or grandfather telling me what to do.

The first furrow plowed was the most important. It had to be straight, especially when you had acres of land to plow. Each time back and forth you had to put the right wheels of your tractor into the furrow you had just plowed. This was your guide. If you got the first furrow straight, the whole field would end up straight and square. If you got the first furrow crooked, every pass you made was then crooked. This resulted in more time and work at the end of the job, trying to square what was crooked.

Well, Dad had this notion that you should never look back when plowing. You should pick out a spot, such as a tree or fence post, at the end of the field (sometimes hundreds of yards away) and never take your eyes off of it. Keep focused and never look back.

I thought, “How dumb! How are you going to know if you are plowing straight if you don’t look back sometimes to see how you’re doing?”

Throwing Dad’s advice out the window I decided to do it my own way, just once. Looking back I tried to make a straight furrow. Problem is, you can’t steer very well looking back. You keep trying to jerk the wheel one way or another to overcompensate. You can’t straighten out something that’s crooked. (See Ecclesiastes 1:15a).

The words of Christ popped out at me, as I read the Bible one day: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Dad’s advice was from the Lord!

Do you at times look back too? I think we all do. Ever since I joined the Lutheran church and began attending, there has always been one thing that bothered me… summer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but as Lutheran’s we seem to see summer as a break from Church. I mean, it’s nice weather and we can only do so much outside during the year so we really need to get it all done in the three months of summer. And the church is just as much to blame. We have our summer schedule from Memorial Day to Labor Day and that indicates that something is different here at Peace. We stop bible study because; some won’t come, so we facilitate their not coming by not coming ourselves. During summer we look every which way … except to Christ.

Those who follow Christ follow by faith!

The truth is I love summer as I assume most of you do. We can have both a joyful summer and a strong faith life. Christ does not need to be put aside while we commune with nature. In fact we try to bring a little bit of summer to our worship when we gather in the pavilion during our praise in the pavilion service. The Gospel and its fruit reach beyond these walls. It is not confining but liberating.

The Gospel (Jesus) in our reading set His face towards Jerusalem. Jesus is the Gospel and the Gospel is about Jesus. This spotless Lamb who is fully God and fully man came down from heaven to take your sin upon himself. No, if and or buts about it. He was determined to go to Jerusalem … for you! See, Jesus didn’t look back. He set his sights in that wooden post in the distance, the cross, and kept plowing straight ahead … for you. There is no crooked path because the one Jesus plowed is straight. Straight through the Law to its fulfillment, straight to the cross - the price paid in full, straight to the tomb descending to hell to fully proclaim victory over sin, death and the Devil and resurrected to newness of life on the third day … for you.

Those who follow Christ follow by faith!

Jesus Christ is the path that has been laid straight for you. The Spirit directs your course and it is straight too on account of Him. When you fall He picks you up and plows on with you for He will never leave you nor forsake you. By him you are free of bondage to the past and now look forward to a forever forgiven in him. Receive the joy that the Lord has prepared for you.

Christ Jesus is that man of integrity and high purpose. For you he paid the price and made the way for eternal life and then He calls you by the Spirit and gives you freely all He has. This he does out of divine Love … for you. Joy in this good new by the Spirit now and forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

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