the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Year C - Proper 8

Liturgy of the Word:
1 Kings 19:15-21
Psalm 16 (NRS)
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

Counting the Cost

Strong and kindhearted Father, in Jesus your Son you reveal to us how love is a gift from you calling us to give ourselves without hesitation. We want to be his disciples, and so we pray: Open our ears to his call, commit us with open hearts and hands to follow him all the way in faithful and joyful service to you and to people. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Concerning the call of God, Jesus said:
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

What does it mean to take up our cross? I suspect that it meant something very different to Jesus’ audience than it meant to Luke’s readers. For the crowd listening to Jesus, the cross was a symbol of Roman cruelty and a reminder of their total and ultimate control over their subjects. What it meant for Luke’s readers, including us, was something quite different.

Since the crucifixion of Jesus, the cross has been a great symbol for Christians throughout the centuries. As a symbol, the cross takes two forms: the crucifix, with Jesus still hanging on the cross has been a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice and great suffering, the bare cross has been a symbol of the triumph of God over sin and evil. In both cases the cross has been a symbol for giving up one’s own will and desires for the will of God.

Elijah is more than a prophet in the tradition of Nathan, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Perhaps we should think of him more as a holy warrior. Following the defeat of the priests of Baal on Carmel, Elijah leads the slaughter of 400 priests. In our passage for this week, Elijah has heard the voice of God sending him on a military recruitment mission. The instruction that God gives him is to mount a coup against Ahab and Jezebel. We never read of Hazael of Aram (now Syria) being anointed. Jehu is anointed later by Elisha, not Elijah (2 Kings 9:1-10).

Perhaps the part of this passage that connects it with this week's Gospel passage is that when Elisha is called he asks to go home to settle his personal affairs and bid farewell to his parents. Elijah allows this preparatory act whereas in the Gospel passage, following Jesus is a more imperative and demanding call.

For Elisha, the call came without warning. He was not prepared to receive the call. Elisha was in the fields plowing. What strength he must have had to wield the reigns of a team of twelve oxen. When Elijah casts his mantle upon him, this same mantle that he had used earlier in the mountain cave to shield himself from the presence of God, Elisha does not question the call. He immediately ran after Elijah and begging for a chance to set his affairs in order. Elijah grants his request. During the preparation to follow the call of God, Elisha sets things right with his family. He also slaughters his oxen both as a sacrifice to God, giving thanks for receiving the call, and as food for the surrounding people.

Jesus tells a story about two men who set out to build a tower. The prudent builder hires an architect, gets estimates of the materials and labor, and checks to see that he has enough money to secure the necessary resources to build the tower. Then he follows through with his plan to completion.

The other man, a foolish builder, has a vision of his tower and begins immediately with its construction. He has no plan. He has no idea what materials he will need or how much labor will be required. He has no way of knowing what it will cost or even if he has enough resources to complete his task. His project is doomed to failure. When he abandons the project for lack of funds the unfinished structure becomes a monument to his folly.

When Jesus called the twelve, he found Andrew, Peter, James and John fishing with their fathers. Their families depended on them for food and for their livelihood. Jesus made such an impression on them that they immediately left home and job to follow this itinerant prophet.

In our Gospel passage this week, Jesus is making his way from Galilee to Jerusalem. As the crowds follow him, Jesus takes the opportunity to enlist other disciples.

One man is eager to follow. Jesus says foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head. There are no guarantees of wealth or material possessions. One must make do and be satisfied with what God provides.

Another needed to bury his father. His father had not died, but it was the duty of every able bodied male to care for his aged parents and provide a proper burial for them. In this case the man is saying to Jesus, “Yes, I will follow you as soon as I have completed my present obligation.” And Jesus says certainly that will not do.

Another had put himself in position to be called by the Lord, but had not made preparation. He wanted to go home and say good-bye to his mother and father.

The cost of discipleship in the Kingdom of God is very high indeed, but the promise of God is greater still.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

If you are worried about provisions,

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30

God’s call is not just to a Church-related vocation. It does not come only to those who he wishes to be pastors, missionaries, nuns, priests or monks. God calls us to service for him right where we are. We are His people and the sheep of his pasture. Pray to the Lord often. Listen to what he has to say to you. Make up your mind to follow Him as He wishes, not as you wish.

Jesus said,
Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

Thanks be to God!

Let us pray,
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
and make us truly free for others.
Do not allow us to look back,
not even to our failures,
for you have forgiven them,
but lead us resolutely forward
in the footsteps of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and forevermore.

And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying,
In this manner you shall bless the children of Israel,
saying unto them...

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace. Numbers 6:22-26


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