PROPERS: PROPER 8, YEAR C
TEXT: GALATIANS 5:1, 13-25; LUKE 9:51-62
PREACHED AT HOLY TRINITY, PENSACOLA, ON SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2019.
ONE SENTENCE: The gift of faith in Christ brings with both freedom and expectation.
Among the rites of passage that nearly all of us have likely experienced is the obtaining of a driver’s license.
I remember finallygetting my full license – on my third try. The other attempts had ended with less than full satisfaction.
But, finally, I was free! I could cavort about my home town of Meridian, Mississippi, go unescorted on dates, and cruise through the local Chick N’ Treat on weekend nights. Who knew life could be so good!
I was 15-years-old, and Born to be Wild was my theme song.
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Then, I learned of the expectations along with that little piece of plastic.
My little sister might need to go to piano lessons.
Mom may need me to pick up groceries from Burnett’s Grocery Store.
My older brother may need me to pick him up at WTOK Television Station after he got off work.
And there were expectations about safety: Careful driving, no speeding, hands at 10-and-2 on the steering wheel.
So, there was a combination of freedomand expectationwhich came with my cherished driver’s license. One might say, liberty and responsibility.
The freedomwas well-understood. The enormity of the expectationcame home to me as several classmates were killed in various accidents. I must admit, though, that on several occasions I “whistled past the graveyard.” I must have had a guardian angel – for which I am thankful.
God bless her, our daughter got the point about responsibilityearly-on. On the first day she had her license, she ran into a police car!
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We get similar points of emphasis in the second lesson and the gospel lesson today.
In the passage from Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes:
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…
My New Testament professor in seminary wrote a commentary on Galatians entitled, The Way of Freedom. By our baptism we have been freed. We have been freed from the jot and tittleof the Law, which governed the religious culture of Jesus’ time. We have been freed to live transformed lives that are governed not by strict moral and legal guidelines, but by the love which is to animate our souls.
That is why each of us – in our various moral states – is able to enter this nave each Sunday, say our prayers, offer our corporate confession, and come and receive the sacramental gifts of this altar.
Paul delineates the forces which can bind us to the old life: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
And he goes on to describe the animating forces of the new life: By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus emphasizes what Paul hints at – the responsibility of the gift of new life:
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." 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."
What Jesus is telling us is that there is an expectation of urgencyto the mission. Not because the sweet by-and-bymight come real soon, but because people are hurting, thirsting, grieving, laying naked, homeless, and searching in the world today.
So, it is incumbent on us – yes, even urgent.
Those of us who are ordained are to preach the Good News with fervor.
Those who have medical degrees are to bind the wounds of those who are hurt.
Those who have law degrees are to seek justice for those who might be without an advocate.
Those who have plenty are to share with those who have little.
Those of tender hearts are to empathize with those who are hurting.
Those whom life has blessed abundantly are to spread those blessings about.
Jesus said that no one who puts his hand to plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Fortunately, we believe that grace will absolve us of sins of omission – of not taking the surrounding world as seriously as we might.
But now we know: We have both freedom and responsibility. It is time to get behind the wheel.