Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 30, 2019
Psalm 16 (CEV)
Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (NRSV)
Luke 9:51-62 (NRSV)
“Goals are what take us forward in life; they are the oxygen to our dreams. They are the first steps to every journey we take and are also our last. It’s very important that you realize the significance and importance of goal-setting.” 1) What an inspiring statement! There are many statements that keep the modern mind focussed.
At the beginning of this month we celebrated Dayspring’s 50th anniversary. We have lots to thank God for. Many volunteers, many people getting involved with Dayspring.
We can thank God for many rewarding experiences, and then sadly tend to feel like resting on our laurels. Much has been accomplished over the last 50 years. As we know, “resting on our laurels” would however get us nowhere. Jesus, in the reading from Luke 9 says “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (verse 60) and “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (verse 62).
This morning I plan to explore with you something about our bigger vision as a congregation. Dayspring, much like the ship by the same name of Dayspring, back in the second part of the 1800s, has set sail towards a bigger goal. What was Jesus doing, according to our reading? Our reading started at Luke 9:51: “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This starts a fresh new narrative. It is widely regarded as a pivotal verse in Luke’s gospel. It is the beginning of a major section in Luke’s narrative. It has been dubbed as the famed “Journey to Jerusalem Narrative.” The ultimate goal for Jesus, is to reach Jerusalem, the place of his crucifixion, his resurrection, and also of his final ascension into heaven. In a certain sense, Jesus is setting sail towards his ultimate goal.
Friends, we are indeed on a journey. We too have an ultimate goal. Where are we heading to? Where is Dayspring heading to? Coming to think of it, it is rather unlikely that we would be spending time every Sunday worshipping in this sanctuary as we are today in the next 50 or 100 years. Some of us might well be alive in fifty years. If I were alive, I would be 111. I might hopefully have reached my ultimate goal of being with God forever. Where would the next 100 years take each of us here today? How do we travel on this journey as we venture into the future, into the next 6 months?
The ultimate goal of being with God forever seems to be quite similar to Jesus’ ultimate goal of reaching Jerusalem. As we journey along with Jesus, we too might resemble Jesus’ disciples journeying along with Him to his ultimate goal. How did Jesus’ disciples respond?
Imagine yourself saying to Jesus that you are willing to follow Jesus but you must first bury your father. This is quite a reasonable request. Jesus’ answer is actually shocking. “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” What is Jesus doing here? He certainly doesn’t seem to be modelling any compassion as a grief counsellor. However, let’s face it, what Jesus says in the first part is very absurd. This might be where the clue lies. Obviously dead people cannot bury anyone, busy as they are with their own decomposition.
James Alison has a great response to these words: “Rather [Jesus] is saying: this piety of burying the dead is proper to a culture based on death, and has nothing to do with the piety of those who are building the kingdom which knows not death. Get out of the culture of death, leave it behind, and build with me the culture which is coming into existence.” 2)
The kingdom of God has greater purposes. Our lives have greater purposes. We aren’t meant to live for ourselves only. Jesus emphasises it. When his disciples point fingers at the Samaritan village for not offering Jesus any hospitality, they tend to be the ones forgetting that they themselves aren’t receiving Jesus into their lives.
Have you ever had such a situation, pointing with two at the other party and discovering that three other fingers are pointing back?
In a very powerful way we hear Luke painting a picture of what it actually means to be the Christian faith movement that follows Jesus. There is a definite goal. Jerusalem is the goal, Jesus’ face is set towards that goal. It is here that Jesus’ ultimate meaning will be fulfilled.
When we ask ourselves “where to from here” it’s helpful to see how God reaches God’s goal in Dayspring. As an initial Southwest Mission in the growing late 1960s Edmonton, Dayspring became a New Church Development by 1969 and onwards. With the leadership of ruling and teaching elders, five decades did not go by without pain and struggles.
God led us through many difficulties and will continue to do that.
Do we not perhaps still live in a world that structures itself around the deadly games of insiders against outsiders? I have a hunch we do. It is for such a world that Jesus comes to be on the side of outsiders. Little wonder that Jesus ends up being completely out of place in such a world.
Our purpose, it appears to me, remains as always, to make a difference in a broken world where outsiders still walk by, in search for meaning. The church on this planet is the largest movement of volunteers. We too are a strong force to be reckoned with when we spring into action.
Actions that we are currently including, have been the End Poverty Edmonton initiative, feeding kids at Richard Secord School with jam and muffins, helping the Neighbor Centre and moral support towards our Food Bank Depot. How can we step up our outreach and inclusion of folks from our direct neighbourhoods, at home as well as here at Dayspring? We don’t necessarily need to bring people in, but indeed to be open towards people we cross paths with. They are our equal fellow human beings.
Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. Let us keep our face towards goals that Jesus both intends and equips us for through God’s Spirit.
1) A quote from “Code of Living – 5 Powerful Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important, by Osman at https://www.codeofliving.com/5-powerful-reasons-goal-setting-important/
2) Much insight was gleaned from an Excerpt on Luke 9:51-62 from “The Work of René Girard as a New Key to Biblical Hermeneutics,” by Paul Nuechterlein. Currents in Theology and Mission, June 1999, pages 196-209, at http://girardianlectionary.net/res/pjn_luke9_1999.htm
Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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