Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Pentecost

Galatians 5.1, 13-25; Luke 9.51-62

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, after enumerating the various sinful activities affecting members of the Church who should have claimed the Spirit of freedom, he goes on to enumerate the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

At a time in America when the news of the day is full of the sins of the flesh as Paul calls them, it is critical for we the believers to look for and honor the fruits of the Spirit wherever we find them.

I say wherever we find them because I have experienced many of the fruits of the Spirit from people who follow the way we call Islam/submission, from Hindus and Buddhists, and I believe that all of us Christians and non-Christians live out the fruits of the Spirit through the action of God.

The important aspect is that we live them not just enshrine them. I am reminded of this as we look toward the baptism of Lucy Isabella Pummer. Her parents were married by me three years ago, and I am thrilled that they want to maintain connection with our expression of the Body of Christ.

One wonders if General McCrystal and his personal staff would have been better served by self-control in not just their dealing with a correspondent but in their displays of verbal bravado which flew in the face of civilian control of the military which is the hallmark of American Democracy.

In many ways the McCrystal episode was about power and that is at the root of the Gospel for today.

If you remember: after his own baptism, Jesus was driven into the Wilderness by the Spirit and after many days tempted by Satan. He was offered everything an earthly leader might want but declined to use that power.

In today’s lesson Jesus is addressing the temptations resident in his followers and would-be followers. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who had the nickname Sons of Thunder want to bring down fire on a Samaritan town which has not offered hospitality. They want to exercise the power Jesus has delegated to them but people do not become believers through threats.

Someone, anticipating Jesus’ further rise to power, wants to follow him anywhere. Jesus lets him know that no earthly palace awaits his occupancy.

He invites someone to join him but from Jesus’ perspective he is stuck in ossified custom for to his father who is dead, it makes no difference that his son will bury him.

Finally, another wants to follow him but Jesus realizes that he will not be as committed to the ministry as he needs to be. He uses the aphorism: No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

To plow straight furrows one must be facing the direction of the draft animals, and the life of faith requires just as much focus.

Now is Jesus being heart-less or trying to keep the number of believers down? No.

But Jesus is making the point that discipleship—being a student of Jesus—requires focus, maturity, and commitment. It is not accomplished by the misuse of power or coercion. It doesn’t anticipate that hard choices will not have to be made.

As Lucy grows, she will begin to claim those vows and promises made on her behalf at her baptism. It’s valuable that all of us review those vows and promises to see how our lives are measuring up.

And while there is life and breath, we still have the opportunity to get better at living this life in grace—a life that Lucy will embrace today.

Amen.