Monday, March 17, 2014

Journey To Jerusalem

Luke 9:51-62
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he 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 they did not receive him, because his face was set towards 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 he 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.’ 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 he 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 plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Today is the first Sunday of Lent

Lent is a 40 day period that began this past Wednesday --- a day that we call Ash Wednesday.

For those of you who were here, the Ash Wednesday Liturgy was created to help us begin this 40 day journey --- a journey that will ultimately lead us to Calvary.

Lent was created by the early church to help us prepare for Easter. 

The church felt it was important for us --- each year --- to go through a period of preparation for the Easter Festival.

It is a period in which we are called to fast, repent, seek moderation and focus on the spiritual disciplines. 
We do these things to help us reflect on the life --- death --- and resurrection of Jesus.

With the hope that during this 40 day period we will draw closer in our walk with Jesus.

For many traditions --- many of the practices of everyday life are modified to focus us on the Lenten season.
In the Roman Catholic tradition they are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday --- but they also abstain from meat on Fridays throughout lent (hence the popularity of Lenten Fish Frys.)

In our tradition, we have no official guidelines about fasting, but each person is encouraged to take this season --- and follow whatever practices work best for you to make this a transformational season.

The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are:
·         prayer (justice towards God),
·         fasting (justice towards self),
·         and almsgiving (justice towards neighbor).

However, in modern times, many people give up an action of theirs they consider to be a vice, or something that will give them pause.

In addition, some believers add a regular spiritual discipline, such as reading a Lenten daily devotional --- we have one available for you call The Sanctuary

As I said --- Lent began last Wednesday evening, and during the service you were invited to come forward and have ashes placed on your forehead in the sign of a cross.

As the ashes were placed on your head --- Ben said to you:
          "You are dust --- and to dust you shall return."

Strange words --- some might even say morbid words.

But the point is to help us focus on our mortality --- because unless we embrace the fragile nature of life --- we cannot fully live it.

So Lent --- this season of introspection begins with the words --- YOU ARE DUST, but ends as we sing together CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY on Easter Sunday.

As I said it is a 40 day season
          40 being a common number used in the Bible to signify important events
                   Moses spent 40 days on mountain before receiving 10 Commandments
                   It rained for 40 days during the great flood
                   Israel spent 40 years in wilderness
                   Jesus spent 40 days in desert fasting
Lent is not found in the Bible, but it encompasses Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross.

For Matthew, Mark and John --- that journey is a fairly short one.  In Mark it is just one chapter.

But for Luke it extends for almost 10 chapters.

Now we are not going to cover those 10 chapters the next few weeks.

Actually I am going to jump to Jerusalem next week and we will look at the story of what we call Palm Sunday --- then we will look at the other events of Holy Week as we lead up to the crucifixion and Easter.

And then later this spring we will come back and look at those chapters

What fascinates me is how Luke begins this journey to Jerusalem

Luke tells us that Jesus: set his face to go to Jerusalem

The Greek word might be translated as DETERMINATION

Jesus was determined to get to Jerusalem

And as if to stress that --- Luke then goes on and tells us about three followers of Jesus.

The first said to Jesus:
‘I will follow you wherever you go.’

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.’

The first would-be disciple that approaches Jesus claims he will follow Jesus "wherever you go!" He didn't get it. Discipleship is not about "destination;" it is about the journey itself.

That's why Jesus makes it clear that as the Son of Man has "nowhere" to call his permanent home, so, too, must his disciples be committed to, invested in, a life of MOVEMENT.

Only by continually moving along, keeping up and in step with the beat of the Spirit, do disciples genuinely "follow" Jesus.

Jesus invites another person to follow him but the man said:
‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’

And Jesus almost seems insensitive as he responds:
‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

Jesus' reprimand should not be misread or misheard as heaping disrespect on the dead or implying that fulfilling obligations to a deceased parent is a profitless enterprise.

What Jesus insisted from the very beginning is that his disciples be preoccupied with investing in LIFE, whatever the circumstances or situations they found themselves in.

Disciples of Jesus are called to invest in life, and walk away from the dead letter of tradition lived only for tradition's sake.

Disciples are called by Jesus to be
in the midst of politics,
in the midst of economics,
in the midst of social change,
in the midst of health crises,
in the midst of generational conflicts,
in the midst of the arts,
in the midst of scientific breakthroughs,
in the midst of the Internet,
in the midst of children,
in the midst of the aged
--in the midst of all that makes up human existence in this time and place.

Being a Disciple of Jesus means investing in life.

Still another turns to Jesus and says:
‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’

Again Jesus seems to be offering tough love when he responds:
‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

The third potential disciple who approaches Jesus claims he is ready to follow.

But he begs permission to go and give his farewells to his family before beginning the discipleship journey.

Like the second seeker, this man seems cautious before setting out on this new adventure.

As Jesus begins this journey to Jerusalem he wants us to understand that it is not going to be easy.

He almost seems to be asking us if we are up to it.

And maybe that is a good question for us to ask ourselves.

Am I really willing to follow?
Am I willing to do the things necessary to go with Jesus to Jerusalem?

Pope Francis said earlier this week:
"Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy."

He also said:
"Lent is meant to wake up Christians and help them see that God can give them the strength to change their lives and their surroundings"

Rachel Held Evans on her blog this week offered 40 ideas for Lent --- there were some great ones there but let me just share a couple.

She suggests that this Lenten season we need to ask ourselves some questions.

 When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different? What am I preparing for? 
  • Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that issue over the next 40 days?
  • What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t? Can I give one or two of them up for 40 days? 
  • Is there a spiritual discipline—praying the hours, lectio divina, stations of the cross, etc.—that I’ve always wanted to try?  How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines? And how can I engage all my senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—as I practice them? 
  • How do I want Lent 2014 to affect not only the next 40 days but also the next 40 years? 

Take some time over these next 40 days and allow yourself to grow closer to Jesus.

The Storyline Conference I attended last week was quite possibly the best I have ever attended.

It was all about how to write a better story for our lives.

Because if we aren't living a good story --- we can't help anybody else live a good story. 

One of the most powerful illustrations was made by Bob Goff.

He told of being a pilot and how one of the lessons that you are taught if the plane gets in trouble is to do three things.
1.          PITCH --- our normal reaction if the plane starts going down is to pull back on the stick.  But he said you need to pitch forward and go with it
2.          Second you want to PICK a point --- someplace where you can bring the airplane down
3.          Finally POINT at that spot and go toward it.

That is exactly what Jesus did.
          He set his face to go toward Jerusalem.
          He picked that as his place
          And he did everything in his power to get there

Where are you headed?

How is this Lent going to make you a different person?

May God help you to set your face and then have the courage to go!

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