Sermon – June 30, 2019 – Third Sunday after Pentecost

Let’s begin in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. +Amen.   

It is show time. Jesus’ ministry in Galilee has ended and he has set his face towards Jerusalem. He is heading towards an arrest, trial, and crucifixion on a cross. His time remaining on earth is limited and it is ever more urgent to share the news of the kingdom of God.

On his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus is seeking disciples who will follow him and take up their crosses. He is seeking disciples who will carry on the work of the kingdom after his death, resurrection, and ascension. He is focused on completing the mission even if the disciples still do not fully understand who or what Jesus is all about. He knows he will not be with them forever and that they must learn to be the workers in the kingdom.

Jesus knows that the Holy Spirit will come to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples, it will scatter them to the ends of the world sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. The problem is that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. (Luke 10:2)

Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem and finishing his mission. He has a sense of urgency in recruiting new disciples who will continue the mission.

In our reading today, we meet three wannabe disciples who say to Jesus, “Jesus, I want to be your disciple.” The first person says he will follow Jesus anywhere he goes. Jesus calls another person saying, “Follow me,” but that person says he must go bury his fatherbefore following Jesus. A third person says they will follow Jesus after saying farewell to their family.

Jesus’ vetting process may seem tough, but discipleship is a tough job and requires focus on the most important thing – the kingdom of God.

Dr. George Caird said, “The most important choices in life are not primarily between good and evil, but the most difficult choices in life are between what is good and what is best.”

What does a call feel or look like? Everyone’s call is different. We really need to pay attention because calls come in all shapes and sizes. Some calls are for life – like a call to ordained ministry. Some calls are for a short-term project – like serving a term on the congregational council or a committee. Based on my own call experience, I experienced restlessness in my current station in life, I was bored with my job in corporate America and started asking questions and exploring what I wanted to do next. Many of my seminary classmates shared how they heard their call to ministry at church camp.

In our first reading, Elijah calls Elisha by throwing his mantle over top of him. This was a physical sign type call. Elisha recognizes the significance of Elijah’s actions. Elisha responds by boiling his oxen, throwing a party, and following Elijah.

As for my call, I was working in computers at NCR. I was actively engaged in various lay ministry roles at church, struggling with the question of “what do I want to do when I grow up?” at the age of 40+. The worship and music committee was asked to lead worship one Sunday while the pastor was on vacation. The committee looked to me as the committee chairperson to lead worship and preach.

Many congregation members asked if I had ever thought about being a pastor and suggested I was missing my calling. Pastor returned and said he heard I had done a good job. After all the comments from the congregation, I was feeling like there may be a call. His first words were, “It’s not too late for seminary.”

We couldn’t arrange a meeting for several weeks. In the meantime, I led another worship service. The Holy Spirit visited me during this second service in a way I still cannot explain. Was it a voice/vision/feeling? Whatever it was, it was very real. And the message was clear. YOU ARE RIGHT WHERE YOU BELONG.

Pastor and I met later that week and I shared with him that I thought I was feeling a calling to ministry.

Not every call to ministry requires a seminary education. It is all about relationship and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God with our neighbors.  A woman I had the privilege of getting to know and serve while on internship in Milwaukee, Ernestine, became quite the evangelist after being baptized. Ernestine is mentally challenged. However, she would share with everyone she met in the church building how she had been baptized. First, she would tell them she had been baptized. Then she would invite them into the sanctuary to see the baptismal font.

When you respond to God’s call to ministry things fall into place. This does not mean everything in life is perfect. What this does mean is that the big things work out.

For example: as I was preparing to move to Philadelphia to begin seminary my insurance company was unwilling to insure my household items in storage. At a fundraiser for a local charity I bumped into someone who was in the insurance business, one of the pastor’s wives and shared my situation. She said she could help me and gave me her card. Her company took care of my insurance needs while I was in seminary and beyond.

When you accept the call, you surrender, meaning you give yourself to the call and there is nothing else you can do than the task you have been called to do.

God’s call to us today is just as urgent as it was in the gospel reading and Jesus’ search for disciples. There is still much work to be done in the kingdom. There are hungry people to be fed, people in need of clothing and housing, justice to be sought for the oppressed. How will you respond to God’s call?

With life being so busy we can often be distracted from engaging in the work of the kingdom. This is nothing new. Jesus told a parable in Luke 14 about inviting numerous people to a party, a banquet, to the great ballroom, and the people had oh so many excuses why they couldn’t come:

  • I would love to come, but I just bought a new field;
  • I just got a new job; that new job of mine is so time-consuming; my job is so consuming, I just don’t have time
  • O Jesus, I would love to come to your party, but I just bought five new oxen.
  • I just bought a new camper;
  • I just bought a new boat;
  • I mean, I am busy; I am a teenager; I have track and soccer and swimming and baseball; I have all these wonderful things which are important to me; and I just don’t have time for you.
  • it is so appropriate to our family situation: We would love to come to your party, but we just got married;
  • we must go finish our apartment;
  • we must get our furniture,
  • our apartment decorated,
  • our home redone;
  • we are so busy being married that we don’t have time for you.

Jesus persistently reminds us that those of us who love the good things of life; those good things of life can get in the way of keeping our eyes on Jesus and the love of God in front of us.

The fire of Pentecost is still glowing brightly and showing us the pathway forward in the kingdom of God where there is work yet to be done. How is God inviting you to share in that work of the kingdom today, this week, and going forward? The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.