Proper 8c, June 26, 2016

June 28, 2016

Our Heavenly Home Companion

Luke 9:51-62


9:51 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 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.”


This is not a particularly endearing passage of scripture that we’re looking at this morning. These aren’t the words people generally choose to read at weddings, funerals, or other significant moments in life. These words are sort of low on comfort and assurance, and frankly speaking, they aren’t particularly inspirational – but they aren’t insignificant. These words don’t stir great emotion or remind us of how glorious it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but they express something we need to know. These words reveal what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus Christ on a hot and dusty summer day as you leave a village where you were not well received. It’s not a pretty picture, but it reveals something critical about who Jesus was and who we are to be.


The tone of this passage somehow reminds me of that iconic radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. You may or may not be familiar with the show, but it’s been around for the 42 years. It’s the brainchild of Garrison Keillor. He’s the host of the live show that weaves together comedy and music in a manner that is largely unduplicated. Garrison Keillor incorporates clever banter with the musicians, comedy skits full of exaggerated sound effects, advertisements for their fictional sponsors, and a weekly update on the news from Lake Wobegon – which is the fictional homeplace of Garrison Keillor. A place where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are all well above average.


Like the scene in today’s scripture, Lake Wobegon is not a glamorous place, but it’s a place where people go about the daily business of life. He talks a lot about the local Lutheran Church, where Pastor Liz deals with the ups and downs of her mediocre congregation. You’ve got Darlene the waitress at the Chatterbox Café, who is largely satisfied with her job. You’ve got a number of different individuals and couples who are generally of Scandinavian descent who deal with the various trials of life in both wise and foolish ways.


I’m not a committed listener to the show, but I’ve been listening to it off and on for the last 30 years. It’s a lot like a soap opera in the sense that you don’t have to listen to the show every week to understand what’s going on in Lake Wobegon. You can miss a year or two and still know what’s going on. This show has gotten some attention lately because the last episode with Garrison Keillor as the host will be aired next Saturday night. It’s on a lot of public radion stations, but its not on KASU. I’m sure you can find it on the internet if you are so inclined. I’m not saying it’s something you should do, but I’ve always loved the way Garrison Keillor can create an atmosphere and a situation with his voice. It amazing the way he has generated this fictional location and shared with us the various personalities that populate it and how they’ve navigated the various dilemmas they face. You might say he gets in to the listener’s head in order to let you know what’s in the head of his various characters.


Garrison Keillor functions as the guide to this fictional town set somewhere on the prairie of Minnesotta. As the name of the show indicates, it’s our prairie home companion. And what he does in this show helps me understand what it is that Jesus does for us. Just as Garrison Keillor enables us to understand and to be amused by the things that go on in Lake Wobegon. I believe Jesus did what he did and said what he said to enable us to understand and abide in the Kingdom of God. You might say that Jesus is our heavenly home companion. Jesus wants to get in to our heads and enable us to understand how things operate in the Kingdom of God.


In the news from Lake Wobegon I’m often amused by the difference between what a normal person would do and what one of the residents of that town has chosen to do, and I think there’s a similar gap between what a normal person would do in life and what Jesus would have us do. The residents of Lake Wobegon aren’t normal, and neither are people who are guided by the the ethics of heaven.


A normal person suggests to Jesus that he use his extraordinary power to rain down fire on the residents of the town that treated them in a less than hospitable manner. And Jesus rebuked that kind of normal thinking. Our heavenly home companion wants us to live our lives in a new and more loving way than what is normally expected.


Others came to him with what they considered to be high ideals and big plans, but Jesus didn’t respond to them with open arms, and that’s actually sort of shocking to me. I’m a person who generally likes to both receive and extend what we might call southern hospitality, and that’s not what came from Jesus.


Regardless of what somebody thinks of me and my ideas I like for them to act like they impressed and I that’s how I usually treat other people. But that’s not the way Jesus operated. Jesus didn’t just want people to treat him like he was a nice guy, and he didn’t just want to be thought of as a nice person. Jesus wanted people to understand what the Kingdom of God was all about, and he didn’t want anyone to be mistaken about what it takes to abide in the Kingdom of God.


Jesus didn’t just want to be nice. Jesus wanted to get in to our minds and our hearts and to enable us to see what was in his heart and mind, and as I say – it’s different in there! The Kingdom of God doesn’t operate in a normal manner. You don’t just make slight adjustments in order to abide in the Kingdom of God – you approach life in a completely new way.


This passage reveals the stark contrast between the way we normally operate and the way we operate when we understand the heart and mind of Jesus. Jesus had some tough words for all of the people who approached him in this particular passage. He rebuked the disciples for wanting to rain down fire on their cultural and religious rivals. He dampened the enthusiasm of the man who said he would follow him wherever he went by saying that he was more homeless than a fox or a bird, and Jesus was un-accommodating to the men who said they wanted to follow him as soon as they attended to their familial obligations.


These aren’t easy words for me to hear, but I think they are good words for us all to hear. We don’t need to think that it’s as easy as we want it to be. What Jesus had to say is shocking to our systems, and sometimes our systems need to be shocked.


That being said, I really don’t think Jesus has a problem with people who love and care for their families. In this day in which there are way too many children raised in homes without loving and attentive parents I don’t the proper take-away from this text is to think that we don’t need to concern ourselves with the demands of family life. Jesus wasn’t making a blanket statement about the unimportance of family relationships. I think Jesus might well tell aspiring followers today to go home and take care of the people you love who need some attention. I don’t believe Jesus was an advocate of disregard for family ties, but he said what he said to the people who approached him in order to reveal the absolute reorientation we all need in order to abide in the Kingdom of God.


Jesus didn’t want people to continue to be defined by the role they played in their very traditional family situations. And he didn’t want people to follow him with the expectation that they were going to gain great positions in the new administration that he was going to establish in Jerusalem. I believe Jesus was short with these people who approached him because he didn’t think they understood who he was and what he was about. He didn’t let people down easy, and he did that because he didn’t want people to think it would be easy to go with him.


Jesus didn’t make it easy to follow him, but that’s not to say he doesn’t want us to follow him. Jesus wants us to get close, but he also wants us to understand that it requires conversion – it requires us to change our normal ways of thinking. It doesn’t mean that we are to quit thinking, but Jesus wants us to think about life in a new way. He wants us to approach all of our relationships in new ways and to allow our hearts and minds to be guided by a heavenly way of thinking.


These aren’t easy words for us to hear, but they are good words. Jesus was challenging to people because he believed that we can change and become more heavenly oriented. Jesus was challenging to the people who came to him with their normal minds and concerns, but he didn’t tell them to go away. Jesus wasn’t necessarily nice to them, but sometimes the loving thing to do is to challenge our normal ways of behaving and thinking.


Jesus is our heavenly home companion, and like any good guide, he isn’t just wanting to give us good instruction – he’s wanting us to internalize his approach to life. He’s not just wanting us to cheer him on – he’s wanting us to be like him. Even on hot dusty days when things aren’t going exactly the way we want them to be.


Thanks be to God.




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