Sunday, July 01, 2007

Facing forward

As the time approached for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
—Luke 9: 51-62

As our celebrant reminded us this morning, today's Gospel from Luke is so densely packed it would take four hours of sermons to cover everything. My deacon friend is preaching today on the very last sentence, and has woven his points around those twenty-three words on plowing. Another friend, a gifted writer, priest and spiritual director, wrote about the dead burying the dead.

Our celebrant emphasized the beginning: He set his face toward Jerusalem. He spoke of the rejection in the Samaritan village, of the things Jesus told one potential disciple versus what he told another. In this morning's sermon the focus was that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and he knew the cost of it. Three different takes on the same lesson... yet... All three of these friends touched on one unifying point: our temptation to live in the past.

As I continue to journey the path God seems to have plunked me down on, I realize that I, too, am sorely tempted to look backwards. I have not set my face toward Jerusalem or anywhere else, for that matter. Not really.

It occurs to me that much of my concern over the relationship with my ex-husband stems from a subtle, yet delusive, desire to recondition and overhaul this failure of my past. Perhaps the fact that I was allowed to "do over" other early failures...[ I quit college (practically flunked) in my third year, yet in my 30's went back and graduated with honors.] I secretly thought of course I'd get to do that one over too. But living in the past creates its own bondage, and if I am to be free to tread this path in peace, then facing forward is the only choice.

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