My Sermon for June 30th was adapted from a sermon in Sermon Central. It was based on The Story of Three Christians…funny thing is that all three of them have been me at one time or another in my life.The scripture for the sermon came from Luke 9:51-9:62 : 51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village. 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I sat down to write this sermon and found myself almost finished with it, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning that this is NOT exactly what I was supposed to say…..so I hit delete and listened for the Voice that was I should have had directing me in the first place. When I first read over the scripture I noticed that this story does not have what it takes to interest today’s Christian…especially the younger ones. No one dies, nothing gets blown up, nothing really all that life changing. So I found myself asking….ok God…What am I supposed to do with this verse? And then God spoke to me and our dialogue went something like this:
God: "Karen, did you bother to ask me what I think of this story?"
Me: "Well God, no not really. Should I have?"
God: "Yes Karen. I think perhaps you should have."
So I prayed about it and the story began to unfold right before my eyes. It was a great story….in a way it was my story. It was my story from God’s point of view. There is a powerful lesson here for me….for us. The lesson is: “No Way, Yeah But, and Whatever You say.” These are the three types of people we are going to run into in this morning’s Scripture…and if you look at me you will see them all. Perhaps you can see them all in you.
These are the three kind of people that God has to deal with on a regular basis. So, let’s take a look at them….Scripture tells us that Jesus was on a journey to Samaria. (The literal Greek translation uses the word journey 6 times…so it must be an important word. Jesus is going somewhere. He is not a drifter. He is not a vagrant. He is not a wanderer. Jesus is the man with a plan. To put it in modern terms….He had his own VIP PR team that he sent out ahead to make reservations for the Ramada Inn where they would be staying, and the largest football coliseum reserved so that he can address as many people as possible.
So here we come to our first response that God often hears from us. No way! Get out of town. Pack it up and leave us alone. This was me several years ago when God first talked to me…..I was already doing things for Him and his people. I mean come on…I was a school teacher…in high school….I had done several mission trips to Mexico, Central America, and the US, and I had done ASP (Appalachian Service Project for 5 summers.) Was that not enough? So I found myself telling God…Adios amigo. I can hear God laughing right now. He laughs at me a lot.
Scripture tells us that he rebuked them…and he rebuked me. That saddest part of this scripture is that even his own disciples were not really sure who He was. Jesus was truly alone among these people who did not understand him. We find that Jesus shows us the way that God responds to people who are not interested in him… The “no way” folks, He passes right on by. He does not stop……He just says, okay, if that’s the way you want it for now, So be it…and many years passed by in my life….I did the work of God….just not the total Will of God. Remember though…..Jesus is the man with the plan. He is not going to beat the door down to go where he is not wanted. Jesus is a gentleman in this story. Just as he still is today. He does not force himself where he is not wanted.
Then we come to our second type of person in this story. I will call them the “yeah, but people…..”Their motto is Yeah but this…Yeah but that…Yeah but, yeah but, yeah but. This is another person that God has become well aquainted with. In our Scripture, in verses 57-62 it looks like Jesus is well aquainted with them too.Yeah, but… And that was the end of him. I can’t tell you how many times I have said….yeah but. When Brother Richard and his wife Jeannie asked me to consider taking a church four years ago….I had hundreds of excuses…I was doing God’s will…I was involved in the Arbor Praise and Worship service at First Church Alex City at the time. I was a lay speaker and filled pulpits as needed. I was a pastor’s wife…I had a ministry….I was the second guy about 7 years ago when Jesus said, “Follow me.” Very short, very direct. And my response was, “yeah but,” let me go bury my father. At the time I was dealing with a father dying of cancer and a mother with Alzheimers disease…..THAT was my calling….but Jesus did not ask me to do that….he asked me to follow him. Jesus said “follow me.” I yeah butted this time, and he was gone. I was the guy in our story…the one who makes the perfectly reasonable request of going home to say goodbye to his family. Come on…that was perfectly reasonable. Wasn’t it? Can you imagine trying to explain to your family why you took off for 3 years….or longer without saying goodbye? Well….once again…remember we are on a journey here. There is a time table. Jesus is the man with the plan. Was I going to be in or out. To quote a phrase from an old game show….”You are the weakest link. Good bye.” I have found that God is trying to tell us something here. He is not interested in our excuses. He is interested in our obedience. He will take care of the rest of the details if we will just let him.
I wonder how many folks who call themselves Christians are truly followers of Christ? I was…or so I thought….then one Sunday….I taught a Sunday School lesson….the scripture was Isaiah 6:8….and it literally brought me to my knees. I had nowhere else to run. That is when my lifesong became a story of a person who was approaching and wanting to follow Jesus. How could I follow someone if I was not willing to do what He was asking of me? It didn’t work. I remembered….Jesus is on the journey. He is the man with the plan. Did I want to come along or not?On my way to the Beach right after school got out….we followed another couple and ended up going a different way than we normally go….It was a God Thing. It was along those country back roads that were once the fastest way to the beach that God opened my eyes….you see we passed three churches with signs that had Isaiah 6:8 on them. We returned home a week later and went to Annual Conference the next day. Guess what? They used the verse at the Annual Conference. I knew what I had to do. I sought out Brother Richard and Brother Lewis….and told them my story.
So I have to ask you today….What are the two greatest commandments?Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. And Love your neighbor as yourself, or better yet, as I have loved you. Yeah buts get you nowhere. God did not want to hear any more excuses from me, Even if it is a great one. Just like he does with me…..God wants our obedience and trust. He will figure out the details. And he did with me….I thought there was no church who needed a pastor…..but there you were….and there I was….and now…here we are. God is faithful. Are we willing to follow what he asks us to do? There is the difference between a follower and a disciple. A follower is willing to give God a little bit of their lives, probably out of guilt, and then with a whole bunch of excuses. God has asked me to follow Him on the journey that he has set out for me….for us. I am now a “whatever you say” folk. To be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, we are not asked to be great thinkers or reasoners, we are asked to be obedient.
The disciples did not have a clue just who Jesus was, they did not have a clue where they were going, they did not have a clue about what was in store for them. All they knew was that this was the man with the plan. He is on journey here, and I want to go with him. “Whatever you say” Jesus. “Whatever you say.” And the verse that brought me to you….and you to me….8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.”