Jesus responds to those who want to follow him
I remember when I was a teenager I had a great plan. I would finish High school and go to university. I’d get a degree as an engineer and get a job. I’d work at my job and buy a house and a car. Then when I’d bought a house I’d get married. Then I’d have children, maybe a dog. Then everything would be sorted. I remember when I left University and got the job and even the house – not the car though. I started thinking, Ok, I’ve got all these things done, but it’s not really how it works. When Helen and I got engaged we gave ourselves 5 months to the date of the wedding. If you search planning a wedding online, or get a wedding magazine. It will tell you by 6 months the only thing that should be left to do is taste test the wedding buffet. But there was no time like the present, and there was no point in waiting, after all I still don’t have a car. Sometimes we can get caught up in the idea that our lives need to be sorted before we can take the next step, but there are some steps we simply shouldn’t wait for.
Over the last few years, I have heard the same kind of message about us as a country. We needed to sort out our national finances urgently. So we were told. And to do that we would need to become austerity Britain. Lots of things were considered too expensive, ‘luxuries’ for a country struggling so much. Sure it would be nice to spend lots of money on schools, but that would have to wait. It might be nice to have a generous social services programme, but we couldn’t afford it at the moment. Hospitals might need more money, well maybe once the economy has recovered we could afford it. Refugees might be suffering and desperately looking for safety – but we are currently stretched to capacity. But it isn’t, and won’t ever, be the time to care for those in need if this is our approach.
In the Youth Group this past week we looked at a couple of the themes that came out of the Marvel film Black Panther. In it the secret land of Wakanda, an African country which has the most advanced technology on the planet, driven by an enormous deposit of the super-material vibranium below the surface of the country, but which hides its technological advances with a massive holographic shield. The Wakandans, out of fear of being overrun by those wishing to take advantage of them, hide themselves and their abilities watching as the rest of the world struggles with issues they have solved. Until, despite all their attempts to shut the world out, it’s needs begin to threaten their own safety. And they have to seriously consider a different tack.
Today’s Gospel, and the passage from the 1st book of Kings have a common theme. In the Old Testament Elisha is told by Elijah that he is to be Elijah’s successor as the prophet. Elisha rushes after Ellijah and asks if he can just go and say goodbye to his father and mother with a kiss. Elijah sends him back, thinking, perhaps, that Elisha won’t follow. But he does after giving all that he had to feed the people.
In the Gospel Jesus meets those who say they will follow him – the first Jesus asks for somewhere to sleep. The second only asks that Jesus waits for him to deal with something else first, the burial of his father. The third asks if he can go and say farewell to those at his home. To these two that ask Jesus to wait, he has few encouraging words.
‘Let the dead bury their own dead.’ and ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ For Jesus, following him is not something that can wait. It is not something that we are meant to think, oh well, when I’ve got through my twenties and had a good time, then I’ll follow Jesus. Or, oh well, when I’ve saved up enough money, or got the house I wanted, or when I’ve settled down, then I can find a conscience, then I can follow Jesus. No, Jesus is asking us to follow him now. Not because that simply takes away all those things we must deal with, not because the Gospel demands our lives to be blameless, but because Jesus calls us to follow him in the messiness of the real world.
This is not some good time gospel for when we have lots to be thankful for – because that time may never come. This is Good News for the here and now, for prisoners and captives, whether we are prisoners in jail, or captives of our own definition for success and happiness – our own understanding of being ready. We are freed to receive the fruits of the spirit: to love, to bring peace, to be open to receive the gift of patience, to be kind and generous, to develop faithfulness and gentleness, and to have self-control.
Because through gift of these fruits of the Spirit, we can begin to understand how to love our neighbour as ourselves. And in so doing we will be shaped ever more into the image of the one we follow. The son of God who gave generously and totally of himself that we might find love and peace.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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