Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sunday's Sermon

Discipleship is Demanding
June 26th, 2016
Luke 9: 51-62
A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but the Samaritans did not receive them, because Jesus’ face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 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?”[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then[b] they went on to another village.

Would-Be Followers of Jesus
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 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.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus[c] said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Let us first consider the first part of today’s passage (Luke 9:51–55). The disciples are struggling to understand Jesus as Messiah (God’s chosen) and how he is different from other rulers. (If you recall they really never “get it”). Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51) and the quickest way there is through a Samaritan village, but the Samaritans refuse Jesus’s messengers passage. James and John are furious. How dare these heretical Samaritans hinder God’s Messiah on his way to Jerusalem! They ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (v. 54).

What came next probably startled James and John—Jesus rebuked them! (v. 55). James and John still did not understand that God’s kingdom is about healing and peace and not violence.

God rebukes us also when we are tempted by violence in the name of Jesus. God does not encourage our anger or acts of violent revenge. Jesus was not a typical king. He was much different. Jesus did not act as ruler, president, or prime minister of a country. He acted as “friend”.

Still we are challenged to continue to do our part to bring about God’s kingdom through peaceful means even though, as our theme reminds us, “discipleship is demanding”.

Community of Christ proclaims Jesus as our messiah because he brought the world an altogether different image of a ruler from that with which the world had been accustomed. He taught by peace and healing… by example and parable.  

Our church promotes communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. There has to be a better way…the way Jesus taught.

We have tried war to settle disputes and we have tried anger and sometimes violence to settle our personal disputes in our relationships but experience and history both tell us that approach does not work. Wars only bring on more wars. Arguments only bring on more conflict.

The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars since it was the first worldwide war. Instead it only introduced more wars. Millions died on both sides and both sides felt that God was on their side of the conflict. After that… the entire twentieth century was marred by one war after another. And they were mostly caused by feelings of revenge.

Our personal relationships, instead of being marked by peaceful compromises, often only lead to anger and hostility and sometimes even end in separation and divorce.

If we believe God’s reign on Earth, the kingdom, is one of joy, hope, love, and peace and that “The mission of Jesus is what matters most for the journey ahead” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:9f), then there is nothing more important than following Jesus’ teachings.

The second part of today’s passage returns to the theme of committed, unhesitating life as a disciple (vv. 56–62). Jesus taught that nothing is more important than proclaiming God’s kingdom, not even burying your father or saying good-bye to your family. You cannot look back says Jesus, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62). I know that seems a hard teaching. But the lesson is there!

What a challenge! The challenge is that we should not hesitate in our commitment to discipleship. But that sort of commitment is hard…and demanding.

And it has to begin at home. We must eventually learn the ways of peace. It begins with love. Our world must learn to put aside our personal prejudices and pride and work together for a peaceful means of settling our differences.  Our goal of helping to build God’s kingdom is like the parable of the sower Jesus compared to God’s kingdom in Matthew 13.  Let us look at those parables.

Matthew 13: 1 – 54
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!”

The Purpose of the Parables
10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 

14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
    and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and their ears are hard of hearing,
        and they have shut their eyes;
        so that they might not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
    and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[d] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

The Use of Parables
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:[e]
“I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
    I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”[

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[g] listen!

Three Parables
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Treasures New and Old
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”
But did they? And do we? 

There is a better way and someone has to lead the way. The way of peace churches is God’s way. But that way is demanding and requires patience. The Kingdom of God is about healing and peace not revenge, greatness, or violence. Are we up to it?

Let us realize that helping to build the kingdom is one relationship at a time…one friendship…one community and one day at a time. Sometimes in today’s violent world, we may feel overwhelmed.

That is what feels demanding. But just like life, we can only take one day at a time and one relationship at a time. We do what we can. We find organizations that help to build peace in our communities and we decide to join with them. We make friends of our neighbors and we invite them to join with us in God’s mission and we share our vision of peace and God’s Kingdom with them.

That’s how we bring forth the kingdom! Yes, it is demanding…but also very rewarding.


Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

Very beautiful and very very true! :)

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you, Deb. I appreciate your comments.