"Lord, first let me go bury my
father." But Jesus replied, "Follow me, and let the dead bury
their own dead." Wow, harsh words. Doesn't make Jesus sound
like a loving person at all, does it? What was Jesus doing,
didn't he care about his new disciple?
Well in truth we don't know what the
exact situation was with the disciple Jesus was talking to.
It's possible this disciple wasn't asking permission to go to
his father's funeral, but rather was putting off following
Jesus until his earthly father did die.
Or perhaps the disciple was the first
born son and wanted to be sure to claim his inheritance. Maybe
the disciple was afraid, and didn't want to face his father's
wrath if he left the family business to follow an itinerant
preacher. But whether his concern was financial security,
family approval, or something else, it's clear he didn't want
to commit himself to Jesus just yet. It seems the disciple may
have been willing to follow Jesus, but only on his terms. Any
of this sound familiar? How many times have we found reasons
not to follow our heart, how many times have we turned and run
the other way when we've seen Jesus coming towards us, knowing
that he's going to ask us to do something, that we don't
necessarily want to do.
After reading our gospel earlier this
week and pondering over what it means to truly follow Jesus I
was reminded of a story of a man whom God was calling to the
ordained ministry. The call process lasted for years but the
man ignored God, until one day the call came so loud and clear
the man had no choice but to succumb to the will of God. No
longer could he put off God and live with peace.
You see for several years this man
used every excuse possible to justify to God why following him
into the ministry at that time was not possible. The man used
- I can't afford to live on the
salary of a pastor"
- I need to save money for my kids
- How will I fund my retirement
- I like my house I don't want to
have to move
- I'm not a good speaker
- I don't like being around so many
And so on, and so on.
Then one day God confronted the man
and said, "'I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose
garden,' I never said following me would be easy, but I'm
calling you to set aside all these other things for something
more demanding then you've ever experienced, I'm calling you
to sacrifice for my sake, I'm calling you to make a difference
in my kingdom, so will you come?"
Doesn't sound real appealing, but
after prayerful discernment, I finally said yes!
Although this is part of my story I'm
sure many of you can relate to it in your own personal way.
I'm sure there are many stories you could share that will tell
of sacrifice, that tell of humble obedience, that tell of
God's mercies on your lives as you have strived to put aside
other things to follow Jesus.
You know Jesus tells us that to follow
him may mean we need to make a sacrifice or two, but I really
wonder if we know what it means to sacrifice. Often times what
we consider a sacrifice really isn't a sacrifice at all. You
want me to give up going out to dinner twice a week? You want
me to give up my weekly trip to the nail salon? You want me to
buy a used car? Something to think about isn't it?
Now I think it's fair to say that
Jesus was always very direct with those he wanted to follow
him. He didn't mix words, and he didn't make false promises.
He made sure that his disciples counted the cost and set aside
any conditions or distractions they might have in following
him. Jesus demanded full-time commitment and loyalty to his
Jesus makes it clear in our gospel
reading today that even family loyalty was to take a back seat
to following Him. And as we encounter Jesus today in our
scripture, we also encounter his statement, "Follow me, and
let the dead bury their own dead." This statement challenges
us to ask ourselves about our own priorities in following
Are we prepared to put aside things of
this world to follow Jesus when he calls, not if he calls, but
when he calls upon us to do something? Are we prepared to
spend more time helping his church, helping others,
worshipping, perhaps going to some far away place in His name?
We're not necessarily called to make
great sacrifices, but we are all called to make choices along
our life's journey, when Jesus calls us to do something. Are
we prepared to say yes, and to make it a priority?
Also the decision to follow Jesus
shouldn't be put off until we feel the time is right. Because
lets face it, we can always conjure up some excuse or reason
for the time not being right. I certainly put off Jesus' call,
and it's not something I'm proud of. It was easy for me to
come up with excuses, but it wasn't easy to live with myself
after while knowing I was purposely avoiding God. Nothing
should be placed above a total commitment to living for Christ
As Christians, as followers of Jesus,
we are called also to bear good fruit. Now to live abundant
fruitful lives for Christ may mean pruning things from our
busy days. Pruning can be a hard and painful process
sometimes. Often we measure our own worth, and others measure
our worth by what we get done. And we often times take this to
extremes, to the point of even jeopardizing our own health.
We're good at creating good things to do, but bad at pruning,
bad at saying no to things, which in turn moves us away from
God, and we're often times poor at prioritizing our activities
so God is first.
If you maintain a Rose Garden you
understand how important pruning is. To encourage more blooms
you have to snap off the old ones. And at the end of the
season much of the bush is cut back to encourage new growth
Well the same is true of growing in Christ. If we're going to
continue to grow and bloom, and be effective witnesses for
Jesus we have to prune away the things from our lives that
have become simply busy work, or unnecessary distractions.
The same is true within the Church as
well. We need to continuously look at what it is we do to
ensure it's in keeping with what Christ is calling us to do at
this point in time. Simply doing something because we always
have is not good discipleship, and we must prune away the old
things so that new and wonderful things will emerge and grow.
So we need to continually seek God's guidance and be willing
to say yes to Jesus when he calls.
No, God never promised us a rose
garden, but he did promise us salvation through Jesus Christ,
a gift that ought to be enough to convict us to say yes, when
Jesus asks us to follow him. After all the ultimate victory
has been won. We know the outcome; all we have to do is live
like we know it.
So when Jesus calls you to put aside
all things, or to reprioritize your life to follow him, will
you make excuses, or will you say, yes Lord I will follow?
Read other messages by Pastor Wade