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Two Sermons for Ordinary 13 -Proper 8 - Year C
Luke 9:51-62
"The Costs of Discipleship" - by Rev. Ross Bartlett
"Bound and Determined" - by Rev. David Jagger

READING:  Luke 9:51-62 
SERMON :  Two Sermons

Rev. Ross Bartlett - The Costs of Discipleship
Rev. David Jagger - Bound and Determined

   This week we present two sermons for the "Upcoming Sunday" from 
   our summer time guest preachers from the United Church of Canada, 
   the Rev. Ross Bartlett ( and the Rev. 
   Dave Jagger (  Both deal with Luke 9:51-62, 
   albeit in very different ways. 

(NRSV)  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 they did 
not receive him, because his 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?" {55} But he turned and 
rebuked them. {56} Then they went on to another village. {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 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."


    Our gospel lesson from Luke is particularly appropriate as we begin 
our two months of services together.  Summer is often a time of 
journeying, our time together is like a journey in one another's company 
and Luke says of Jesus that he "set his face to go to Jerusalem".  Now in 
Jesus' case it was a long journey - it will take most of ten full chapters 
for Luke to get him to his destination (we'll be reading these stories 
into November).  We only have a couple of months.  To Jesus, his journey 
was a commitment to conflict, confrontation and death.  For us, if you 
find our journey together burdensome your consolation is that it only 
lasts for ten services!  "Jesus set his face".  I've seen people set their 
faces, perhaps you have too.  We see their determination in their eyes, 
their tone of voice, the line of their shoulders.  Luke invites us, as 
followers of Jesus, to set our faces and accompany him with that same 
degree of resolution.  We are on a journey - of life and learning, growth 
and service.

    On every journey we have to make some choices.  You've probably made 
your choices for this summer - or have had them made for you!  Time and 
resources simply don't allow most of us to do everything we want just when 
we want to do it.  Sometimes we can balance events to accomplish more than 
one aim - we can drive to the East Coast but find time for fishing or golf 
or visiting craft stores along the way.  Sometimes we have to choose: we 
can visit her family in Halifax or his family in Vancouver but not both.  
Our journey involves choices.  Our Christian journey involves choices and 
commitment.  The three conversations in our gospel lesson are about 
choices too.

      We do ourselves a great disservice when we only compare our 
Christian faith against unworthy choices.  The sleazy evangelist trick is 
to establish a scenario that pits a happy and wholesome Christian life on 
this side against a life of drunken gambling and serial relationships on 
that side.  And, blow me over with a feather, everyone chooses 
Christianity!  But I don't know very many people who struggle to choose 
good over evil.  There are a few I admit.  But most people I know, and I 
include myself, struggle with a greater reality.  Our faith challenges us 
not at the depth of human commitments and behaviour but at its height.  
Not when we're at our worst but at our best.  Then our Christian 
conviction calls on us to choose against those things which seem best in 
human wisdom, insight and emotion.  Then we are challenged to remember 
that the very good is the worst enemy of the best.  That's when it gets 
tough.  That's when we wrestle long and hard.  That's where the three 
encounters in our gospel lesson come into play.

     To understand these three encounters we have to clear some ground.  
I'm sure you felt it as the passage was being read:  Jesus seems 
remarkably short-tempered and cranky with these three would-be disciples.  
After all, they want some security, they want to pay attention to family 
relationships, they want to say goodbye.  All of those, seemingly 
reasonable requests, Jesus peremptorily denies.  We want to ask "just 
what's the problem here?"  Lighten up, for crying out loud!  Jesus seems 
to be making discipleship as difficult as possible and in the process 
being pretty harsh about it.

     The challenge in understanding these conversations and seeing how 
they apply to our own lives arises from the fact that they come to us from 
two centuries ago, in a different language and culture, half way around 
the globe.  The truth is there but much more is involved in translating 
than just words.  I'll try and do some of that for you today and we may 
end up seeing far more in these strange encounters when we view them with 
other lenses.

