Total Pageviews

Friday, February 12, 2016

Keep Hold of the Plow (Luke 9:51-62)

February 10, 2016 – Ash Wednesday

            Jesus “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  Now, there would be no turning back and no diversions or distractions.  All that he does on this journey described in Luke chapters 9 – 19 is directed toward his final purpose; death and resurrection.  Along the way, Jesus’ teaching and actions show us how to be disciples.[i]
            Jesus would not be deterred.  But we are.  We say we want to follow Jesus, and I think we really do.  But we get distracted.  Social media; relationships – good and bad; work; past hurts and disappointments; the stuff of life; the dysfunction in life; the abuses we’ve suffered; so many things creep into our lives or burst into our lives and vie for our attention, our loyalty, and our hearts.
            Jesus and the disciples are on the road and a Samaritan village does “not receive him.”  The Samaritans refused hospitality.  With his intense focus on Jerusalem, Jesus did not notice the breach of manners.  His disciples James and John did.  “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
            Do these guys see themselves alongside Abraham as he watched Sodom and Gomorra burn?  Jesus ignored the unhospitable Samaritans, rebuked James and John and moved on.  There’s no time to worry about the actions of Samaritans who don’t know God.  Jesus is on his way to hang from a cross for the sake of the people who don’t know God, like those Samaritans. 

Confession as a spiritual discipline helps us reckon with the things we allow to distract us.  Cancer; divorce; addiction.  We name the things that distract us.  We receive God’s grace.  Procrastination, unkindness, harsh words, withholding love; we confess.  Selfishness, greed, failure to help those in need; we admit our sins and receive grace. 
When we rebellion against God, it reduces us.  In rebellion we become something less than we were meant to be.  We were created in the image of God, made to be his stewards on this good earth he designed.  However, our sins have distorted and disfigured us so that the image of God in us is barely discernable.
Can we ever live into God’s purpose for us as his image bearers doing and making good things in His name?  Yes, if our sins are completely removed.  This is the accomplishment of Jesus on the cross.  I invite you to join me in journeying to the cross with Jesus in 2016.  This is a walk into God’s call for us corporately, as the body of Christ, and for each of us as individual disciples.  Together, we declare that will we turn to Christ, open our hearts to the Spirit, and renounce the things that distract us and draw our attention away from God.  This Lent our goal is to go deeper and reorient our worldviews, so that we hear the voice of God and see the world through the lenses he colors. 
The closing verses of Luke 9 give us our theme. 
There, Jesus sets his face for Jerusalem.  Samaritans fail to give hospitality, disciples want to hurl consuming fire as they ride their high horse, and Jesus has time for none of it.  Seemingly without stopping, he ignores the Samaritans’ social faux pas, chides James and John, and strides forward. 
Next, Jesus tells a would-be-disciple, “Foxes have holes, birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  You want to follow Jesus?  Are you sure?  He’s on a journey that ends with everything changed.  Are we sure we want that? 
Once we decide we’re on the move with Jesus, he calls us out of our weakness and out of our brokenness.  He calls us out of our pain and in spite of our losses.  He calls us to the path that he walks.  In Luke 9, that path led to the cross.
Today it leads us to die to self.  That peculiar phrase comes up throughout the gospels.  What does it mean to die to self?  To put it simply, it means I no longer matter because Christ is all that matters.  I won’t be a doormat for a bully.  I won’t try to be a people pleaser.  In Christ I will actually exhibit a stronger character and a more determined sense of purpose because the confidence I have comes from Him. 
To die to self is to say, I am no longer my own.  I belong to Him.  Can we live our lives that way?   Or do we prefer to have control?  That’s the question to wrestle with this year throughout Lent.  Who gets control in my life?  Who is the authority to whom I yield?  Who sets the standard by which I measure myself? 
We know we cannot measure up to God.  But living in grace, walking by faith, we know we don’t half to.  Our lives can be spent walking in grace, giving grace, and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God by inviting people to turn to Christ.  To live this life that God intends to be ours we have to keep at the plow and not look back.
Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  What is causing you to look back instead forward?  What commitment is keeping you from a deeper commitment to God?  What past pain has you ensnared and makes it impossible to fully give yourself to the Lord?

We’re going to pass out rocks.  Yes, rocks.  Take this rock and let it constantly remind you of the distraction that has taken your mind off the plow.  This distraction has your attention – attention that really belongs to Jesus.  From now until Ash Wednesday, carry this rock.  Let it be a reminder.
            This rock reminds us of the things that distract us and divert us from the course Jesus has set.
This rock reminds us to practice spiritual disciplines during Lent – fasting, prayer, journaling, silent meditation, lectio-divina, prayer-walking.  Choose disciplines that will help you see your dependence on God and help you receive the grace of God. 
This rock reminds us that the Holy Spirit is with us even when our attention is diverted and our focus is on things that are not of God.  Carry this rock at all times.  Maybe even sleep with it.  Let it be the reminder that the Holy Spirit of God is present and beckons us to receive and enter God’s grace and love.
We’ll bring our rocks to worship on Maundy Thursday.  In that service, we will lay them at the cross. We will look at the things that draw us away from a devoted life in Christ, and we will take our eyes off the distractions and put them on the Lord.  We leave the rocks at the cross as way of saying that we want to become who Jesus is calling us to be.  We want to see the world through lenses he gives us.  As we do, we pray that the fruit of our Lenten spiritual disciplines will be a deeper, more focused life with God. 
Pray for this – that many in our church will take up this challenge, will face the cares of the world that draw them away from a life of devoted faith.  Pray that many will commit to keep hold of the plow and to follow Jesus with abandon.  Pray that the discovery of deep relationship with the Lord, made by many in our church, will have a long-lasting effect on our fellowship and on our church’s witness in this community.

[i] Fred Craddock (1990).  Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Luke. John Knox Press (Louisville), p.141.

No comments:

Post a Comment