This morning we continue along the way of our Lenten pilgrimage…In the gospel lesson we hear that Jesus encounters obstacles along his way…I think we must expect to have similar issues. Sometimes the obstacles we face come from other people…Sometimes circumstances get in our way. How do we make our way around such obstacles?
The first thing I wonder about today’s gospel is why did those Pharisees come to warn Jesus that Herod was out to get him? Jesus is openly critical of their leadership and he makes no secret that he thinks the Pharisees have failed in their duties to God…They are not too happy about all of this and it seems unlikely that they really care about Jesus’ well-being. It makes me think they may have ulterior motives. Could it be these Pharisees are really in cahoots with Herod, hoping to steer Jesus away? We can’t know if this is true, but Jesus seems to think so…His response is aimed at both Herod and the Pharisees…He lets them know that he is very aware that his ministry is a problem for the powers that be…He is also clear that he really doesn’t care. Throughout his ministry Jesus was faced with people who stood in the way of what he was trying to…Certainly the Pharisees objected and tried to stop him on more than one occasion…But his own disciples had moments when even they got in Jesus’ way. Jesus always found his way around these obstacles and kept doing ministry.
As we do our best to live as followers of Christ we must realize that there are people who will get in our way…Jesus warns us that these may even include our closest family members and friends…In Luke’s gospel this morning he laments that his ancestral family, the Jews, have not heeded his call to be reconciled with God. Later in Luke’s gospel (14:25) he says that a true disciple must hate his father, mother, wife, children, and siblings. This concept is one more thing in our way. What he is trying to tell us is that discipleship involves great sacrifice…Not everyone will welcome your witness and not everyone will understand your devotion to God…People – even family – may think you’ve lost your mind when you make the decision to go to church instead of sleeping late…When you decide to spend your vacation on a mission trip your co-workers are likely to say you’re crazy…Spending part of your summer vacation working in poor sections of Cincinnati, Ohio is probably not what your friends at school think of as normal…Looking for common ground from which to start a conversation with your Muslim neighbor might seem like heresy to some of your good church-going friends. You see, doing God’s work won’t always result in approval from those around you.
While “hate” seems like a pretty harsh word from Jesus, when your family and friends stand in your way as a disciple, you must be willing to step around them to continue on your way…It’s not that you reject them; it is that you want them to follow and go with you on the way. We need to understand that God’s passionate desire is to gather all humanity closer and closer into God’s loving embrace…Much like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings to protect them…This is the mission and the dream that stands at the center of Jesus’ work…As followers of Jesus, this must also be central to our ministries. Gathering, reconciling, organizing a family reunion…that’s what discipleship is about…But, if you’ve ever tried to organize a big event with a wide variety of personalities, you know that a lot of things can get in the way. “We can’t invite those people because they don’t get along with these people.” “If we use those orange table cloths somebody will be offended!” You have to work your way around all the stuff that gets in the way of your plan.
Jesus showed us a persistent intent to bring in those cast out, to raise up those beaten down, and to bring those on the margins of the social order close to the heart of God…As we try to gather all of these folks together in the same room with the “in” crowd at the center of the social order we are bound to find resistance. We see in the Bible that Jesus was not always understood…People simply could not imagine the dream that Jesus offered them…Things haven’t changed much – Jesus’ message is still misunderstood by many people…When we try to communicate what Jesus means in our lives and do our best to follow the way that God leads us, some folks just will not understand…Our closest family and friends have created an idea of who we are and they cannot imagine the possibilities that God calls us to…Sometimes we just have to go ahead and follow, confident that God is leading the way, and take the way that leads around what other people think we ought to do and be. When Jesus laments over the city of Jerusalem, it is less a final judgment on the people and more a call to repentance…The image that Jesus offers of the mother hen gathering her chicks is not a threat of destruction but a promise of salvation. So it is when we must make our way around someone who doesn’t quite understand what we’re trying to do…By being faithful to our call we are demonstrating that we are truly committed to God’s plan…We hope that our commitment will help to draw others to Jesus, not drive them away. If we try to squeeze our commitment to Jesus into the host of other good things in our life, we show our true priorities…If God is not our first priority, what can we expect others to think of our witness? Taking the way around people who do not understand or who stand in the way of our faithful discipleship is not a cruel rejection of those we care about…Rather it is an act of love that calls them to follow you on the way to the best family reunion ever. Love somebody enough to take The Way Around…In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.