The “C” word. Nobody likes the “C” word. No, not Cancer. The word “Commitment”. In our society these days, it is a word that has fallen into disrepute if not disuse. People like to be involved in things but do not want to be seen as being committed to something. To be committed, especially when it comes to religion, it makes you seem, weird or even fanatical. Being involved allows for response and for participation but only to a point – so long as it remains good for me (and my family) if one has family. The moment that there is an inconvenience then there is the refusal to participate our even involve one’s self.
This week’s Gospel Lesson is about making commitments to Christ and learning to follow him. it is split into two stories that are joined together. The first is about Jesus choosing to get flinty faced about going to Jerusalem the reaction of the Samaritans (northerners) about Jesus choosing to go South and eventually die. Along the way, as word spread throughout the North of Israel that Jesus was going to Jerusalem, villages and towns rejected him because he was going South and making a big deal about Jerusalem. I can hear it now... what are there no good places to worship here” No crosses to die on and no tombs to be buried in that he has to go up there? After one such rejection, James and John wanted to call down fire to show the people around them a thing or two. God could put on this great display just like when the prophets of Baal got barbequed and then no one would dare question Jesus or his disciples. James and John wanted to get all “shock and awe” on the Samaritans. What does Jesus do? Well essentially nothing, except that he admonishes and chastened the disciples for wanting retribution on those who had rejected them – they kept walking and moved on to the next village.
The second part of the story is about being on the road with Jesus and having people who wanted to come and follow him. One fellow offered to commit to an opened ended mission saying, “Wherever you go, I go.” Jesus points out to the person that they need to be careful of what they are promising and have counted the costs of the decision they have made. The mission is not going to have fancy hotel rooms to sleep in at night. There will be no five star dining. There will be no of this calling down fire from heaven business. You will have to say good bye to your family, your life as it is now and the security you have built up for yourself? Are you ready to do that? Make sure.
The next person Jesus personally calls. He is willing but wants to wait until his father has died. That may be many years away from happening and the man wants his blessing and his share of the inheritance. This was something major in ancient Middle Eastern culture. But Jesus points out that those who are unaware of the kingdom and of the life that God offers (the spiritually dead) can handle the affairs of a physically dead person. In other words there is no time to waste. Announcing that God is coming to visit and to redeem his people is of first and utmost importance. Nothing, not even the blessing of a dying father was to get in the way of the kingdom being announced to the world.
The third person also offers freely to go with Jesus but first wants to go home and say his goodbyes. In my study bible, there is a note beside this verse that says, “Leave alone, the things you leave be behind.” This man wants to follow Jesus but wants to take leave of his family. What happens when he walks in the door and tells his mother and father that he is off to follow Jesus? Wouldn’t they try to lock him in his room and put bars on the window? Or at least would they not have a strongly worded conversation to make it clear that if he goes out the door he is cut off? The imperative of going to proclaim that God is coming to visit and redeem his people, is so important that we can take the time for a goodbye and a hug. It is that important.
What I gain from this is some simple things. God is looking for people who are going to go and go now to proclaim his message. The going, the proclaiming, and the living of the message of the kingdom are what matter. We need to let go of what was and stretch out for what is to come because in doing so, what you what will go with you. God is not looking for people of tremendous faith or great smarts or fantastic wealth. He is looking for people who will find their flinty faced resolve and join him in the journey through the cross and the grave to the resurrection and ascension.
Or if you wish think of mission and evangelism this way, we are the communion of God for the city we live in. God wants to take us and bless us then to break us up and send us to the city that we might feed and draw someone to God. It is important that we go with God and do what needs to be done. Let’s try that this week and see what happens in Jesus’ name.