This sermon was preached on June 30, 2013 at First Presbyterian Church. The sermon text was Luke 9:51-62.
I have a confession to make…sometimes I really don't like the Bible.
I don't like the Bible because the stories that I read convict me that I have not and do not live a Christ like model. I don't think any of us do, but that's a sermon for another day.
Today I want to talk about a simple phrase in the midst of the very dense text from the Gospel according to Luke. Jesus has come to a turning point in his ministry. It is time for him to go to Jerusalem and face his death. In verse 51 it says, "he set his face to go to Jerusalem."
This church has been in a visioning process since the fall of 2010. There have been ups and downs, there have been starts and stops, it has been a journey. It's fitting now that the Vision Team has "set its face" toward completing the Vision and our plan is to be able to articulate and begin to live into that vision by the end of this summer. Fitting, I think that this journey has taken three years, roughly the same amount of time as Jesus' ministry here on Earth.
What's telling to me about this story and what has convicted me is that when Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem he sent messengers ahead who were rejected, they were rejected precisely because Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem. Then remembering other villages that had reject God, James and John ask if they can "command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" but Jesus rebukes them, he says not only "no" but "let's keep moving."
This means that as we set our face, as we set our vision, seeking to follow Christ there will be those that reject us, they will reject us simply because of the stance that we have taken. It will not be for us to try to convince them or to judge them. It will for us to set our face toward the vision granted us by God.
Now certainly, we are not Jesus and our call is not an absolute impervious to critique or change, it means that at some point we either need to fish or cut bait and frankly my friends I think it's time to fish.
The time has come for us to stand up and act upon the 158 years of faithful ministry writing the next chapter in our story.
The great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky was asked about how he became great, he said, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."
We know where Jesus is going, he's going to Jerusalem, that's where is message is to be heard and where he is to live out his call. I'm not sure Jesus knew exactly how it was going to go down. He knew he was to be betrayed, he knew he was to die, but I'm not convinced he knew step by step the process because more than once he ask God for some guidance or to take his cup, or why had God forsaken him. Jesus was moving so he could open up the possibilities so he could be Emmanuel, God with us, show he could show the greatest of God to overcome even death.
As business strategist and story teller, Shawn Callahan, points out, "There is an underlying assumption contained in the [Wayne Gretzky] quote: we can predict an outcome (where the puck is going to be) based on the detection of weak signals (where the puck is and what is happening at the time)...the good player creates a range of possibilities rather than running to a single point where they think the [puck] is going to be. They help create a pattern which takes account of the weak signal but creating possibilities which are resilient to a range of outcomes.”
So we can't see the future but our hope in this vision is to set our course to position ourselves with a range of possibilities about where God is leading us to respond to the world around us.
Once we set our face and move in response to our vision, there will be people that don't get it, or don't like it, or reject it out of hand, we can not worry about those people we can only control what we do, and what we are doing, hopefully, is following God's leading on our community.
There will be people who say they are with us, there will be people that say we need to wait, there will be people that will want us to start over, we will not judge those people, we will not condemn those people, even when we are those people. We will set our face and with the trust in God and each other we will walk the road that leads to Jerusalem, wherever that may be.
May it be so.