Moving On

I don’t know a lot of preachers who like this gospel reading from Luke very much.  It’s kind of got a mean tone to it, doesn’t it?  According to this text Jesus says all kinds of outrageously mean things, even telling one of his followers he can’t even go bury his father but instead should follow him.  What’s up with that?  How can that be cool?  Jesus is usually portrayed as this nice guy who holds a small child on one arm and a lamb on the other.  How can he be this mean?

I wonder if Jesus is feeling the pressure maybe?  That pressure like when friends are coming over and you have to run around getting all the last minute stuff cleaned up.  Stuff that actual friends won’t notice and if they do, well, that’s a question unto itself.  Jesus seems to be under pressure and no wonder.  Three years of preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God and he knows things are about to get very real.  He’s turned toward Jerusalem and so the time to share the reality and truth of his purpose here on earth is running out.

Makes me kind of think of the pressure of driving a large vehicle in San Francisco during rush hour.  Someone invariably has a question, or worse yet, a suggestion for my driving.  I don’t respond well to such questions or suggestions no matter how well meaning or accurate.  And I’m no Jesus.  You’d kind of expect some kind of unseemly response from me under these circumstances but comments like these from Jesus?

I wonder too if Jesus is just incredibly focused under all this pressure.  He is so focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to humankind that he doesn’t have time to mess with bringing fire down on the Samaritans who ignored him.  That hearkens back to Elijah calling fire down on the priests of Baal, a story well known to Luke’s readers.  Deny God, or Jesus in this case – same thing, and fire will come down to smite you.

Jesus has no time for that.  Moving on…

After telling a man follow him, the man says he’ll be right with you Jesus but I need to bury my father.  Jesus utters that semi-famous quote, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Now this isn’t even making any sense.  What in the world is this man doing out and about after the death of his father.  That doesn’t fit with Jewish burial requirements very well, I don’t think.  Maybe Jesus was making a comment to a random person walking down the road but I think it is another example of Jesus being incredibly focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to people and having very little time to do it.  Being seemingly kind to grieving people?

Jesus has no time for that.  Moving on…

Another agrees to follow Jesus but just wants to take a moment to say goodbye to those at his home.  Not an unreasonable request and really shouldn’t take long at all.  Maybe if there were 30 people at his house but even then, it wouldn’t take all THAT long in the grand scheme of things.  Just be a little patient Jesus and I’ll be right with you.

Jesus has no time for that.  Moving on…

No bringing fire down.  No burying the dead.  No farewells to those left on the home front.  This is serious business, this following Jesus thing.

Jesus knows the kingdom of God is serious business.  He also knows that his time on earth is coming to a close and he appears to be incredibly focused on what is ultimately important for his followers.   And to us.

It’s pretty easy to let the distractions of life get in the way of our faith.  I don’t mean the minor distractions that pop up in our day like needing to go get groceries when you just don’t feel like so you settle for cheerios when you get home.  I’m talking about the serious distractions that happen in our life.  Dealing with unfaithful people, dealing with death, dealing with separation.  Those kinds of distractions that are genuinely something of a thing.

And yet, Jesus reminds us today to keep first things first.  Jesus reminds us that the first thing, the first commandment even, is to keep God and the kingdom of God as the focus of our lives.  Whatever distractions come our way, and we all know they will, God must remain first and foremost in our lives.

As it happens, Lent is a good time to practice keeping God first and foremost in our lives.  Sometimes we give things up for Lent.  People give up things like chocolate, meat, alcohol, or Facebook.  Sometimes we take things on for Lent. A bible reading schedule, a new way or praying, a Lenten devotional.   Whatever we give up or take on let its purpose be to remind us to focus on God and the gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ. Let us spend the next 40 days plus six Sundays reminding ourselves to be open to God’s transforming work in our life. Because whatever else happens in our life, the reality is that we are indeed dust and to dust we shall certainly return but we are also dust that surrounded by the sure and certain hope of a resurrected life.

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