1 Sunday, June 30, 2013 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Denver, Colorado Luke 9:51-62 Pastor Dena Williams The Holy Gospel according to the Community of St. Luke in the 9th Chapter Glory to you, O Lord When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but the Samaritans would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 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?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

2 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." To another Jesus 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." 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 to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, O Christ Follow Me Akolou. It’s a Greek word. It means “follow.” It occurs three times in today’s Gospel story. Akolou. Follow. I asked my family— “When, in the course of your everyday lives, when do you follow someone?” Well, when I’m driving. Yes. When I’m standing in a line for something. Yes. When I ask directions and someone invites me to follow.

3 Yes. Or from husband John— “When we ride our bicycles.” It’s true. We ride together often, John and I, and he always follows me. It started that way because I was first to take up bicycling several times a week. John came along on a ride. I knew the trail. So he followed. We’ve ridden that way for six years now. He follows me along the bike path. I ride more often than he does, but he’s bigger and stronger, so we’re fairly well matched on bicycles, but he always follows. And most of the time he does a pretty good job of following. I think he likes to be behind me because he can sort of keep an eye on me, keep me safe. I am happy with this arrangement. We’ve ridden several thousand miles this way, in Colorado, in Hawaii, in Virginia, Mexico, and South Dakota. There’s just one thing that irritates me about all this. If we happen to be riding a new, unfamiliar trail, he follows along, then, when we come to a fork in the road, he hollers, “Go that way!” “Go that way? You’re behind me! I don’t have any idea which way, that way, is!” You see, I don’t think following is John’s natural way to be in the world. He forgets that he’s following. I think that’s because he more often leads.

4 There are probably people in the world who prefer to follow, or, at least, prefer to follow in some situations. John is not one of those. I wonder how many of us are? There seems to be a preference in our culture. We generally value leading over following. For instance, companies send employees to leadership conferences.. I’ve never heard of a company spending money trying to teach people how to follow. We send our children, our young people to leadership classes and camps. We say we want them to be leaders. I’ve never heard parents state that learning to follow is a goal they have for their children. Akolou. Follow. It’s somehow counter-cultural for us in our time and place. Today, in our Gospel story, Jesus has resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. This beginning of the journey to Jerusalem comes early in Luke’s Gospel. We are only in Chapter 9 of 24 chapters. The journey to Jerusalem is central to this Gospel writer’s story of Jesus. Across the next several months, each Sunday, we will share a new episode of the story, on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus. And we don’t get to lead! Today, as the journey begins, Jesus says to his friends and to us: There is quite a large group of friends and followers

5 traveling with Jesus now and preparations for the crowd have to be made in advance. So Jesus sends his messengers into a Samaritan village to make preparations. The Samaritans, the text tells us, would not receive this band of travelers journeying toward Jerusalem. The Samaritans believe that God ought to be worshipped on a mountain near their village. They do not approve of people who go to Jerusalem for worship. This group following Jesus is, indeed, on its way to Jerusalem to worship so the Samaritans refuse to receive them. The disciples James and John get wind of what happened and they say to Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But Jesus turns to them and scolds them. Then he leads them on to another village. “Akolouthei moi.” “Follow me.” Wait, Jesus! Let’s destroy our enemies first. Let’s burn the village that refuses to welcome us. “No, that’s not what we’re about. We are here, not to destroy, but to build the kingdom of God. Follow me!” Wait, Jesus! I have to bury my parents. “Let the dead bury the dead. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Follow me!” Wait, Jesus! Let me say good-bye to my family. “There’s no time, we’re building the kingdom of God. Follow me!”

6 Wait, Jesus! I don’t understand! What does it mean to proclaim, to build the kingdom of God? Is that where you’re leading us? To the kingdom of God? “Yes, and don’t look back! Your hand is on the plow, look ahead, keep your rows straight!” The kingdom of God . . . When our congregation welcomes children to our child care center, provides families with healthy food, shares the stories of Jesus, the kingdom of God comes. When we study God’s Word to us from the Bible, when we serve lunch to and visit our senior citizens, when we care for the sick, the dying, the lonely, the kingdom of God comes. When we provide a classroom, materials and a teacher for English classes, when we gather for worship and welcome the stranger, the kingdom of God comes. When we welcome a child to the baptismal font, the kingdom of God comes. For it is in the waters of baptism that we become followers of Jesus. In baptism, today, Lyric becomes a disciple, a follower of Jesus, and a worker with us in the kingdom of God. God’s gift of love to her becomes her gift of love to share with the world as she builds the kingdom of God.

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Today we gather for worship, not for our own sake, but for the sake of God’s love for all people. We gather to be reminded that we are called everyday of our lives to build the kingdom of God. We gather to be refreshed for the journey. We come together in this place in order to go out into the world and follow Jesus. That’s why we gather— not to be here, but to go there, to bear God’s love to the world. So, we get up on Monday morning, and we act as though we’re in charge. We think we are following Jesus, when suddenly we hear ourselves holler, “Go that way, Jesus!” Jesus says, “Follow me. Let me lead, so that you may follow. Then the kingdom of God will come.” How do we know if we’re following Jesus? Are there signs along the road, the journey of our lives, that tell us we’re heading in the right direction? How do we know we’re truly following? When we follow Jesus, the fruits of the Spirit fill our lives as disciples, as a congregation, the fruits of the Spirit so fill our lives, that they spill over into the lives of others. When we follow Jesus, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,

8 faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control over flow for us and from us into the world. Whenever we share God’s love with the world, we know that the Kingdom of God has come among us. Akolouthei moi! Amen