     When something seems out of line in the gospels it is often wise to 
go back and ask, "do we really understand what's happening here?"  
Answering that question is often aided immeasurably by scholars and 
travellers who understand the background of Palestinian village culture 
against which these stories are set.  Then we see a whole lot which we may 
have previously missed.

     Consider the first dialogue.  Someone volunteers to join up, to 
attach himself to the community around Jesus.  But, like most people in 
1st century Palestine, his concept of the Messiah probably doesn't 
encompass a suffering, rejected and crucified saviour.  That's not his 
fault, very few people in the 1st century expected Jesus' way of 
fulfilling the role of the Anointed One.  Jesus doesn't reject him 
outright.  He tries to show this would-be volunteer just what's in store.

     But there's a second level to the dialogue.  We're familiar with the 
association of nations with certain birds and animals: for instance, the 
United States with the eagle, England with the lion, Russia with the bear, 
China with the dragon.  In the first century the Gentile nations, 
including Rome, were referred to as "birds of the air" and members of the 
Amonite nation were called "foxes".  You may recall Jesus referring to 
Herod as "that fox".(Lk13:32)  Think again about Jesus words:  "foxes have 
holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere 
to lay his head".  In other words, everyone is at home in Israel except 
the one who truly is Israel.  The overlords and their puppets have palaces 
but God's Anointed has nothing.  So, Jesus is saying, in this oppressed 
country, where people rarely speak out and cannot oppose the ones in 
power, do you really want to join the opposition?  Not a bad question.  Do 
you begin to see what considering the culture adds to our appreciation of 
the dialogue?

     Consider the second conversation.  "Let me go and bury my father".  
What do you hear in those words?  Generations of Christians in the west, 
scholars and lay people alike, have heard the man saying that his father 
has just died or is about to expire and he's asking for time to 
respectfully bury him.  And Jesus says "no" - he comes off pretty picky 
and pathetic.  Middle Eastern readers of the New testament disagree.  They 
observe that if the man's father really had just died he'd be sitting in 
mourning rather than hobnobbing with travelling teachers at the roadside.  
They  point out that the phrase "to bury one's father" has a long history 
as an expression for doing one's sacred duty of remaining home until one's 
parents are respectfully buried.  That could be years, if not decades, 
down the road.  The man is balancing Jesus' call against peer pressures.  
"Jesus, my community and my family have certain expectations of me.  The 
pull of my community and what the neighbours think is very strong.  Surely 
you don't expect me to violate those community standards.  I'll follow you 
after I've done those duties."  And Jesus replies "that's precisely what I 
expect".  The living choose the present reality of God's kingdom.  Let the 
spiritually dead absorb themselves with empty tradition.  This is getting 
closer to home isn't it?

      Again in the third situation we have a would-be volunteer with a 
seemingly reasonable condition, to go home and say good bye.  The 
translation on your insert is not bad when it says "let me go home and say 
farewell".  But it really should be "let me go home and take my leave".  
What's the difference?  Assume that I am the guest and Bob represents my 
host.  In the Middle East, the person leaving always asks permission and 
the one remaining says "goodbye".  So I would say something like "with 
your permission" and Bob would reply something like "go with God".  Now, 
between a son and his parents this is far more than a formality.  This 
really is seeking permissions  Everybody knew that no father in his right 
mind would allow a son to go off on a crack-brained scheme like following 

     It's easy to agree to something when you know a higher authority will 
overrule you.  Maybe you've used that dodge yourself:  "Oh, I'd love to 
but I have to ask..." and depending what the request is you can fill in 
the blank with spouse, parents, children, supervisor, boss, head office, 
whatever.  For over 1,000 years Arabic translations of Luke have read "let 
me go and explain my case to those in my house".  The question is: "surely 
Jesus you aren't claiming greater authority over me than my parents" and 
Arab seminary students still turn white when studying this passage because 
that's exactly what Jesus is saying - there is no no higher authority than 

