Luke 9:51-62 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Throughout the Bible, the calling narrative is repeated over and over. Often it involves an individual who is considered unworthy by their clan or by themselves, but the call, both in the Old and New Testaments, is ultimately unavoidable as is demonstrated in stories like Jonah’s.
Typically, the call to the ministry is reserved for a certain set of people, and usually neither the elite nor “most holy.” In modern parlance, they would be the last to get picked on the playground, or they might be the neighbor whom you know exists but always seems aloof or distant, or the one whom you just never expected much out of, that God chooses to use and to do incredible things.
The calling narratives follow a standard pattern of God reaching out to individuals to speak on behalf of God. Those who are picked often protest, either out of their weakness (Jeremiah), or their moral qualms over what God is asking them to do (Jonah), or forced humility (Paul), and so on. After the inevitable submission to God's way, the person who is called is almost immediately put on a pedestal as well as discounted. Nevertheless, the truth they speak is often foundational to the life God wants for us.
The calling story that we encounter this week is a bit different from the typical call narrative. In this story, we see Jesus setting off on yet another journey. As he passes through Samaria, Jesus is rejected from staying in the Samaritan city. When the disciples create a plan for retribution, Jesus quashes it quickly with a strong rebuke.
This sets the stage for three unique call encounters. The first is a man who approaches Christ, most likely from the Samaritan city, and petitions to follow Christ. Jesus calls the man despite the fact that he wants to follow, but Jesus points out that the inhospitable community has already rejected him. So while Jesus was in the city, no one offered hospitality, but now that they were safely out of the city, it is ok to join?
Obviously knowing the answer, Jesus turns to a second man giving a command to follow him, to which that man is obviously honored, but speaks of the obligations that must be tended to first, namely burying his father. Jesus essentially tells the man to abandon the dead, since they are dead, there is work to be done among the living. However, knowing the tradition, we know that most likely the second man chose to stay in order to bury the father. In a way, the man was rejecting Christ for the Law instead of the propagation of the kingdom.
The third man to approach Christ, obviously seeing what is going on, extends the offer with the caveat that he needs to get his house in order and say farewell. Nevertheless, again, Christ points to the terms and conditions that the man is putting on the call, teaching that a faith in God is a call beyond; to be tied to the past, to the now, is ultimately to reject God.
What Christ is pointing to is the fact that there is a cost to following God. And though he would pay the ultimate cost, there was an expectation that once we accepted his grace, if we truly had faith, we would progress forward, accept God and do as God said, ultimately not on our own terms but by what God has laid before us.
As you prepare for worship, think about what is God calling for you? And how might others know that you walk in the Spirit with Christ?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen