Going Deeper 6-25-19

‚ÄčThe first reading for Pentecost 3...
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21    Then the Lord said to [Elijah], "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.  So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing.  There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.  He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you."  Then Elijah said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?"  He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

This text in paired this coming Sunday with a Gospel reading from Luke where three people tell Jesus they would like to follow Him... just as soon as they take care of some important business.  In the same way, Elisha says he will follow Elijah after he says goodbye to his folks.  Jesus and Elijah give similar terse replies... Elijah: "Go back again; for what have I done to you?"... Jesus: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."  Half-hearted devotion to following God is not what we are called to do.

This is a hard teaching.  We might be inclined to say that Elijah and God are both unreasonable in their expectations.  After all, we have a lot of important things to do in our lives.  We'll try to follow Jesus more fully when we find the time and energy to do so.  The message is clear: this is unacceptable.  We are to have no other gods.  We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Half-hearted following is simply not our calling.

This is obviously a message of Law.  Remember, the Scriptures have two main themes: the Law, which shows us our utter inability (and often our unwillingness) to come close to perfectly obeying the will of God and drives us to repentance; and the Gospel, which announces God's mercy and proclaims that His grace has covered our sin and reconciled us to God.

So, now what are we to do with this call to full-hearted following?  Embrace it!  Our Creator/Redeemer knows what is best for us and for the world around us, and that is growing in our devotion to hearing and heeding the call to follow Jesus.  God loves us and wants us to live the most abundant life possible, and that is found in living more and more in the way of Jesus.

Perfect, fully-devoted following is the goal we pursue.  We will never completely reach that goal on this side of the grave, but fueled by gratitude for God's grace we are to be determined to keep seeking.  Wisdom teaches us that this is the right thing to do.

With You on the Journey,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."