Saturday, December 28, 2013

Opportunity Knocks--Are You Coming? (Luke 9:51-62)

     In the movie, The Godfather, Marlon Brando’s character, Don Corelone, utters one of the classic lines that come from the movies . . . do you remember it?  He said, “I’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse.”  That is the power of being a mafia don or boss, you can make offers that people can’t refuse because if they refuse, all hell is going to break loose.  Our scripture reading this morning is one of those sorts of stories.  Jesus, and ultimately us, is given an offer that can’t be refused.

     This story though has a lot of similarities of an early story that we find today in the Old Testament of our bibles—the calling of Elisha.  Elisha was the prophet who followed Elijah . . . the one whom Elijah passed the mantle to.  Elijah discovers Elisha out in a field plowing with 12 yoke of oxen—a substantial financial investment for that time.  Elijah “anoints” Elisha symbolically by throwing his mantle over him.  Elisha recognizes both the significance of the call and his own inability to refuse it . . . he leaves the oxen in the field, runs after Elijah, and asks if he say goodbye to his parents before he completely follows the prophet.  Elijah challenges Elisha to count the cost of discipleship and make a clean break with anything that would prevent his undivided attention.  Elisha wastes no time in following Elijah.

     Sound familiar?  

     Luke tells us this morning that Jesus is beginning to fulfill his prophetic destiny in obedience to God’s will—he sets out for Jerusalem.  It is an offer he cannot refuse.  This is the build-up to the climax of the story.  And, so, Jesus heads down the road.  Along the way he and the disciples encounter several men.  One comes up to Jesus proclaiming that he is willing to follow Jesus.  Another is invited by Jesus to follow.  And, yet another, proclaims he too will follow Jesus . . . but, they all have conditions.  One wants to bury his father, the other wants to say goodbye to his family.  Not quite the response Jesus is hoping for . . . opportunity is knocking, and Jesus wants to know if they are coming or not.

     Apparently there really are no offers that can’t be refused in life . . . or so it seems.  In the movie, The Godfather, the option to refuse an offer was acceptable because the backlash would eventually make the people refusing come to their senses before loss everything including their lives.  There would be hell to pay until the offer was accepted.  Luke makes allusions to this sort of thinking in the beginning of our reading when the disciples ask Jesus if they should ask God to bring down a shower of fire to destroy the Samaritan village that would not receive Jesus.  Elijah did just that to his enemies in the Old Testament.  Jesus refuses such tactics . . . but, from his responses to those he encounters along the way to Jerusalem, it is easy to tell that he is not happy with their refusal to drop everything and follow him.

     Last week, I mentioned that when it comes to issues and problems in our lives . . . we can run, but we can’t hide.  Life issues and problems dog us until we deal with them.  So it is with following the call of God upon our lives . . . God will pursue us until we can no longer refuse.

     In seminary both the wife and I were not the “typical” ministerial candidates.  The average age of our seminary classmates was in their late 30s, we were 21.  Many of them were coming back to school after having other careers and jobs, we were fresh out of college and just continuing on up the academic ladder.  The only thing that we had in common with our classmates was the fact that we were all pursuing God’s call upon our lives to be ministers.  Over and over again I heard their stories, how they had heard the call of God early in their lives, but chose to do something else . . . but, God wouldn’t quit pursuing them . . . wouldn’t quit knocking on their doors, until they could no longer refuse.  They dropped everything and came to seminary.  God is like that . . . God will pursue you until you can no longer refuse. 

     This is important stuff, this following of Jesus . . . life-changing stuff.  It is not something that can be put off and picked up later . . . no, there is a sense of urgency in following Jesus . . . there is a lot of work that needs to get done.  When Jesus tags you, you better be ready to play.  Answer the call.

     Opportunity is knocking—are you coming?  That is the question that Jesus is asking and what he gets in return is a lot of “yes, but” answers.  I’m too young . . . I want to live a little before sacrificing everything . . . I want to say goodbye to my family and friends . . . I’m too old . . . too rich . . . too poor.  I’m not smart enough, strong enough, wise enough.  Yes, Jesus, I want to follow you . . . but tomorrow.  Isn’t that what the guy is doing when he wants to go home to bury his father?  Isn’t that what the guy is doing when he wants to go home and tell his family goodbye?  Isn’t that what we do . . . yes, but?

     Well, that doesn’t get the job done.  That does not fulfill God’s will.  And, because it doesn’t get the job done or fulfill God’s will, God will continue to pursue each and everyone us until we accept the offer.  To love the Lord with our whole being, and to love one another . . . to bring fulfillment to God’s Kingdom in this time and place.  So what are you going to do?  Opportunity is knocking . . . are you coming?  Amen.

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