“You are the Message!”
June 26, 2022 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan
When the days drew near for Jesus 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 toward 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.”
Homeless Jesus, bronze statue by Timothy Smaltz
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 plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus was clear about his identity and mission. Throughout the book of Luke, we see Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. His story is about his message to the world. In today’s lesson he travels with his disciples to Samaria where he is rejected by the people in the village. The disciples want to punish those awful Samaritans for treating Jesus so badly. How dare they!
But Jesus has no resentment toward the people who refuse to accept him and his message. Jesus has no animosity toward those who are of a different culture. In fact in last Sunday’s lesson from Luke we learned about Jesus going across the lake. He went from Galilee where he was comfortable in the Jewish culture to Gerasa which was gentile territory. He went to spread his message of love and healing.
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus moving on – looking ahead to the next village where he would interact with new people. As our lesson tells us, Jesus was always “turning his face toward Jerusalem”. He was always totally focused on his final destination. And he asked his disciples to follow him – to anticipate the future rather than punish those Samaritans. There are many examples of where looking forward is essential to survival.
The example that comes to my mind is Camp Nawakwa. It’s a camp in Biglerville that’s part of the Lutheran Camping Corporation. I am reminded of my days there as a youth. I remember fondly time spent with counselors who guided us so well, bible studies, crafts, journaling about Jesus, swimming, and wonderful friendships. But what I remember the most was worshipping on
the top of the mountain every evening. Our counselors read the bible and preached, and we sang hymns. When our worship was over, it was already getting dark, and we had only our flashlights to guide us down the steep hill. We went one by one, following our counselor and her large flashlight. There was no looking or turning back because that would cause someone behind to stumble and fall, sending all of us down the hill. We had a single purpose - to get down the hill safely and look forward to more adventures the next day.
For some of us those fun-filled and carefree days at Namakwa or any other youth camp are just fond memories. But we do not need to lose that sense of anticipation that comes with being part of Christ’s mission. And we have the fresh stories of Lutheran youth already this summer to lead us forward.
Looking forward is the order of the day for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus asks us to totally re-orient our lives so that our being – everything we do and say is connected to him and his mission. In the business world we are taught to multi-task and set priorities – the message of Jesus Christ is that we are called to live in the way that reflects Christ’s love shining through us. Our time and our talents are to be used to send out the message that Christ is for us and in us.
In St. Paul’s writings he teaches us about how we are torn between those selfish desires and Jesus’ call to follow him. The message of the world around us to accumulate wealth, to achieve, to succeed. These goals are not wrong if they are balanced with a life of discipleship in Christ. The glorious message of Christ is that we are free through Christ’s life to be the message of compassion for all God’s people.
As long as we study God’s word and receive his grace through the sacraments and pray for his guidance, we will be free. We will be free from all those things that keep us from being Christ to each other. If any of you have been with those who are hurting or grieving in any way, you know how hard it is to find the right words to comfort. Your presence – just being there can heal. You are the message of Jesus Christ.
Several years ago I served on the staff of the Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. The church building is located right across the street from the Library of Congress and a half block from the Supreme Court. We were confronted on a daily basis with the homeless, lost, and, lonely, and we lived in the shadow of the capitol building. We entertained senators and representatives at receptions in our fellowship hall. We visited the Supreme Court and met the chief justice. We had plenty of opportunities to spread God’s word to the rich and famous. (including some well-known movie stars.)
But our most important message – was sent to those who didn’t understand our words – but treasured the community we offered.
One of those people was a Vietnam veteran who had lost some of his brain and most of his spirit through drugs and other difficult life circumstances. He was a member of our congregation although most people didn’t realize that. (He attended worship and bible study fairly regularly.) Another was a woman who came by each Sunday – not to worship – but to assign roles to each of the staff. In her world, I was the “woman from the Red Cross”. She imagined the young man who was one of our associate pastors to be her long-lost lover who had “done her wrong” years ago. These people didn’t understand our mission, but we were the message of Jesus Christ to them. They knew that we would always be there, and that no matter how different they were, they would always be accepted by us. We were their hope for the future.
You see the gospel message is not just ancient words that were written long ago. The gospel is about you and me and Christ Lutheran. We are so tempted to look back and fret over what might have been. But Christ set us free from regrets. My siblings in Christ, Jesus always looked ahead – looked beyond the brokenness and failures (remember those Samaritans!) To a glorious resurrection! Because of Jesus Christ we can be bold enough to be excited about the future!
We are resurrection people – we are the message of Jesus Christ. Amen.