Monday, June 28, 2010

Setting Our Face Towards the Horizon

Before a child turns one they have to have their car seats in facing away from the front out the back window.
One day I picked up another pastor friend of mine with my daughter Phoebe in the back in her car seat looking out the back window.
He looked at her and said, “Reminds me of my congregation knows where they have been but has no idea of where they are going.”
Jesus this morning in the Gospel reminds us that Christianity is a forward looking faith.
It is a faith that sets its face towards the future.
Not our future but God’s future, and then it does not look back.
It does not retreat to take care of old business left undone like the man who wanted to go and bury his father.
It does not allow us to look back at old grievousness done to us, like the village of Samaritans that reject Jesus.
It does not allow us to recount the things that we have lost, like the man who Jesus warns about not having anything left when we follows him.
Following Jesus means setting our face towards the horizon, towards the future action of God.

The Bible was not merely written for Pastors.
It was written for everyday Christians like yourselves trying to figure out how to follow Jesus.
I say this because one might read today’s Gospel and think that is somehow about the calling of a certain few people to follow Jesus.
But notice that Jesus calls many people to follow him.
I want you to know that everyday Jesus is asking you to follow him.
Jesus is asking you to set your sights towards the horizon, towards a tomorrow that God has prepared for you.

In this morning’s Gospel Jesus has turned his face towards Jerusalem.
Jesus is not looking behind him to the early success of his ministry, but is now focused on what God has called him to do.
I want you to consider this morning what God is calling you this day to do.
What is the tomorrow that God calls you into?
How do you follow Jesus in your life?
We have all heard the sermon about making God the priority in our lives as we follow Jesus in faith.
We have all heard the sermon about following the first commandment.
We have heard pleas from the pastor about coming to Church instead of shopping, sporting events, or other things that pull at our time.
Usually these sermons make us feel guilty.
They make us feel that we have not given enough to church, have not been in Church enough, or have not made our children more Christian.
I know that we all have lots of things in our lives that compete for our time and attention.
I know that coming to worship is just another thing on the list.
So I am not giving that sermon.
I don’t think that is what Jesus is calling us to do.
Jesus is not calling us to add God to the long list of things that we have to do.
Jesus’ call to us is about making our entire life about God.
It is about God encompassing everything we do.
How are we Christians at the ball game?
How are we Christians while we are at the shopping mall?
How are we Christians at our Children’s play?
How are we Christians at our work?
How are we Christians when we are on a date?
At our homes?
If you have every heard me preach you will know that this is a theme I am obsessed with.
Because for too long we came to “Church” for religion, or for God.
But Jesus does not want our lives for only one hour a week.
Jesus wants our lives all the time.
It is why he asks the people who are going to follow him if they are really sure that is what they want.
Because it is easy to come to church once a week, sing a few of our favorite hymns, hear a sermon, drink some coffee, and then be on our way.
What is much harder is living out our faith everyday.
And that is why Jesus warns people that following him will be hard.
Not because we add Jesus to our long list of priorities in our lives, but because Jesus will then be part of everything we do.
And everything we do will be called into question.
How do we spend our money?
How do we spend our time?
What really matters in life?
What should we really care about?
What are things that we are doing that are pulling us away from what really matters?

This is why we are so reluctant to follow Jesus.
This is why we have a tendency to want to look back.
This is why we want to remember a different day when things seemed easier or more successful.
Because we don’t want to deal with today’s problems they are too messy and hard.
We don’t want to think about how God is asking things of us today.
It is more secure to live in the past of things that we know and are comfortable with.

When I was in Germany we went and saw a lot of really beautiful church buildings.
They were awesome to look at.
People would come in and take pictures of the wonderful organ, handcrafted altars, and magnificent pulpits.
In each one of these churches would be a booth with a person behind a plate glass wall selling programs, mugs, postcards, and other things.
The Church was not a place of ministry.
It was not a place where people were coming and going working on the kingdom together.
It was a museum a place to take pictures, and remember the old days.

What a shame.
I wonder about our lives sometimes and if we too don’t become stagnant in our faith.
We become comfortable about what we are doing.
We settle into a groove.
We look back and remember, but our faces are no longer set to the horizon.
We do the thing we did yesterday, we tell stories about the good old days, but we forget about today, and tomorrow.
I know I will fall into this sometimes.
I will wonder why my life is not like it was when I was 8, 16, or 21.
I will look back with fondness on the time when I was young and life seemed uncomplicated.
In fact the other day I was telling someone I missed the days when I did not care about the stock market did.

We all miss days when we were younger, skinnier, in better shape, more healthy, more free, happier, less busy, more at ease.
But today is the day that God has made.
Today is the day we are called to live.
And this day belongs to God.
If you are dying today is still God’s day.
If you are driving your kids to a birthday party, baseball game, to sleep over night at friends house, the movie theater, or whatever this is God’s day.
If you are fighting with your wife today is the day God is asking for your love, patience, self control, gentleness, and forgiveness.
If you are facing something difficult in your life today is the day that God has given you to face it.
Don’t look back.
Don’t dream of a different life.
Set your hands to the plow and look for the kingdom of God.
For in God’s kingdom there is life and life in abundance.
In God’s kingdom there is love.
In God’s kingdom we live to follow Jesus.

Jesus’ face is set towards Jerusalem.
Jesus is looking ahead.
Jesus is heading toward the Kingdom of God, and inviting us to come along.
Jesus is calling us to follow.
I am not sure.
But with trust and faith we take those steps towards another day, and an uncertain future.
There is no time to look back.
No time for petty retribution, no time mourn the dead, no time to wish that things were different.
There is only time to follow Jesus Christ in faith and trust.

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