+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 9:58
Theme: “No Place to Lay His Head”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Jesus was resolute. That’s what the Scripture says. He ‘set His face’, that is, took His bearings and forged on with His mission. This resolve of Jesus was a necessity. Redemption would be accomplished in no other way. Jesus faced rejection His entire ministry. It was inevitable that it would be that way. The estranged creation does not willingly receive back its Creator. John writes, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”1 And the Lord Himself says today, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”2
The rejection of Jesus sets the tone for Christian discipleship. So what are we to do with the apparent callousness of Christ today? “Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’”3 Where’s the sensitivity? Where’s the pity? Where’s the gentle Jesus? Ah, but Christ discerns the circumstance. He knows the heart. He knows when discipline is more beneficial than leniency. He’s heard every excuse in the book. And He’s heard it more than once. His challenge is a radical one: Leave behind your current search for security, well-being, and fulfillment; and follow Me! Without Me all of your hopes will be dashed at death, if not before. Curiosity doesn’t cut the mustard. There are no guarantees in this fallen world. The time to sort out where you’re headed is now.
Left under the control of sin it’s clear where people head. We run headlong into conflict with the will of God, and that can only come to grief. St. Paul says in our epistle, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want…the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”4
There is little wiggle room here. The selfish person is condemned in the same breath as the idolater, the jealous person as well as the sexually immoral. With specificity that targets particular vices and thoroughness that covers a range of transgressions the apostle minces few words. There is little margin for error or scope for indiscretion. In fact, there’s none at all. And there’s not meant to be. All fall short of God’s demand for holiness. No exceptions! The warning is an unmistakable call to repentance. God justifies the sinner by grace and that leads to a total transformation of perspective.
Christianity isn’t just an activity of the mind. It’s not an intellectual assent to a set of principles or ethics. It’s not merely a knowledge and association with a religious history. It’s not just a framework for morality. Christ claims us- heart, body, mind and spirit; all that we have and are. The presence of the Spirit changes things. Our way of thinking, assessing, deciding, is re-orientated through the lens of the cross. We see human need not only as physical and psychological, but primarily as spiritual. That means our Christian journey is holistic.
If our pilgrimage is to be truly holistic it demands an honest reassessment of what we value and how we prioritize things. It means trusting God when He suddenly brings a dramatic change in direction. Think of Elijah today. His ministry was analogous to that of Christ’s. His focus was centred on the final goal. Elijah (along with Enoch) stand alone as exceptional figures in human history. They never closed their eyes in death. Elijah was lifted to heaven in a whirlwind, and as for Enoch, the Scripture simply says, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”5 Enoch was 365 years old. Compared to his peers he was young. Yet, time and age are relative. What is our life now compared to eternity? Do Christians reflect fruitfully on this as they once did? The Scripture says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above…set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”6 Yes, we know this cognitively, but do we know that this deliberate focus is part of Christian maturity? We’re not talking here about idle “star-gazing”, but about genuine Christian hope and anticipation.
Dear friends, the hardest part of our journey is truly letting God be God. We can’t usurp His role. Quit trying to made amends with God. Give up your games of negotiation, your efforts to retain some credit for your piety. You’re only digging a deeper hole. The conscience can never be pacified by its own efforts to please God. Christ has already done it. You cannot improve upon His work. The forgiveness of sins is a divine bequest. Every attempt to authenticate it by human means renders it invalid. His blood is holy; not ours. His obedience was perfect; not ours. His intercession merits an audience with the heavenly Father; our does not. His work of reconciliation is sufficient and complete. The power of sin has been defeated by His death and resurrection. He has gifted us beyond measure.
His promise of forgiveness is the engine that powers our Christian journey. When the words of absolution are spoken to you “this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”7 There is no lag time, no delay between the words spoken right then and there and the realization of the promise. The Holy Spirit is present and with Him all the blessing of the Trinity. You are His baptized. He sacrificed everything in resolute obedience to the Father’s will. He has drawn near to us. When God seems further away from us- as He often does in times of distress- then the relevant question is “Who has moved?” God never distances Himself from us. He is the seeking Shepherd, the devoted Deliverer, the Meticulous Messiah; and the tireless Curator of souls.
Jesus didn’t raise a political platform; He raised a cross. At one stage many were campaigning for His appointment as chief provider of bread, but He supplies a higher and holier kind of food. At every turn He endures our wantonness that we might have His righteousness. The One who couldn’t catch a breather grants eternal rest. He who enjoyed little tranquility gives everlasting peace. This Christ, who left no earthly estate doles out an eternal inheritance. He had no place to lay His head that our heads might be crowned with life. His was a crown of thorns; ours a crown of joy. All of Christ’s promises come to fulfillment. He is resolute. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
26 June, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 1:11
2 Luke 9:58
3 Luke 9:59-60
4 Galatians 5:17, 19-21
5 Genesis 5:24
6 Colossians 3:1-2
7 Luther’s Small Catechism