Audio 3 Pentecost Proper 8 Yr C June 30 2019
1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21, Psalm 16, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Luke 9:51-62
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Over and over I have preached about God’s amazing and abundant love. Over and over I have preached that God’s grace washes over us. Over and over I have said that there is nothing that we can do that would put us outside of God’s love. All that is true. And that reality of God’s love calls us to follow Jesus. So what we have in our gospel from Luke today is how we respond to God’s love, and God’s grace. Jesus says, “follow me.”
But first…. But first I have to make sure we have all our ducks in a row, but first I need to have $10,000 in my bank account, or $20,000 or $30,000. But first I need to get my degree. But first I need to get a good job, buy a house. But first I need to get my kids through college. But first I have to take care of my own before I can take care of anyone else. But first I have to make sure my house is clean, my laundry done. But first I’ve got to write this sermon. Postponing priorities. Deferring important decisions. Delaying connection and joy and happiness. And, all of a sudden, you are of a certain age when you realize how much you’ve missed over the years.
But first could be the title of the gospel from Luke we hear today. I will follow you Lord, but first I have to bury my father. But first I need to say goodbye. The hard news in Luke’s gospel today is that this is all important stuff, and yet Jesus says with some urgency, “follow me.” You see, Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem, the place of pilgrimage, the place Jesus will die. Right here Jesus says, “follow me.” There are no more excuses, there are no more reasons why not. Just, “follow me.”
This journey we are on with Jesus isn’t easy, or orderly, or even fair. It’s hard. Follow me, that’s it, that’s all she wrote. And the journey for Jesus has consistently put him in conflict with people who make the laws, people who set the rules. Jesus heals people on the days he is not supposed to heal, Jesus eats with people he is not supposed to eat with, Jesus teaches things like, love your neighbor and your enemy, forgive yourself and everyone around you. Jesus includes people in this new way that have never been included before, sinners, women, children. You, and me.
So here we are today. It’s go time. There’s no looking back, there’s no dawdling, there’s no maybe laters. Just, “follow me.” There’s no more getting ready, there’s no just one more thing, just “follow me.”
How do we answer this call? How do we respond to this amazing and abundant love with, “ok, I’m coming.” There’s so much heartache, so much that seems wrong today. Where do we even begin?
We begin with no more “but firsts.” We begin with “I’m coming.” We begin with the little things that sometimes seem so big. We begin with loving our neighbor. Our neighbor who doesn’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us. Little things, that are a huge witness to God’s love, and God’s dream for our world. You do these little things in big ways. You just finished two weeks at the GIFTS shelter, cooking, and being there for men who need your witness in their lives, and maybe even as importantly, for you to see their witness in your life. You do these little things in big ways. You give your time, and your money to ECHO. You participated in the CROP walk, raising over $53,000.00 with over $13,000.00 staying right here in Janesville for ECHO. You deliver meals, you care for one another.
I believe following Jesus is about making sure that all of God’s creation are treated with dignity and respect, which just happens to be one of the promises we make in our baptismal covenant. Heavy on my heart in these days is the situation at our southern border. I know that we may have differing understandings about how our country got to this place, and yet, my heart breaks because we are here.
Listen to this, said by one of our own Episcopal bishops. “Two basic factors are exacerbating each other. The first is that the system was designed to catch and detain illegal migrants, not legal asylum seekers; adult men, not families and children. The second is that there have been thousands more people presenting themselves for asylum, and the sheer numbers are overwhelming the capacity of the system. Unaccompanied children who arrive at the border are refugees, and they deserve immediate care as refugees.
What does following Jesus, who was a child refugee himself, look like for us in this case? How do we apply loving our neighbor, in this case? You all know as well as I, that the gospel calls us to welcome all. Verse 46, just before where we began reading today says, An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
I don’t have any answers, but I can no longer say, but first, but first we must have better immigration laws, or we need to enforce our immigration laws better, or, but first we must process them and determine if they really need asylum, but first.
If the good news is for us, sitting here today, it is for all of God’s beloveds. What does following Jesus mean for us today, in this particular situation? As we continue to see pictures of children at our border, as we continue to hear stories of families being separated at our border, I ask you, how do we follow Jesus, what do we do?
So the only answer I have for you today is to follow Jesus, and following Jesus means love fiercely, love completely, love without borders or barriers or limits. The only thing that makes sense in this senselessness is the love that wins. Amen.