Saints With An Attitude
June 29 and 30, 2019
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem…..Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week’s sermon theme was Saints Rescued. We explored the story of Jesus driving out a legion of demons out of a man who had spent years perhaps decades running around the countryside naked, unclean, doomed, and begging for mercy. We saw Jesus rescue this man from hell on earth and turn him into a believer who from that day forward wanted to follow Jesus and tell anybody who would listen all the great things Jesus had done for him.
The final question posed in last week’s sermon was this, “How can we put ourselves in a position where people will actually want to hear from us all the great things God has done for us?” Today’s sermon seeks to answer that question.
The very premise of that question is Christ has rescued us not just so that we could be rescued but that we could be on His Rescue Team. Rescued from the forces of darkness not just so that we could live happily after, but rescued so that we might spend the rest of our days letting our light shine in such a way that friends and family might actually be interested in hearing what we have to say about what Jesus Christ has done and is doing in our lives. Rescued not just so that we could have our sins forgiven, but rescued so that we could organize ourselves into a mission outpost where we want more than anything else to connect broken lives to the Triune God. Rescued not just so that we could be saints who mind our own business, but Saints With An Attitude.
Lesson #1 about saints with an attitude is that they refuse to give up on the (future). I read an article this week about a man named Dan Human who is an active member of a Search and Rescue Team. When asked about his most memorable rescue, he told a story of a 70- year old man that had gone missing while taking his morning walk. He told of a massive search which included hundreds of trained volunteers, K9 teams, law enforcement, and air support. Hours turned into days, and days turned into a week with no trace. Even the most optimistic of search and rescue team members were giving up hope.
But on the seventh day, he was out searching when they saw vultures circling. Within a couple of hours the lost man was located and rescued into safety. He was injured and hungry, but conscious, and thanks be to this rescue team, he survived. When he was asked what he learned from that mission, Dan replied that the lesson was to never give up and that a person’s will to survive will often defy statistics.
In today’s text, James and John were ready to give up on the Samaritans. Jews and Samaritans had despised each other for centuries, and in these days, Samaritans were in the process of rejecting Jesus as Messiah. This was a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. He had set his face towards Jerusalem, and he sent disciples on ahead of him into Samaria to make sure they would be received hospitably. When a village of Samaritans rejected their ministry outright, the disciples quickly concluded that it was time for the wrath of God to come raining down.
The attitude of John and James was to fight fire with fire, but the attitude of Jesus was to fight fire with the waters of Baptism. The attitude of our sinful nature is to say to people “three strikes and you’re out,” the attitude of Jesus is to practice patience and to forgive not three or seven times, but seventy times 7. The attitude easy to adopt is to give up when the going gets tough, but the attitude of Jesus was, is, and ever shall be to never give up on what the Holy Spirit might be doing in the future.
(Story of my uncle Alvin who drifted from Church for decades, but his two sisters never gave up praying for the Holy Spirit to be working on his heart. For decades Uncle Alvin had a habit of drinking that caused all kinds of troubles and even a more dangerous habit of despising the preaching of God’s Word and his Lord’s Supper, but in every one of those decades, my mom and her sister had an attitude. What I mean by that is they would not give up on what the Holy Spirit might be doing in the future. They kept on worrying, they kept on praying, they kept on trying to put themselves in a position where Uncle Alvin would listen to that old old story of Jesus and his love, a story he had learned from his mother’s knees, they refused to give up on a future where Alvin would live face to face with Jesus in heaven.)
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who sit down this very evening and write down the names of three loved ones or acquaintances who have been drifting away from the Church and possibly from Christ Himself. They resolve that if they are going to worry about anything or anybody, they are going to worry / be properly concerned about these three people. They resolve to pray for these three people by name, they resolve to have the attitude of Jesus towards these three people, they resolve to never give up on the future glory of these three people.
If Lesson #1 1 about saints with an attitude is that they refuse to give up on future glory, then Lesson #2 about saints with an attitude is that they are willing to make a clean break with the (past).
The structure of this second section of our text for today is a dialog between Jesus and three would-be disciples. The setting of this little Discipleship 101 class is that they were journeying along the way to Jerusalem, and they were traveling through enemy territory. It wasn’t going to be easy, and Jesus wanted them to know that they were going to need a certain kind of an attitude if they were going to be able to keep up.
Volunteer Saint #1 was a well- educated and highly qualified scribe, perhaps a Pharisee, and he was all in. He wanted to be a permanent pupil. He offered to go wherever Jesus went, no exceptions. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and the birds of the heaven shelters, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.” Jesus neither accepts nor declines his offer. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He states clearly that if you’re going to follow me, you need to have your mind made up. Following me won’t be easy, you could end up homeless, you need to make a clean break with your past.
Volunteer Saint #2 absolutely wanted to go with Jesus but wanted permission to first bury his father. When Jesus responds that the dead should bury their own dead, he’s making the case that the eternal fate of his father is already decided, the matter of putting his body into the ground is merely a secular event. It sounds harsh to our Minnesota Nice ears, to be sure, but the preaching of the Gospel was to be this man’s first priority, starting not a few days from now, but today.
Volunteer Saint #3 also wanted to follow, but made what seems to us a reasonable request – I’d like to bid farewell to my family. To which Jesus said, Nobody who puts his hand to a plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus is being a bit funny here. He pictures a man who is just learning to plough. And he becomes the laughingstock of the neighborhood by attempting to make the plow go in one direction while he keeps his eyes in the opposite direction.
The danger of ploughing and not constantly looking back is one that my dad warned me about years ago. And it was a danger that existed only on the first round, if I were going to be striking out in the middle of a field. Dad was a man of few words and he liked to say things only once. He made it clear that I was to fix my eyes on a fencepost at the other end of the field and not keep looking back, lest I plough crooked.
St. Paul said it this way, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto the things which are before, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again today. Of all the plaques and quotes sayings in my office, my favorite is this one, “O God of second chances and new beginnings, here I am again.”
Dear friends, the attitude of that prayer is that our Father in heaven is in the business of being patient with us even when we are stumbling again and again into the same sinful habits. Oh how He yearns for us to come before him with heads bowed and tears in our eyes, words of apology, here I am again.
Dear friends, the attitude of that prayer is that our Savior Jesus Christ and His angels have this habit of celebrating every time a single sinner comes clean and cries out for mercy. Oh how the entire company of heaven years for us to come to the table with hearts that are broken and minds that are sorry, saying here I am again.
Dear friends, the attitude of that prayer is that the Holy Spirit is all about calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying, and keeping the whole church on earth in the one true faith. Oh how He yearns for us to hear the Word of God and treasure it. How He looks forward to us coming into the sanctuary week after week and putting ourselves in a position where faith will come and faith will grow by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who sit down this very evening and write down one bad habit they need to leave behind. They are tempted to be overwhelmed about how many times they have tried to do better, but tonight is different. They plead God to overwhelm them with his grace, they pray for him to turn them around with his mercy, they pray for him to make them individually and collectively saints with an attitude. They pray O God of second chances and new beginnings, here I am again. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther