By The Rev. Sherry Crompton[Date]Read:
June 27, 2010
Read: Galatians 5:1, 13-25 and Luke 9:51-62
When I first read through our scripture readings for this morning, I was drawn to Galatians and the real contrast between the explained works of the flesh – fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these – and the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Galatians passage today ends with “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” So how do we do that? In real life, it turns out not to be so easy for us.
And then I turned my attention to the gospel passage and wondered about Jesus’ harshness here. Is it really so terrible to want to bury your father first or to go and say farewell to your family? No, it’s not. But what I suspect is happening in our Luke passage is that Jesus is responding to lack of focus. Jesus had “set his face to go to Jerusalem” – in other words he had a plan, he was on a journey, he was focused. That focus is what I want to talk about this morning. “Yeah, buts” and what it means to focus. Let’s look again…
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.”
Now, on the surface we have three very reasonable requests from potential disciples…and three completely unreasonable responses from Jesus. We do not really know what the first guy was angling for, we just know that Jesus let him know that he was going to end up homeless If he did indeed follow.
It was a “Yeah, but….”
To the second guy Jesus said, “Follow me.” Very short, very direct.
His response was, “yeah but,” let me go bury my father. A perfectly reasonable request, but it is not what Jesus had asked of him.
For all we know, if the man had agreed, Jesus would have led him back to his father and who knows what would have happened. Funny things happen when Jesus gets around dead people. Remember, dead folks had trouble staying dead around him. Jesus is not insensitive around those who grieve, we see in Scripture that Jesus has a way of turning their sorrow to joy.
The third guy makes the perfectly reasonable request of going home to say goodbye to his family. Perfectly reasonable. Can you imagine trying to explain to your family why you took off for 3 years without saying goodbye? Again, it was a “yeah, but” answer.
Notice that all three of our yeah butters in this story had excellent reasons to resist. Yet, what do we find? Perhaps God is trying to tell us something here. Perhaps He is saying that He is not interested in our excuses. He is interested in our obedience. He will take care of the rest of the details if we will just let him. This is where it gets a little hairy, because we are no longer talking about what we believe, but the way we live. What kind of life do we live?
If we focus on God, on living a life in Christ, guided by the Spirit, saying yes, God will take care of the details. Which brings us back to the Galatians reading and living by the Spirit. Here is a story I’ve shared before, but it is so good and so truthful, we can’t hear it enough.
There was a Grandfather. His little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask. One day the grandson came to Grandfather with a look of anger on his face. Grandfather said, “Come, sit, tell me what has happened today.”
The child sat and leaned his chin on Grandfather’s knee. Looking up into the wrinkled, nut brown face and the kind dark eyes, the child’s anger turned to quiet tears as he began his tale by saying, “I went to the town today with Father to trade the furs he has collected over the past several months. I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for me…. something that I wanted.
“I was so excited to be in the trading post. I have not been there before. I looked at many things and finally found a metal knife! It was small, but good size for me, so father got it for me.”
Here the boy laid his head against Grandfather’s knee and became silent. Grandfather softly placed his hand on the boy’s raven hair and said, “And then what happened?”
Without lifting his head, the boy said, “I went outside to wait for Father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight. Some town boys came by and saw me. They got all around me and started saying bad things. They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife. The largest of these boys pushed me back and I fell over one of the other boys. I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away laughing.” Here, the boy’s anger returned, “I hate them. I hate them all!”
Grandfather, with eyes that have seen too much, lifted his grandson’s face so his eyes looked into the boy’s. Grandfather said, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.
“I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is white and one is black. The White Wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. It will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
“But the Black Wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
Grandfather smiled and said, “The one I feed.”
If we want to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives – if we want to show that fruit to others – then we need to feed on that which will bring it about. We need to FOCUS on the truth of God’s word. We need to set our face toward God – no more yeah, buts. Trust God! If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Amen.
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