      The relationship between a teacher and disciple is much more than 
simply signing up for a course.  It is a lifetime of commitment, a deep 
and lasting relationship that fundamentally changes the master and the 
disciple.  That's the relationship into which Jesus invites us.  Here we 
have three potential disciples and three disturbing questions.  We don't 
know how the would-be disciples in the parable answered.  But it the end 
we really don't care.  Because in the end it's you and it's me.  And Jesus 
is saying three things to us.  (One) The price of discipleship is too high 
for us to simply fall into or even be born into faithful living.  
Following carries a cost - have we considered that cost?  (Two) Jesus will 
accept no higher loyalty than his own.  Regardless of how long-standing or 
good or respectable or beneficial the claims of society might be, if they 
conflict with Jesus' claims they are not acceptable - are we willing to 
choose him even though the neighbours might stare and chatter?  (Three) 
Jesus will allow no voice to speak more loudly than God's.  Following him 
is not an inner glow or an intellectual insight but a strenuous, creative, 
consuming task, like plowing a field by hand - are we ready for that 
degree of commitment?

     Jesus is not harsh or unreasonable or unrealistic.  He is simply 
honest about the demands and the costs of a commitment we might make too 
lightly and a journey we might undertake too easily.  He believes we can 
choose the best over the merely very good.  So, how do you answer his 
questions?  AMEN

- - - - - - - - - - - -
FROM: DAVE JAGGER SERMON: BOUND & DETERMINED This week in the Gospel lesson we find what have been called "Hard sayings of Jesus." Each of these is in response to a person enquiring about discipleship. Two of them concern the Kingdom of God. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go. 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." (Luke 9:57-58 - NRSV) This saying has to do with personal comfort. "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns you know." Is the interpretation given in "The Message" (a contemporary NT). Perhaps Jesus is telling this person that the Kingdom must come before personal comfort. Be prepared to rough it. If you choose to follow Jesus and be Kingdom people living Kingdom ways, it won't be easy. Kind of like the difference between camping in a modern motor-home with all the amenities in a groomed campground, or camping in a tent in the bush; just you, what you can carry, and the black-flies. Kingdom life can be an on the move, always changing, unpopular kind of life, according to Jesus. As a song I have at home says, "If you get cranky without your silk hanky, you'd better stay" home. To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." This saying has to do with priorities. Jesus seems to be saying that allegiance to family members or others before the Kingdom of God won't do. No matter how good the intentions may be. Even a father's funeral, isn't enough. And you just don't miss your father's funeral, now or in the ancient middle east. That was the ultimate insult, and the fastest way to cut yourself out of your inheritance. Yet Jesus seems to be saying the kind of allegiance we normally show to our family or our best friends, that and more should really be shown to the Kingdom of God. Interesting words as we celebrate Canada Day this weekend. Allegiance to the Kingdom of God above all others. Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." This time, again, Jesus seems to be saying that the Kingdom must be absolutely first. Finding the Kingdom, gaining access to the Kingdom requires absolute concentration. Just like plowing a straight furrow. Now I'm not the farmer. I've only driven a tractor once, and that was not in the fields. But I know how much concentration it took not to impale a car or something with a bale spear out front. I can imagine the concentration required to plow a straight furrow. Concentration which must be sustained over the whole field. The first pass is just as important as the last. Look back, lose your concentration, let your mind wander, and the nice straight rows become winding and useless. Not paying attention results in shoddy work. So too with the Kingdom of God. It requires attention and concentration over the long haul. According to Jesus, if you and I expect to be a part of God's Kingdom, now and forever, we must be serious about our work. We can't wander. We can't look back. Once we start, if we aren't committed, we're in trouble. No matter how hard it may be; no matter what may come along to distract us; we have to press on with the task at hand. "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Now it strikes me that there are 2 ways to look at these sayings of Jesus. We can look at them from the perspective of persistence and we can look at them from the perspective of grace. Perspective of Persistence: All of these sayings tell us that we must be persistent. If you're going to seek God, then seek God. If you are going to work for the Kingdom, then do so! Even in the beginning of the passage in the story about the Samaritan village, Jesus shows his persistence. "Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem." From this perspective, like Jesus we need to set our face toward God's Kingdom. Keep at it. Don't let set backs stop you. Like a hurdler running a race, just because one hurdle falls, doesn't mean you stop running. You can still win. When troubles come, pray, act, work, overcome. When things don't work out the way you planned, do your best with what you have. Rely on God. Trust. Be persistent. This is stubbornness at its best. Jesus is saying: "Be stubborn for the Kingdom. Don't make do with mediocre. Don't stop until you are there." To each of the people Jesus speaks to, his answer is always, "No matter what happens, proclaim the Kingdom of God." Be persistent. If you give up, if you turn back, if you aren't 150% committed, you aren't fit for the Kingdom. For instance, like the person wanting to bury their father, for those persistent to live a Kingdom life, even in the face of death we must proclaim the Kingdom of God at hand. As much as the Kingdom of God is some yet to be completed thing of the future, Jesus repeatedly told us that the Kingdom of God is at hand; hear among us; now. So don't just bury your father, weeping and wailing, following tradition around funerals. Instead, proclaim the Kingdom. That brings us to the second way we can look at these sayings. Perspective of Grace: Now I don't know for sure about you, but when I hear these sayings, I find myself left with the question, "If this is what it takes to be fit for the Kingdom of God, then who measures up?" That's why these are called "hard sayings." It's hard to be willing to give up our personal comfort and control. It's hard to just strike out, not knowing where God is leading and not knowing how we'll fair. It's hard to leave behind our families and friends and always, every single time, put the Kingdom first. It's hard to be so single minded about the Kingdom that nothing distracts us. And frankly, if that's what it takes to get into the Kingdom of God, I for one am in trouble. I readily admit, at times I get distracted from seeking God's Kingdom. At times there are other concerns which take first priority. At times my family, or friends, are more important than what's going on here at church, or what God is saying at that particular time. I believe each of us can echo those sentiments. There are times when the Kingdom life is the furthest thing from our minds. So who is fit for the Kingdom of God? Does this mean that we aren't? I guess if we measure our fitness by these sayings of Jesus then the answer to that question is probably, "Not me." Which means that once again we find ourselves in need of God's grace. You see the message of persistence inherent in this passage is a good message. We need to hear it and listen to it and put it into practice. But there is a stronger message here. It's the message that says, for most of us, no matter how hard we persist, we can't do it on our own. We need God's help and God's forgiveness to be "fit for the Kingdom of God." We need Grace. Tuesday evening at the Strawberry Supper while I was helping lug dirty dishes to the dishwashers somehow we ended up talking about Grace. You've hard me say it before; "Grace is not getting what you do deserve, and getting what you don't deserve." That's the Good News of Grace. Even if/when we don't deserve and aren't fit for the Kingdom, because of Jesus we still get in. If we are willing to admit our unwillingness our inability's and seek God and God's grace, then through the wonder of the cross, God sees us as fit to be part of the Kingdom; part of the Kingdom now and part of the Kingdom to come. So while we persist and stubbornly work on seeking and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, no matter what happens, we are able to do so within the context of God's never ending Grace. We ARE able to work at letting God lead us, not having a place to rest our heads, always on the move, trusting in God. We ARE able to keep trying to put God's Kingdom first, in all of our choices and in very part of our lives. We ARE able to concentrate on a Kingdom life over the long haul, not looking back. We ARE able to do these things and we ARE to be considered "fit for the Kingdom of God" because we live in the context of Grace. It may be amazing and it may be beyond comprehension, but we know it is still true. Pushing Ahead: 1. How far am I willing to go for the Kingdom of God? 2. How do I react when faced with hardship on my journey to God? Do I knuckle under and struggle on? Do I give up and walk away? 3. Pray that God will strengthen your resolve and make you persistent for the Kingdom. Give thanks for God's grace which covers you. AMEN copyright - edited by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006 - Rev Ross Bartlett 1995, 2004 - Rev. David Jagger 1995, 2004 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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