Gal 5:1,13-14,22-23 (13-25); Luke 9:57-62
2nd Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 26.06.2022
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Today is a special day for Hugo and his parents and family and friends and for us as a church. We have welcomed him into the family of the church and we have prayed that he will follow Christ throughout his life.
Following Christ is the most wonderful privilege we could ever ask for.
In the reading we have just heard, three people come up to Jesus, wanting to follow him.
The first one steps forward and boldly says: “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus essentially replies, “Are you sure? I don’t have a home; I don’t have any possessions; I’m not wealthy. Following me will be tough. Are you sure?”
I once heard about a champion jockey who during the course of his riding career had broken over 90 bones in his body. One can imagine a rookie jockey coming up to him and saying: “I want to be like you” and the champion jockey replying: “Are you sure? Look at all my injuries. But if you want to do it – go for it.” Or a young musician approaching a maestro and telling them they too want to play as well as them one day and getting the response, “Go for it – but it will mean long hours of practice, and missing out on many other things.” We know, don’t we, that those things that matter to us, those things which are really important, don’t just happen. They rarely just fall into our laps. Sacrifice is involved. But we do it because we know its worth it.
Following Christ is the greatest privilege any of us can ever receive. To follow the one who showed us how to live life to the full, to be loving, generous, kind; to follow the one who shows us how to stand up for truth and justice; to follow the one who loved us so much he was willing to give up his life for us. Of course, such a privilege comes with a cost, of course it involves sacrifice. If Hugo, if we, are to follow Christ it will involve making sacrifices, putting the needs of others before ourselves, giving God a greater priority in our life, but it is worth it. To follow in the footsteps of the greatest person who has ever lived – what more could we ask for in life.
The second person, when Jesus asks him to follow him, says that he needs to go and bury his father first. Now that may have been literally true, but it is more likely that what he meant was, “once my father dies sometime in the distant future, and I’ve received my inheritance and my financial security is assured, then I will come and follow you.” In other words, when its convenient, then I will come and follow you.
But following Christ is far too special to be left to a later date.
Last weekend who saw the extraordinary orange/ pink sky on Saturday evening? It was an incredible sight. Some of you may not known about it, you may have been inside at the time. But maybe there were others who were told, come and look at the sky, but who said, “I’ll come in a minute – I’ll just finish watching this TV programme, or this chapter of my book, or this computer game” – not bad things in themselves, but by the time you were ready, the moment had gone and the sky had returned to its normal colour. You would have missed the moment.
Following Christ is the most special thing we can do with our lives. Jesus encourages us not to delay, not to put it off to some time in the future, but to follow today. Don’t wait for a more convenient time. We are encouraged to begin the wonderful journey of following Christ today.
And the third person says, “I will follow, but first, let me say goodbye to my family”. That seems an entirely reasonable response. You wouldn’t just drop everything and go off without telling your loved ones first. But Jesus’ reply seems to suggest that there is more to it than that – that this potential follower is rather easily distracted. For he uses the example of ploughing a field. Jesus lived in a rural community where farming was the main trade. Everyone would have known that to plough a straight furrow you needed to keep your hand firmly on the plough and to keep your eye fixed ahead at all times. To look back was fatal. As soon as you did, the furrow would go awry. Total concentration, total focus was required.
It reminds me of a time when I was following my boss driving through London. I had no idea where I was, and it was in the days before sat navs. I knew if I got distracted or took my eye off him for one second I would lose him amidst all the other traffic and I would be totally lost. Total focus was needed.
Following Christ requires our full focus and attention too, but that is not always easy. Its easy to become distracted despite our best intentions. That’s why being part of a Christian community is so important – we can help each other, support each other, to remain focused on Christ. Its why we have welcomed Hugo into the life of the church today and why we have promised to support him and help him as he grows up to know God more.
Following Christ is such a privilege. Yes, it involves making sacrifices, but we know that the best things in life usually do. And what we receive from following Christ is beyond anything else in life. As the writer of our first reading put it, following Christ gives us freedom, the freedom of knowing our sins are forgiven, the freedom of being able to give thanks to God no matter our circumstances, the freedom to love others as God loves us.
And following Christ means that the fruit, the qualities, of his own character begin to grow in us. We become more loving, more joyful, kinder, more patient, more at peace. That’s what we long for Hugo, and I’m sure what we desire for our own lives too.
Let’s follow Christ together.