Pentecost 4 A 2023 One Uneasy Path
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s good to be back. Phyllis and I just spent two weeks “down under” in Australia and on several South Pacific Islands. It’s beautiful down there. I know, I know, it’s a hard life that Phyllis and I lead. But Phyllis and I are both willing to accept the challenge.
As I sat on the ship somewhere off the coast of New Zealand heading for Vanuatu and read the Gospel text for today as I sat by the pool, I was reminded again how hard it is to be a follower of Christ. And unlike the stress-free time we just spent in the South Pacific, following Jesus involves accepting the tension and consequences of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
For example, being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that one is a student. And just like the hardest teachers in school who make you learn the most, Jesus is one tough teacher.
Jesus does not just use words; He teaches by example. He does this in all four Gospels as He shows us how much He loves us as He feeds, heals, and sticks up for people who were left out or considered lost.
Jesus does this by loving His enemies and by blessing those who cursed Him. Jesus used His whole life as an example of how we should live and treat one another.
I think you will agree with me when I say that being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy path to take. But it is a path that will lead us to an abundant life. Like Jesus Himself has taught us “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Verse 39
And so, how do we then lose our life for Christ? We lose our life when we give up our old ways. We lose it when we let go of the past and cling to the New Life in Christ Jesus. It happens when we care less about ourselves and more about the people around us. It occurs when we serve others and put their needs ahead of our needs.
We find it when we let the pain and disappointments of life be wiped clean by the cross. We experience it when we let the Cross and our Baptism shape our perspective each and every day.
And none of this will be easy. Our old Adam will constantly get in the way. And we will be tempted daily to put our needs first and ignore the needs of others.
And it gets even more terrifying. Jesus warned His disciples that in following Him, they would probably be criticized and smeared. That they might even experience divisions even within their own family and quite possibly be killed.
And so, I ask you, “Who in their right mind would sign up for such a voyage as this?” And the answer is “You did.” When you were baptized you signed up for a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus.
And as the old gospel hymn states, there is no turning back when we decide to follow Jesus.
Just listen to the promises your parents and Godparents made when you were baptized. They promised to take you to the services of God’s House, and teach you the Lord’s Prayer, The Creed, and the Ten Commandments.
They promised that they would place in your hands the Holy Scriptures and instruct you in the basics of the Christian Faith. And that they would live a godly life as an example for you to follow.
But that is not all that happened when you were baptized. In our Roman text today, we see that our baptism is linked to Christ’s death and resurrection. Our old life has been “put away,” and we rose to a new life in Christ.
Verse three and four states: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
Yes, our future looks bright as Christians. After we die, we will experience eternal life. But until the day comes when we close our eyes in this world for good, our lives are lived right now in this world.
But know this… this world does not define us. And we can rejoice as we rise to a New Life in Christ each and every day. And we can joyfully sing out loud for all to hear “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
My friends, we can celebrate even when things do not go our way. We can rejoice even when bad things happen to us. Yes, our text states sparrows will continue to fall to the ground. And our hair may fall out. But our Father in Heaven promises us that He will always be with us.
And so, as you continue to live out your baptismal calling each and every day, you will learn how valuable you are in God’s eyes, and as a result, you will gain your life. And you will discern your purpose in this life as you recognize and experience God’s great love for you.
Let us pray: God of compassion, when we are weighed down by the burden of our sins, help us to remember that you do not forsake us, but show mercy through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.