Fr Dale Matson
The Sunday readings for proper eight are a call and a challenge to us who are followers of Christ. Do you still have that zeal, that fire in the belly? Or are you pleading with God, “Lord, restore a right spirit within me.” What does it mean to follow Him without question; to follow Him without reservation? How much should we be doing for Him and for His church?
*I think the Old Testament lesson while being similar to our Gospel lesson, tempers it to some extent. Elisha was given time by Elijah to put his affairs in order. In our Gospel lesson, there is a sense of Christ’s call being imminent and unyielding. Essentially we hear Him saying put everything aside and follow me immediately. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Wow! There is not any compromise in that response.
What does He mean when He states, “No one who puts his hand to the plow can turn back.”? As someone who has plowed fields, it means that you need to focus on what is ahead. If you turn back, you will not plow a straight furrow. You will get off course. In this sense, it is a metaphor for the Christian life. So much of the Christian life is about moving on; putting the past behind us. Our baptism is a fresh start and a new beginning. Those of us who were baptized as adults put our hands on the plow at that time.
It is about forgiveness and forgetting. How am I so certain about this? Satan continually wants us to dwell on the past. He wants us to live in the past and reminds us of our past failures and the times we have been self-destructive or hurt others. Was that just a random thought emerging into consciousness about when I said hurtful things to my sister or brother or parents? Satan is called the accuser. The Holy Spirit is called the comforter. When these thoughts occur, I simply say, “Lord please forgive me.” What Satan intended for evil, God intended for good. Satan is the accuser, we repent and Christ is the restorer.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? What is the cost? First of all I believe service in the body of Christ is a fruit of our relationship to Christ. Faith without works that flow from that faith, are evidence of an immature faith. But how much is enough? Would God say that you should be serving your church 24/7? I believe Satan would say that, for he likes it when Christians tire of good works. He likes it when they become discouraged and resentful in their service. He likes it when Christians burn out and leave the church. Each one of us knows someone who worked with great zeal for a time, flamed out and eventually left the church. Many of us know members in leadership positions and on the vestry who no longer even attend church.
St. Paul has excellent advice for us who serve the church. This passage is great advice on stewardship of both funds and time offered to the church. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." If you are not a cheerful giver of your money and time, then it is time to reflect on why this is. For each of us, there is a different kind and level of stewardship God requires of us. The level of resentment is to service as temperature is to health. If you are taking on more and more duties and your level of resentment is increasing then it is time to learn a new word, “No”.
In Morning Prayer one of our collects states in part, “To know Him is eternal life and to serve Him is perfect freedom.” Keep in mind that we are serving Christ in others. We are not serving others. We are led by the Spirit to exercise God’s gifts. Serve God and be free and find rest.
* 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21,Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62