The Season after Pentecost: Proper 8, Year C

Proper8Altar Call

  • 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
  • Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
  • Galatians 5:1, 13-25
  • Luke 9:51-62

Jesus apostles did not volunteer for the task – they were chosen when he called to them and said, “Follow me.” Elisha was given the task of following in Elijah’s footsteps, by picking up the mantle that had fallen to the ground after Elijah’s ascent into heaven. With all the comings and goings of God’s people, each are called and liberated in new and different ways.

Traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus and his friends are refused accommodations in a Samaritan village. Jesus explains that discipleship means putting the kingdom of God ahead of every other responsibility and relationship. In today’s Gospel we hear of three encounters with individuals that serve to reveal the nature of discipleship. First, a man who declares that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. In the second encounter, Jesus offers the invitation to “Follow me,” but the man has an obligation to attend to first. In the final encounter, one wants to follow Jesus, but wants to say goodbye to his family first. Each of them don’t quite get what it means to be a follower of Jesus, despite their good intent.

Paul gives us some instruction on how we are to accept God’s call. We are leave behind any behavior that would tend to exclude us from the Kingdom of God. We are to love one another and be guided by the Spirit into “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These fruits of the Spirit are gifts from God and are manifestations of our relationship with Jesus Christ. With these gifts, we don’t need to turn back at past needs and obligations. Jesus calls us to move forward.

In some traditions, worship includes an “altar call” when people are invited to come forward to dedicate their lives to Christ. Episcopalians have a weekly “altar call” at the ministration of the Eucharist. We move to the Holy Table to receive the sacrament; a movement that expresses the call of the gospel to follow Christ.

When faced with those who do not accept him, Jesus merely shakes the dust off his feet and moves on. His outward demonstration of humility and a new view of power is an example to us. Those who choose to follow him cannot look back, but must move forward with determination and self-denial. To look back is to choose death, to move forward with Jesus leads to life.

For reflection:

  • The Samaritans rejected Jesus because their religious traditions prevented them from understanding his mission. What traditions or assumptions are prevalent in our society that prevent people from seeing the truth about Jesus? What misunderstandings might you be clinging to that obscure your vision of Christ?
  • What do Jesus’ words in 9:59-62 suggest about appropriate priorities for those who choose to follow Jesus? What kinds of things hold us back? How can we deal with the tension between personal loyalties/responsibilities and the urgency of Christ’s mission?
  • Paul proclaims the revolutionary notion that all human divisions are as nothing in our life in Christ. What challenges do his words present?
  • How are we called to live out this unity in the world today?

About Sharon Ely Pearson

Wife, mom, grandmother; author, educator, consultant; trying to make a difference one action at a time. Christian formation has been my vocation for 40+ years - and counting!
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