Monday, June 28, 2010

Sermon for Proper 8, June 27

With the recognition that a sermon is not the written word but what happens in the midst of the interaction between preacher and community, and with apologies because the line breaks and indents from my word processing document that help what's written make better sense don't translate into this blogging software, and with particular recognition that I strayed somewhat on this week from this exact sermon text, here's last Sunday's sermon.

The Gospel text was Luke 9:51-62.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God and from our savior Jesus Christ.

I love this
just the picture of what’s happening

at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus has given the disciples
power and authority over demons and diseases
he sent them out with nothing but this power
and they survived
so here, they may be a little full of themselves
'um, Jesus, these Samaritans are causing us trouble
and we’ve got this power that you gave us …
how about a little destruction … we’ll show them'

there may be a little nationalism coming into play here
a little inter-tribal posturing between the Jews and the Samaritans

but the heart of this exchange is that
the disciples don’t understand, yet
that real power and authority come from facing the cross
in weakness and in death

in weakness and in death,
the weakness and death of our messiah
is where we find freedom, which Paul reminds us of

For freedom, Christ has set us free.
and that sounds like good news, especially to our USAmerican ears
we love our freedom ~ it’s one of our most important values
freedom of religion, of the press, of speech, of assembly
so often we hear freedom, and this is what we think of
which is great ~ these are the foundation of what is arguably the best nation and system of government
but it’s not what Paul had in mind
for freedom, Christ has set us free
the freedom we enjoy as people who live in this country
is different and distinct from our freedom in the Gospel

to get to what Paul means here in Galatians 5, though,
let’s go back to the Gospel reading

he set his face to go to Jerusalem
some have said that this verse is the hinge of the gospel
that what comes after is substantially different
from what comes before
until now, Jesus is wandering around, preach and teaching
healing and working miracles
but everything after is focused on Jerusalem, on the cross
Jesus has a different level of purpose for the rest of the Gospel

and we see it in the whole strange ‘you can’t bury your dead’
and ‘you can’t say goodbye to your family’ exchanges

They tell Jesus ‘I will follow you’
without realizing what that means
without realizing that he’s on his way to die
even still, though, we don’t know their response
maybe they went back, tail between their legs
to do what they need to do
or maybe they realize the importance of this journey
and went along with Jesus, leaving the dead to bury the dead
what if they’re excited about leaving everything behind
and following
what if they do recognize the freedom of the Gospel
that nothing else is as important?

Jesus is helping us to understand something here
it may look like the rewards of following him are less than ideal
we don’t get to keep our stuff,
or our family, or even take care of significantly important business
we do get something out of following Christ
we get liberation from our affluence
we get new life, which necessarily means that what we cling to
will need to be left behind
we receive, from following Christ, freedom from what binds us

what is it that enslaves you?
what has so yoked us
that we are prevented from a life of radical discipleship?

Lord, first let me …
often it seems like this ~ “Lord, first let me …”
is our response to God’s call
‘follow me’ says Jesus, we recognize as a good idea
but there are just a couple other things, so first let me …

when I start to realize, once again,
that my hard work doesn’t get me into the kingdom,
even if it does have to do with my dead parents, or whatever else
I start to realize that this is where we find freedom,
in God’s death on the cross for our benefit
and this is the freedom Paul is writing about

for freedom, Christ has set us free

what does Christian freedom look like?
what does the life of the discipleship look like?
it’s about freedom, but not do whatever you want
which is what we usually think of
but you are freed from a center of gravity
around your own needs, wants, desires
and freed to follow Christ by serving the neighbor

Gospel freedom is a freedom from self for the benefit of the kingdom of God

entire point of Jesus is freedom in this life
from bondage to sin
from fear of death
from curving in on ourselves
so that we are able to serve God for the sake of all of creation

the stuff we want to do doesn’t really matter
and that’s where we find freedom,
in what does really matter

we have not, and cannot, earn this freedom
we have no agency in our freedom in the Gospel
but have been set free by Christ

no, you can’t go back and bury your dead
you need to follow me ~ this is my gift to you,
the gift of putting in their place and priority
the things of this world,
because no matter how important they seem
what’s important, really, is what happens on the cross at Jerusalem

on the cross
divisions between Judeans and Samaritans will be eliminated
so the whole rain-down-fire thing is unnecessary
we’re set free from the need to destroy
on the cross, the dead are taken up in the love of God
who also died in order that death has no grasp on us

on the cross, we are called not away from something,
but we are called to following Jesus

and this is a gift to us,
a gift of freedom in the gospel
which may look different from what we expect
but it’s a freedom which is more life-giving than anything we can imagine

in Christ, we are set free



1 comment:

  1. You really need the sound effect to with the "I love this" part. That really kicked things off. Before that, I really didn't "get it." Brought it back to earth for me. Thanks.