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Never Look Back

June 30, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 9:51–9:62

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 30, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 3
Never Look Back

Now when the time had arrived for him to be elevated (on the cross) he set his face flint-like on Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of him, they went and entered a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but they did not welcome him because his face was set on Jerusalem. Now when the disciples James and John saw this they said, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" At this he turned and reprimanded them sharply saying to them, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are! For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them," and they went to another village.

As they were traveling along the Way a certain man
said to him "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus sad to him the foxes have holes, and the birds of the heavens nests to dwell in,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

To another person he said "Follow me!" But he said, "Lord! Let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him "Let those who are dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Still another said "I will follow you Lord, but first give me leave to say farewell to my family."

Jesus said to him "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:51-62)

Last week St. Luke strengthened the church in baptism, and called all who long for Life to enter it by this very narrow, yet exceedingly gracious gate. This week he teaches us about the baptismal life – the New Life that all who walk by the Spirit of God live.

Yes, there is baptism but there is also the baptismal life that follows because no one is simply baptized but always baptized INTO something. More properly into SOMEONE … into Christ but that is not just a manner of speaking.

Listen carefully! When we talk about being “IN CHRIST” that is not a notion or concept but a location. A place. A new place. A good place. The best place of all. For to be in Christ is to dwell inside of God, and to dwell in God is to dwell in peace, and to be done with all that plagues us in this “poor life of labor.” (Lutheran Service Book #708)

It is to be complete.

It is to be perfected, and at perfect rest.

Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his flinty face, or sacred head – no place except the wood of the cross by which he brings us into this Rest.

And so to receive Christian baptism is to be baptized into Christ, into God, and in today’s gospel St. Luke explains what that looks like.

In so do doing it seems that he had today’s Old Testament lesson in mind when a personage of no less stature than the Prophet Elisha! hesitated to answer God’s call. Beloved, do not ever hesitate when God calls! Never think twice! Never delay! And never, never look back!

But though Elisha was slow on the uptake he did finally “get it.” And what he does next is “meet right and salutary”!

He slaughters his yoke of 12 oxen, turns his wooden plow into a fiery altar, sacrifices them to God and then gives this prophetic Eucharist to Israel to eat.

Said another way he burned his bridges, and devoted his new life to feeding the people of God. May we do the same, and may we eat the sacrifice of God as well, at this altar aflame with his wondrous love. There is no more pressing matter in our lives, Beloved. For while we make a living outside of these walls, inside of them we make a life!

In today’s gospel St. Luke records three encounters to illustrate the baptismal life.

In the first encounter an un-named man volunteers to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go!”

But the New Elijah wants no disciple who is not apprised of the cost involved, and so Jesus informs him that while: foxes have holes to live in, and birds nests to call home, the Son of Man has no place in this world to lay his head.

In the same way no one who follows Jesus is permitted to fall in love with this present age; (2 Tim. 4:10) for to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

In the second encounter it is Jesus who issues the call. But the man hesitates. He wants to put off what is most important so that he might go home and bury his father. But Jesus lets him know that not even such a sacred duty as this takes precedence over the Life that is the Kingdom of God. “Let those who are dead bury their own dead,” says Jesus, “but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

What kingdom? The one that we are proclaiming at this present hour!

Lastly St. Luke tells us about another recruit who declares his hesitant love for Jesus with the words, “I will follow you Lord, but ….

It does not matter what comes after that “BUT” be it duty sacred or secular the Lord's answer is the same: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." Because as the Lord set his face, like flint, on Jerusalem, where he would be prosecuted and punished for our transgressions – even so we must set ours on the New Jerusalem, and upon the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.

But in case we still do not have a perfect picture of what that means the church places two catalogues before our eyes today. A catalogue of virtue, and a catalogue of vice.

Vice comes to us naturally and we need no instruction in it, but we do need strength to avoid it and so St. Paul gives us the list: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissentions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and like things.” And to the list he adds this sobering admonition. “I warn you as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

But he also names the virtues that baptism calls forth which St. Paul terms: the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law, and those who belong to Christ Jesus (that’s baptism) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

And so if we live by the Spirit O Regenerate Bride, let us also walk by the Spirit, in this Holy Communion every day, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.