A Homily based on Luke 9:51-62
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Life is filled with choices-we make them all the time. Every day, every
week, every hour. To hit the snooze button or just roll out of bed. Should I wear the blue
suit or the tan dress? Return the phone calls from yesterday or answer my emails today?
Some choices are just that easy. For me, a simple choice is choosing between a bowl of
sherbet or scrapple for dessert. Ive never been a scrapple fan - not sure what part
of the pig it comes from. So sherbet is my knee jerk response.
But, some choices are more important and require more thought. Should you spend
much needed time with the family for three days at the shore this week or slave over
sermon preparation and forgo the outing? (NOTE: DesperatePreacher.com says "go with
the family and leave the sermon prep to us this week!")
We all make big and little decisions with consequences. But then there are the
really huge decisions that we must make. These decisions have life-long impact on us:
whether to marry; what career or college to pursue; where to live; whether to have
children. But there is no decision more important that we will ever make in life or that
will have more of a life-long consequence than to consider whether to follow when Jesus
Maybe some think that this falls into the sherbet / scrapple category.
"Follow Jesus?" we ask. "Thats a no brainer. Of course Ill
choose Jesus!" But if you think for a moment that answering the call to follow Jesus
is an easy choice, meet the three would-be followers who face the same choice . . .
On the road someone asked if he could go along. "Ill go with you,
wherever," he said.
Jesus was curt: "Are you read to rough it? Were not staying in the best
inns, you know."
Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have
to make arrangements for my fathers funeral."
Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And
life is urgent: Announce Gods kingdom!"
Then another said, "Im ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me
while I get things straightened out at home."
Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You cant put
Gods kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
No wonder biblical theologians call this section "the hard sayings" of
Jesus. The words do sound hard all right. "Foxes have holes, and birds o the air have
nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head . . . Leave the dead to bury their
own dead; . . . No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom
of God." Hard sayings for sure.
In truth, he is not being severe, but honest. To understand his honesty, we need
to understand the setting, the culture and the sayings of first century Palestine. Our
gospel lesson takes us to another country and another time. Learning the social customs
and mores of Jesus day will serve us well. I think you will find that the choices
Jesus put to the would-be followers are difficult, not easy, decisions.
The first person volunteers to join up with Jesus. Like others of his day, he has
an idea of the Messiah as an aspiring prince-waiting-to-be-king, not a crucified redeemer.
Though he doesnt understand Jesus version of Messiah, Jesus doesnt
reject him outright. Instead, Jesus shows him what is in store if he is going to follow.
"Everyone in Israel has a home," Jesus says, "except people like me. I am
dependent upon others for hospitality; can you live with that?" he asks.
Maybe the choice to follow Jesus is not such an easy choice after all. Remember,
that the easy choices are between the clearly less-than-good and the good: sherbet or
scrapple; VW Beetle or footmobile; Swarthmore College or an enterprising career at the
diner. All things considered those choices may lead you to driving to Swarthmore College
in a bug eating scrapple.
But is that what this passage is about - deciding between the good and the not so
good? Is Jesus asking us to choose between being a happy, well-adjusted, successful
wholesome Christian over against a depressed, socially maladjusted, unemployed person
recently released on probation after doing ten years in the slammer for assault and
battery? If thats what the choice is all about then what struggle would any of us
have? What a no-brainer!
This passage seems more like making a choice between the best and second best,
between excellent and very good - thats a difficult choice. Thats when faith
is challenged. Jesus doesnt hide what choosing him as lord and savior is about. He
doesnt want us to follow him with rose-colored glasses. Following Christ may cause
us to enter the very places that he walks, may cause us to stand in opposition to the very
powers that claimed his life. May cause us to say good-bye to Tradition and what others
think takes us along a high-level service and commitment with low-level pay backs.
Dixie, my wife, was recently leading a high school class in a discussion about how
God is creator and sovereign of the earth. The discussion then moved to Christ as savior
and lord of our lives. Then Dixie walked over to the flipchart and wrote in big letters
this question, "What does it mean to say Jesus is Lord of my life?"
Several good responses followed. She knew that at least one student was beginning
understand the ramifications of Jesus as Lord when Anna interrupted and said, "But I
dont want anyone to be in charge of my life - I want to be completely in charge of
my own life." Anna was honest with her feelings-and honest about the risk involved in
coming under the tutelage of Another.
What does it look like to choose the best, to choose to follow Jesus with
conviction? In 1977 Oscar Romero was the bishop of El Salvador. At the time sharecroppers
had no rights and rich landowners and the military kept each other in business. And
priests who stood with the sharecroppers and fought back were considered
It wasnt long before this quiet priest became archbishop Romero. At his
installation he said, "I come from a world of books. Much can be learned from their
pages. Yet, I have much to learn . . . we in the church must keep to the center, and seek
Oscar Romero soon found himself in a quagmire of trouble. On one hand were the
sharecroppers and subversive priests who promoted violence against their enemies, but on
the other hand were the landowners, military, and President-elect. Then it happened. A
close priest friend of his was murdered. Then a landowner was kidnapped.
The turning point came when Oscar Romero went to the village where the
president-elect had closed the church that the murdered priest had served. The militia had
taken over the church and turned it into a barracks. Romero told the soldier in charge
that he was there to take the Eucharist. Hearing that, the soldier turned and opened fire
on the cross, the altar, and the Eucharist bread. His men forced Romero to leave the
church. He left.
But then he came back. He got out, put on his alb and stole and then resolutely
set his face for the church. Two other priests joined him. Then village people marched
with them. Even as they faced armed soldiers, Romero and the people walked into the
church. Archbishop Romero cried out, "I have come to retake possession of the church
and to strengthen those who the enemies have trampled down. Jesus is crucified for
This quiet priest had made a choice to follow Jesus. He never realized where
following him would lead. The more he saw peoples pain, suffering, their hunger for
liberty, the more he followed Jesus. But dont priests know Jesus de facto? The
Romero who was a bookworm knew about Jesus Christ. The Romero who took back the church in
the face of armed guards knew personally the Christ who was crucified in the people
In the end, following Jesus led to Romeros assassination. That wasnt
his script. He never yearned to be a martyr. But he did make a decision way back in his
seminary days -he chose between the good and the best. The best cost him his life.
No, were not Jesus Christ and were not Oscar Romero. We just do our
9-5 jobs and go home for supper most days. We will not end our lives by assassination for
a cause celebre. But what Romeros life and Lukes story about following Jesus
is saying is this: the decision to follow Jesus is not an easy choice. It may mean going
against the culture we know and perhaps even the plans that our family has already made
for our life. It is a choice between the good and the best. But yes when Jesus calls us to
follow him will be the best possible choice we could ever make, for it will free us to
carry out our mission in life, free us to love our family without needing to have the
universe revolve around it, and free us to leave a legacy that will lead others to their
mission in life.
We do not know how the three would-be followers on the road decided. We do know
about one archbishop in El Salvador. Oscar Romero was an ordinary, rather non-political,
quiet Christian, just like many of us. Given a choice between very good and the best, he
decided to follow Jesus. And that has made all the difference.
Jesus calls us to follow. He paints a clear picture of discipleship. But the
choice is up to us. How will we decide? How will you decide? Amen.