June 26, 2022    4th Sunday of Pentecost

Readings: 2nd Kings 2:6-14; Galatians 5:13-25;   Luke 9:51-62

Our Course is Set

These passages are quite perplexing, confusing, even somewhat troubling. Two passages talk about leaving to go forward and one talks about staying put or standing firm. One tells us to love others as ourselves and one appears to be telling us that we should turn our backs on family or shrug any duties we carry. Jesus speaks about going home and honoring our parents. Could he really be against someone wanting to go home and taking care of business? God thought that honoring parents was so important that it is one of the Ten Commandments. We hear things in scripture about home, family, roots, and settling down, but isn’t that an American dream? When people come to visit, we use terms like, put your feet up, stay awhile, or make yourself at home. But what is home and is there a true need for a home? Jesus uses the term journey; we are always wanting to settle down placing roots to become settlers. Yet Jesus tells us to be pilgrims. God has a course set for us to follow, but we have a choice to go along or not.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve considered the Allegany Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia home. That is where my parents were from. Since High School, John Denver’s song “Take Me Home Country Roads” has always called to me. When I do get back there, it’s fun and exciting to journey there but Indiana always calls me back where I have settled. Even though I call it home, it isn’t really home for me. But what is?

When I first had the inclining to get into ministry, we were all too familiar with the fact that UMC pastors moved frequently. We had our own home the kids grew up in; Lyla’s dad had helped me make changes into the way I loved. I had this little oasis that I could come to in the early morning hours after work and watch the world come alive. Lyla’s stand was that we were not going to move, not even once. We had our family’s close by, Lyla was very attached to her parents, my parents had passed. Lyla was now a grandmother and was set on being active in Tori’s life. I had a full-time job so I could do God’s work part-time. Not ready to fully jump in with both feet. Classes were going well and as time went by my classmates were getting assignments to churches, but not me. The senior pastor at my home church was placing restrictions on who could do what during worship. I had completed three years of training but, I wasn’t able to be a part of the worship team. My mentor was plugging for me to help and trying his best to help me grow in my journey. I was ready to throw in the towel. After several conversations with the DS I was asked to fill in at a church near Sheriadan IN. After three weeks they did not think we were a fit. Finally, there was a part-time opening at a church in Wanamaker. What I found out was, that in Indy there were very few part-time openings.

After being at Wanamaker for two years, Lyla came to me and thought that with the traveling we must do every Sunday maybe we needed to move into their parsonage. That statement caused me to pause after knowing her stance in the beginning.  Two of our children were now living in Wanamaker which may have had something to do with that. But we left our home of 20 years to move and make a new home. We were kind of getting into this God line of work. We were at Wanamaker for 9 years.

This next part some of you know well but it bears repeating as it relates to the passages today. Lyla came to me one day, when I was down. I wasn’t feeling good about myself and my lack of being productive. My full-time job was dragging on me as well. As we discussed my attitude, she made an out of the blue commented, why don’t we go full-time ministry? This made me more than pause, this stopped me dead in my tracks. Our kids are here, although Chantel was moving further north, her mom lives alone just north of us, Lyla has a job she loves at Old Bethel. How could she be thinking about plotting an all-new course? So, we prayed and talked for about a month before telling the Superintendent we decided to go full-time. Then we were told they wanted to move us here, but that we could think on it over the weekend. Again, Lyla said without hesitation that if that’s where God wants us, then that is where we should be. We did not consult our family or friends before saying yes to journey here. God had a course set for us.

When we get to today’s Gospel reading, it seems to be a real tense situation. The Samaritans knew Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem, the Jews and the Samaritans were constantly feuding, so the Samaritans basically told Jesus to just keep on going. Don’t stop here! This upset the Disciples! How could they treat Jesus like that? If they won’t accept the Son of God in their homes, then God should bring fire out of the sky burning their homes and the Samaritans with’em! So, was everyone a little bit tense here? Including Jesus? We know that he had words to the Disciples for that comment because it says He rebuked them. Then we have these three who wanted to be followers of Jesus. Although there were some precursors before they could leave. Did all this exacerbate Jesus’ total human side and make him, possibly short tempered or just caught Jesus in a bad moment? Maybe Jesus was longing to be home with the Father. Jesus also knew what was instore for him in Jerusalem. Here on earth Jesus did not have a place he could call home, no real place that he could go to relax and rejuvenate himself. Maybe that accounts for His first response.

Then we have the next two people come to Jesus stating they wanted to follow him. However, not just now. They had things they needed to take care of first before they could follow. They needed to go back first. Then Jesus makes the comments of letting the dead bury their dead and stating that this person may not be fit for the Kingdom of God. Wow that is cold and not like the loving Jesus we believe. Then again maybe Jesus wasn’t being short-tempered or tense. Maybe he saw something in them that resonates in all of us. We all long for things the way they used to be. We are always looking back toward the Good ole days through nostalgia or wishing. Home may not be found by standing still or going backwards. Truth be known those good ole days were not as good as we want to remember, there were troubles brewing even then. Another thought is that they wanted their cake and eat it too. Is it possible that the first one when he said he would go where Jesus went, was he only looking at the destination and not the journey? The other two placed conditions before following. Had they just said yes to following Jesus, he might have sent them to prepare for the journey.

Elijah and Elisha journeyed, according to commentators, on his last day on earth a mere 23 miles. That is a hefty hike for a final day! Why did Elisha stay with him all those miles? Elijah kept telling this boy to stay behind. Maybe Elijah was testing him to see if he meant what he said. Or maybe he was trying to lose this pesty boy. Maybe Elisha wanted quality time with Elijah. All the places they traveled had significance to the Jewish people. There was a sense of God’s presence in each place. It was a journey to be home, home with God.

Our faith journey is just that, a journey. We are constantly moving forward. We can never go back to the way things used to be because we would lose what we have gained. We find ourselves retracing our steps and revisiting different stages of and on our journey. The Grace of God and the mantle of those we have as mentors in the faith we will find our way to the true Home of God. We are heading home, and home is where God is. Several of you have stated that this place, this church feels like home. That is because the presence of God is in this place.

God has called all of us here. He has called all of us to witness our story to others that they too may follow. We can’t wait to follow, put conditions on following, or give excuses before following. We must follow at His calling. Yet, He has called each of us to different tasks. We all have different testimonies. We are all at different points in our faith journey. Yes we long for the days when these pews were filled with our friends and mentors. But those days are gone and back in the past. Some of our mentors are now in the presence of the Lord. Songs from Carla Gross are silent but did touch our ears, prayers from Carolyn Gernentz only ring in our hearts, the wood working of Ike Wasson can no longer be done but his faithfulness guides our path, storytelling by Gladys Simmons cannot be heard but the history is still before our eyes. The list of mentors goes on and on. Every one of those mentors did not just magically appear, someone had to take time to share their story of God’s calling. The only way to fill these pews again is going out and answering the call of God to bring the Gospel to the lost. Share what God has done for you and what God can do for the world. That means bringing in the ones God has called to be His children. How are you going to be a mentor to bring in the new Ikes, Carla, Carolyn and Gladys? By sharing your story! Telling those who do not know Jesus what he has done for you, and what he can do for them. Then they can follow Him as well. My friends our course has been set. We just need to say yes to Jesus.