The Rev. Linda Taupier – June 30, 2019

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The Rev. Linda TaupierOur gospel this morning seems rather harsh doesn’t it. Let the dead bury the dead? And No, you can’t go say goodbye to those you love…. We know the dead can’t bury themselves so what is Jesus telling us here? I believe Jesus is searching for those who are open to a new way of living into faith. Giving into total trust in God.

The Jesus we know is all about love and about moving forward, -forward toward God. Forward, resolutely we are told, on his journey to Jerusalem. He wasn’t concerned about the cost to him, only about the journey, even knowing what lay ahead He set out to do God’s will. He never looked back.

Life can’t be lived in the past, only in the future and this is what I believe Jesus is telling us. Our focus must change. We must change, be transformed.

We are on a journey with him. All journeys begin by moving forward and how can you move forward while looking behind. Jesus may sound harsh in his response to those who have something to do before they follow yet he makes the point of what it means to be mature in our faith. Trust now, follow now, do not be afraid now.

As Christians we make a commitment which means letting go of those things that hinder our journey.
We learn from the past, but we can’t live in the past. Jesus is telling all of us that we need to focus on what truly matters. We can’t say yes, but….
We are either all in or not in.

The kingdom Jesus is walking toward is not the one the disciples imagined. They saw greatness and power in their future. They didn’t yet see the bumps, or I might say boulders, on the road. They didn’t see or understand what the trip to Jerusalem meant. We know the story of what lay ahead, and we know Jesus never told them that life ahead would be easy, or that their ministry would bring them power and wealth and prestige. They just weren’t listening.

We are asked to make that same journey setting our faces toward Jerusalem. When we do this, we share our faith so that others might come to believe. We never know how a life may be changed when we share our love of Jesus with others.
Telling our stories makes us free to follow Jesus and be a blessing in the world.

Crowds of people were flocking to Jesus. People he’d healed were telling their stories. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? His disciples were in awe and were enthusiastic to be part of this new kingdom.
What would have happened if nobody told their story of Jesus?

When the Samaritans rejected Jesus’ invitation James & John wanted to bring fire down upon them, kill them. The temptation for violence has become part of our culture as it was for James & John, known as the Sons of Thunder. Jesus wasn’t about revenge-he was about redemption, compassion and love. He loved those who rejected him. Jesus teaches us that we have the freedom and responsibility as he did to love everyone, even our enemies. This freedom comes to us through the Holy Spirit – it doesn’t come from our own willpower. Jesus doesn’t force himself on anyone. Each person must come willingly in their own heart and he waits patiently for us to open our heart. Jesus shows his compassion by moving on toward Jerusalem. Oh, the disciples had so much still to learn. And we do as well.

When we believe something or believe in something or in someone, we want everyone else to believe in it as well. We think ‘take up my cause because I am in the right’. That’s not how this world works. We’ve all been given the freedom to choose how to live and what to believe. If we are true to the Christian journey, we are also expected to love those who don’t love us back. We are asked to accept that not all people will believe as we do. This is what Jesus taught at Samaria.

There is a lot of rhetoric lately full of hate. Yet we are told to:
‘Stand firm and through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment’, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When hearts are full of hate for ‘the other’ we turn our back on the Spirit, on Jesus. As Christians we don’t get to hate ‘the other’ because there is ‘no other’. We may not like the rhetoric, yet we are called to look at every human being as a child of God and love them. We look at every human being and see Jesus’ face. We see every person as our neighbor. And through the love we show in all times and in all places, we can’t help but to bring God into the mix. If we live by the fruit of the Spirit, we have an opportunity to begin to change the rhetoric. We can begin to transform the hate.

We live in a culture that gives us news 24/7 and ads that tell us how much we NEED the latest gadget, a larger TV, the biggest car. Often the more we have the more we want and the more we fear loss of our possessions. Let’s remember that everything we have is on loan. There is nothing that is permanently ours. If we give up the need for material possessions, we can focus more on fostering relationships and loving our neighbor.

We make choices every day. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. It can be difficult to decide what’s important in our lives. And this is where we ask for help from the Spirit.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives a very long list of ‘sins of the flesh’. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious”. I would agree with his list and I offer we might add some that Paul didn’t list. What about racism, sexism, homophobia, all the other ‘isms.’ As we live into the Spirit, we don’t get to judge who’s in and who’s out. We are all in. We all belong. We are on a lifelong journey of transforming ourselves into the people that God called us to be. Our transformation will transform the world around us.

We need to learn how to live into the Spirit. I look to Micah 6:8 for a roadmap:
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

And also, to John Wesley, the great preacher and the founder of Methodism, who said he lived by this one creed:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you can.

If everyone were to follow one of these, along with ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ can you imagine what the world would look like? Those who do live into this fruit of the Spirit have an impact on the world around them.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Love comes first because everything else comes from and through love. If we don’t have love how we can have any of the others. The Spirit first brings us love. What we do with it is up to us.

Amen

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