This is my manuscript of my June 26, 2016 sermon. The lessons were 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21, Galatians 5:1, 13-25, and Luke 9:51-62. My actual remarks varied slightly at each church from this text.
If the Gospel of Luke was made into a movie, this would be the turning point.
It would start with a wide shot of Jesus standing on top of a hill, his hair blowing in the wind. As the camera zooms in on him, the music begins to build, until just as the camera comes close to him, he turns to face the camera with a determined look on his face.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
That is a very heavily loaded sentence, with some phrases that could be translated better, and with meanings that we may miss.
First, this is happening shortly after he was transfigured on top of a mountain. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shine brightly, and he spoke with Moses and Elijah. Rather than when the days drew near, the text can be read as when the days were filled, as in when things had been fulfilled. At this point in his ministry, Jesus had taught and preached. He has healed and cast out. He has fed thousands and raised the dead. All of these things point to that he is the Anointed One, the one promised to save God’s people. He has fulfilled what has been promised.
Now that the days have come where things are fulfilled, the days drew near for him to be taken up. This points to what is going to happen when Jesus gets to Jerusalem. For Luke, who wrote not only his Gospel, but also the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Passion, or suffering, of Christ isn’t just his arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection. It continues for 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Sunday until Jesus is taken up, and ascends into heaven, returning to God the Creator.
All of this awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. He knows it. He has told his disciples what will happen when he goes to Jerusalem. Now that he has fulfilled what had been told about the Messiah, now that he knows what will happen when he gets there, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. Setting one’s face towards a destination is what one does when you are on a mission. This phrase is used to describe prophets in the Old Testament when they began their journey to where God was sending them. Now it is used to describe Jesus and his journey to Jerusalem and the cross and the empty tomb.
Jesus sets his mind on what is to come. The events behind him have served to show those willing to see who he is. His focus in on the future. He is leaving the past behind. That is the connective thread with the rest of the lesson from the Gospel, as well as the other two lessons. Focus on the future, leave the past behind.
There is a connection between Elijah calling Elisha to succeed him as prophet in our lesson from 1Kings and the two people Jesus invites to follow him in the Gospel lesson. All of them ask to be given time to take care of things first. One of those whom Jesus calls asks to be given the chance to bury his father. The other, like Elisha, asks for the opportunity to say goodbye to his family.
Elijah gives Elisha the opportunity to say goodbye, but what Elisha does when he returns shows his commitment. He kills the 12 oxen he was using to plow a field, boiled them, and gave the meat away. He has destroyed what he used to make a living. There is no going back now for Elisha. He shows his dedication to his call.
Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem, towards the cross. He is not looking back. He is not slowing down.
And he doesn’t want his followers to do so either. He wants us focused on the future, looking at what is ahead, and not being slowed down or weighed down by the past.
This actually works well for understanding the importance of forgiving others. If we are future focused, we won’t worry or hang onto to sins or slights or wrongs done against us. On the other hand, if we are constantly looking back, we will see the errors, faults and failures of ourselves and others. Our past is loaded with sins and transgressions. Our future is unblemished.
This is what Paul is trying to tell the Galatians. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
Because Christ set his face for Jerusalem and the cross, the empty tomb and the ascension to the Creator, our future remains unblemished. We have been freed from sin by Christ’s death and resurrection. We are freed to be free to share God’s love with others. We were not freed from sin to take advantage of it and worry only about ourselves. Rather we were freed from sin to become servants of one another, to share God’s grace and love with those less fortunate than ourselves.
This is as far as I got when I was working on this early this week. I had some notes about fleshing out forgiveness and trying to dig deeper into the rest of Paul’s letter. But when I got home on Thursday night from VBS, I wanted to see the election results from the Brexit.
If you haven’t learned that word, Brexit is the term for the referendum held in Great Britain on whether they should remain a part of the European Union (EU). It was held expecting it to fail, but as a way for those who had a gripe about the give and take of that economic, political and cultural union to have their say.
In a surprise to even those who supported leaving the EU, it passed.
That is why the stock market dropped dramatically on Friday, why the English pound is at record lows, and why Scotland is beginning discussions about leaving the United Kingdom. Despite all of the Troubles between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, dating back since there were Catholics and Protestants, the two countries are talking about becoming one so they can stay in the EU>
Because of worries about how Great Britain leaving the EU will affect business and commerce, stock and commodity prices dropped $2 TRILLION dollars in one day. Please never think that your vote does not matter.
On Friday morning, I was reading some of the coverage and one of my churchy online friends posted a graphic from the post-election coverage. It was a breakdown of the vote, yes or no, but strictly by age.
For those 18-24, they voted 75% to 25% to stay a part of the EU. Part of being a part of the EU means that you are considered a citizen of all EU countries, and so you could go to university anywhere, work anywhere. These young adults had begun to plan their lives with that possibility.
Those 25-50 voted 55% to 45% to stay. They are working and living in these diverse conditions. They have become accustomed to being able to travel and work throughout Europe.
Those 51-65 voted to leave by 55-45, and those over 65 voted to leave 60% to 40%. They were afraid of the changes that living in the EU were causing to the UK.
The graph linked to an article where young people in England are complaining that their parents, but especially their grandparents, have stolen their future. The plans and opportunities they wanted to have are probably no longer going to exist. It will depend upon what can be negotiated in a highly charged political environment.
After posting the graph, my friend asked, “What do these numbers say to us in the church?”
I thought about what the congregations I would see this Sunday would look like. Like most churches, the majority of the people in worship or involved in the church are in the 65 or over group. The numbers in each group go down each step. That isn’t always the case, and may not be the case here. But if not, it is pretty close. It is either true, or very close to being true for each of the church councils.
The young adults of the UK are complaining that it isn’t fair that they are going to be forced to live in a situation they don’t want, forced into it by people who won’t have to suffer long under these changes. But that is the nature of a democracy; one person, one vote.
Our church is not a democracy. But decisions are made by those who show up, and changes have long term impact.
If we want the church to have a future, if we want to be future and forward focused as Christ commands, what decisions do we have to make? What things may we have to do that some may not like, but are for the greater and long-term good?
How can we use our past as a firm foundation, a mighty fortress, to build off of and upon?
What are the things we need to do to make sure there is a church for our younger people?
What are the things we need to do to attract our younger people to church?
If you're waiting for me to unveil a list, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I have some ideas, but like the ideas for the Brexit, they are not totally thought through. I ask you to thoughtfully and prayerfully think about how this generation can best hand over the church to succeeding generations.
Does it mean doing things against what we prefer to make things more acceptable and important for others? Does it mean making sacrifices? Does it mean going to new places? Does it mean the church should die so it can be raised again as Christ was?
I don't know, but I'm not ready to say anything should be taken off of the table.
I don’t have answers. I have some ideas. But this your church. If we are to set our sights on the future, we must have a goal in mind. Christ set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross.
Where are we setting our face?
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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