Preacher: The Rev. Kate Wesch
Scripture: Luke 9:51–62
We’ve had a pretty impressive line-up of sermon themes these past few weeks. Bishop Greg kicked it off with his “gradually then suddenly” sermon in which he talked about the apostle Paul and his famous conversion, which happened gradually, then suddenly mirroring our own journeys of faith. Doyt spoke into the story of the unnamed woman bravely anointing Jesus’ feet with oil. He spoke of her freedom, the way she embraced an unknowable future, and made the most important thing, the most important thing and called us to do the same. Then, last week, Charissa broke open the story of Jesus healing the man plagued by demons and showed us how to move from fear to awe often through the power of stories.
So, what next you may be wondering? What could possibly be mined from this fragmented gospel reading in which Jesus mostly seems to be cranky?
But I think it’s more than being cranky, Jesus is focused. Jesus has a mission and he has vision and he isn’t slowing down for anyone. At this point, he’s done with gradually then suddenly. With his face set towards Jerusalem, the most important thing is the most important thing, he’s moving full speed ahead and if you’re coming too, then come along! The fits and starts of gradually then suddenly are so last week.
Jesus is all in all the time. That’s the focus of this sermon. Being all in all the time. Jesus is and he’s asking: Who’s with me?
So what does it mean to be “all in all the time”? In my life at least it looks like showing up and being seen with authenticity, with passion and joy in all aspects of life: in my work, in relationships, in the ways in which I choose to engage my prayer life, loved ones, this community, my neighborhood, and the world. Sounds pretty much impossible and it is, but it’s about prayerful intention. I’m not going to get it right and that’s okay. It’s about stepping into life with faithfulness and boldness, embracing the fullness of what life has to offer and not being afraid to fail.
You know who was completely successful at this at this “all in all the time” approach to living? Jesus. (Sincerely, and I don’t mean that tongue in cheek.) Jesus LIVED while embracing relationships, his work, his mission, his vocation, and his ministry to the very fullest. He was ALL IN ALL THE TIME. That’s what this cryptic passage is saying. And he got frustrated, maybe even cranky, when his disciples repeatedly lost focus.
We hear twice in these verses that Jesus has set his face to go to Jerusalem. This marks a transition in the narrative as Jesus concludes his relatively peaceful time teaching and healing in the Galilee region of the north and begins a purposeful journey south towards Jerusalem. He knows where he is going and what will come of it. He is full of resolve and conviction as he sets his face in that direction. Maybe this is why he is less than patient with James and John and the three followers who ask him questions. He wasn’t mincing words or pulling any punches because walking into Jerusalem he had to be all in all the time or what would be the point.
One person along the road says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” In other words, follow me and you must be willing to sacrifice. It won’t be easy, not even comfortable, but that’s not what this is about. So, come on, but you have to be all in all the time.
To another, Jesus says, “Follow me.” This man responds that first he must bury his father, a seemingly reasonable request, but Jesus isn’t in the mood, not this day, his face is set. “Let the dead bury their own dead.” He means: those who don’t see and believe what is happening might as well be dead already, so don’t waste your time. New life is here in proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus is all in and he expects his followers to be there too. And a final person along the road says, “I want to come, but I need to say goodbye to my family first.” You can guess Jesus’ response. “Are you all in or not?”
Jesus is all in all the time because he believes with every ounce of his being that he is ushering in the kingdom of God. This passage may have examples that are a bit extreme, but they do prove the point. Jesus says, “I’m going. I’m going to Jerusalem and follow me if you want, but I’m not slowing down or waiting for anyone.”
I wonder—how might we be all in all the time? What are those obligations in your life that pull you away from your relationship with God, away from your work and passions, away from self-care? What are the things that take you out of relationship?
We’ve all heard the term “work/life balance” and it’s absurd. It doesn’t work. I much prefer the idea of work/life integration. How can we look to Jesus as the model of how to eliminate distraction, unnecessary choices, and discern wisely how to prioritize our lives into a healthy integration of all the things?
If you look in the back of your bulletin you will see two images. The first image is a Celtic knot. It has four quadrants, interwoven, symmetrical, reflecting a sense of calm integrated beauty. The second image is chaotic scribbles going in all directions. Both images reflect our lives. Some days we are the nice, well-ordered knot and other days—chaotic scribbling because face it, life is messy.
Jesus was all in all the time—with his face now set to go to Jerusalem and unceasing in his proclamations about the kingdom of God. His life resembled that Celtic knot, well ordered, clear, calm, and bright.
While I enjoy and strive for the knot kind of life, if I’m honest, it usually looks like the scribbles because life is messy. But I’m prayerfully well-intentioned and I try to be all in all the time.
So, how do we do it? How do we live in the scribbles or the knots when life is messy or twisted? How can we be all in when there are distractions and choices? How do we prioritize?
An answer lies in Paul’s words to the Galatians and his urging to live by the spirit. “For freedom Christ has set us free. My sisters and brothers you were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” Love your neighbor as yourself.
True freedom is found in making the most important thing the most important thing and here, Paul names that LOVE.
You are all in all the time when you LOVE—you are all in when you move from fear to awe, often by listening to the stories of others, you are all in all the time when you say yes! I will follow you Jesus. I will live by the Spirit. The Spirit will guide me and sometimes that will resemble a Celtic knot peaceful and eye pleasing and other times it will be chaotic scribbles and that’s okay.
As I look at the world outside these doors and windows, I see a lot of pain. I see political change and instability, sit-ins, hate crimes in our own city, racism, homelessness, poverty, and addiction. The list could go on and on and can become overwhelming. But when you look beyond the headlines, there are personal stories of incredible people who are all in all the time, working hard to make things better.
I had the opportunity to hear some of these stories at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound the other night as a small group of us were guests of our friend Reema Qadry in breaking the Ramadan fast and sharing a meal together. For me, it was the first time I have been inside a mosque and prayed alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters and it was deeply moving. Events like that, sharing stories, move us from fear to awe.
It is in the integration of our lives, being bold and vulnerable, and being all in all the time that we are transformed.
Consider the pieces of your life—all the things—your joys, your passions, your work, your relationships, and most importantly your relationship with God. What is getting in the way? What is drawing you away or distracting you from following Jesus?
It’s about intention, prayerful intention to remain all in all the time. That’s the focus Jesus teaches us when he says you put your hand to the plow and never look back—just keep your eyes fixed straight ahead focused on the kingdom of God.
Sermon Reflection Questions
- Does your life more resemble the Celtic knot or the scribbles most days? How does that feel for you?
- What does it mean to live by the Spirit?
- Jesus was “all in all the time” in his focus on the kingdom of God. Does that resonate with you? How does that manifest itself in your daily life?