Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homeless

Sermon on Luke 9:51-62
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
June 30, 2013 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)

Homelessness is an experience I don’t think we can quite comprehend.  Not to have a place you can call your own, surrounded by your own family, with your own possessions, and your own habits.  Not even having enough money for a hotel room, but needing to sleep in your car or even on the streets and then get up and get moving before others need to use the place you slept for other purposes.  It’s not a pleasant existence.  We are made to have a place we can call our own, where everything is familiar and we can relax.

But today’s Gospel teaches us that we are all homeless.  Well, not really homeless, but travellers living far from our true home. This is because heaven is our home, and we are only staying here in our earthly homes for a while, the way travelers stay in a hotel or even a campground or rest area.  In fact, it’s even more serious than that, because, as Jesus points out, foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.  We who are His followers also are to view ourselves as not having a home in this world but looking forward to our true home with Christ in eternal life.

In the beginning of this lesson, we see Jesus beginning the long journey to Jerusalem.  This just about the middle of Luke’s Gospel, and for the rest of the book, Jerusalem will be Jesus’ inevitable destination.  The purpose for which Jesus was going there was to die on the cross and to rise again on the third day.  Even though He would be triumphant, the experience would not be pleasant.  We see in the Garden of Gethsemane how much suffering and anguish Jesus experiences just thinking about His own crucifixion and death.  He prays several times that His Father would take this cup of suffering from Him.  Even earlier on we can be sure that moving toward Jerusalem was not something Jesus wanted to do.  But His love for His Father and for His creatures who needed saving compelled Him to do it, and so He resolutely aimed Himself in that direction.

From a human perspective, we might wonder why Jesus would do this.  After all, He had a pretty good home base in Capernaum, where He often preached the Scriptures in the Synagogue, and His missionary work throughout Galilee had attracted large crowds, many of whom were generally supportive of Him and His message.  Even though many of His followers didn’t realize that His purpose was to suffer and die for us, they mostly knew that Jesus’ enemies had their power base in Jerusalem, and that if He showed up there He was likely to get Himself into serious trouble and probably be put to death.  And so it doesn’t make any sense from a human way of thinking for Jesus to leave His home country behind and go to Jerusalem.

But Jesus isn’t motivated by the considerations that make sense to worldly people.  Capernaum wasn’t His home; Galilee wasn’t His home.  Jerusalem wasn’t even His home, even though as God the Son He had been present in the Jerusalem temple for centuries to hear the prayers of His people and to forgive their sins.  His home was above, with His Father, and even though He was always with the Father even while He was here on earth, it was His Father’s will that He suffer, die, rise again, and ascend into heaven for our sake.  And so Jesus sets out to do what He must for our salvation.

Even while Jesus had been living in Capernaum, and even earlier, while He had been living with His mother and Joseph in Nazareth, these places were not His home.  Now that reality is shown more vividly as He is denied even a hotel for the evening in a Samaritan town.  We are reminded of a similar occurrence in His ancestral home of Bethlehem on the night He was born.  Because He is heading toward Jerusalem, and He doesn’t want to stop for a while and let these people marvel at the wondrous miracles of this famous prophet, they refuse to let Him and His followers stay there.  James and John want to see the town punished for this insolence and blasphemy of rejecting the Son of the Living God, but Jesus rebukes them.  He is not on this earth to punish.  What the chief priests of the Jews together with Pontius Pilate did to Him by putting Him up on the cross was far more serious than a simple lack of hospitality on the part of a small Samaritan town.  And yet Jesus prays from the cross for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Granted there will come a time when all who reject Christ will be punished, but God is longsuffering toward His creatures and gives them more time than we expect.

As He journeyed, Jesus came upon several men who wished to be His disciples.  We can see in Jesus’ responses to each of them what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  To follow Jesus means that we become like Him, and that doesn’t simply mean that we ask ourselves what He would do when we face a moral dilemma or choice.  To be like Him means that our lives here are in many respects like His life.  Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.  Remember that the crowd of disciples that was following Him at this point were also turned away from that Samaritan town when He was.  Of course, our text says that they did find lodging in another village, so it wasn’t like they slept under the stars that night.  But the point is, the way we will be treated by the world is very much like the way He was treated.

There are many people in our world who simply don’t associate themselves with Christians, because they know that many of the things they do, and many of the things they like, are simply not acceptable to us.  If someone makes a point of sharing or confessing his faith in a public situation, he is, at the very least, given a strange look, and may even be treated with outright hostility.  And it’s not so much that we disapprove of certain moral vices which have become common among worldly people in our day, although that is often the excuse worldly people give for their hostility toward Christians.  What really causes worldly people to treat Christians badly is the fact that we are incomprehensible to them.  What motivates us is something that simply makes no sense to them.  We are motivated by love for our Savior and the hope of heaven.  While we do share in human joys and sorrows in this world, such attachments do not have the hold on us they have on worldly people.  We do grieve for the death of a loved one, but our grief is mixed with the joy that they are in a better place and that we will see them again.  We do have anxieties and stresses connected with jobs, finances, families, and health, but these things do not consume us, because we have already died to them and risen again to Christ Jesus our Lord in Holy Baptism.  What really makes us Christians strange to worldly people is that we don’t belong here.  This world is not our home.  Eternal life in the new heavens and new earth with Christ Jesus our Lord is where our home is.  This makes us oddballs to worldly people just as surely as Jesus’ resolute intention to die at Jerusalem caused the Samaritan village to deny Him and His disciples a place to stay that evening.

Being a Christian, then, means being homeless.  Not that we move out of our earthly dwellings and live on the street, but that we think of them as mere hotel rooms we occupy on our journey through this life.  Where your home is, there your heart will be also.  Our home is with Christ, because that is where our heart is even now.  When children leave for college, they seldom think of their dorm rooms as “home.”  To them, “home” is still their parents’ house, and even if their parents move during their years at college, when the student comes to visit them he is still “going home.”  One custom that many parents follow is to send a “care package” to their children at college, packed with snacks and goodies, especially of desserts made the way only their mom can make them.  When the student eats mom’s home-baked cookies, it’s almost like he was back home again sitting around the family dinner table with his mom and dad and his brothers and sisters.  In a much more real way, the Lord’s Supper is a care package for us as we move through this life.  It strengthens us as we must journey as strangers through this world, but it also gives us, not so much the experience, but in fact the reality of being around the heavenly dinner table with our Heavenly Father.  As Christ comes to us in His body and blood He brings heaven itself with Him, because that is what heaven is, namely to live in the presence of God eternally.  Home is where the heart is.  And our hearts are bound up in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

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