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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

[Frankfurt, Germany] So, here I am again for my annual visitation at Christ the King. We have our young friend and two people here down in front, all looking at me rather fearfully! Today, we are going to baptize and receive these three people into the church, which is always a wonderful celebration for new members. They are making a commitment to join the congregation – to join the fellowship of this communion. In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about commitment. It is a line only found in Luke. Jesus puts this in very absolute terms, echoing the story of Elijah and Elisha, where Elisha is chosen to replace Elijah, the wonder working prophet. Elijah comes to give him mantle as prophet, and Elisha says, “Wait, I have some business to do.” And so he kills the oxen and cooks them on the wood of his plow. That is commitment. He made a choice. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and turns back is fit for the kingdom of God “

The Sermon


All week long I have been thinking about this sermon, and something kept popping into my mind. My father was an organist, choirmaster, and organ builder and he was originally raised as a Methodist. Let’s just say that he had a lot of experience in the church but the Methodist hymns that he remembered from when he was a boy -- these he would always laugh at. “Right in the corner where you are.” The one that kept popping up in my mind. “Send out the lifeboat, sinners are sinking, sinking in a sea of sin" . . . which he thought was pretty funny. So I finally looked it up, and indeed, the refrain is, “Send out the lifeboat, throw out a line, sinners are sinking.” The name of the hymn is actually, “The Wrecks on the Shore” and “the wrecks” refer to peoples’ lives. I don’t know why my father thought is was so funny, but expect the idea of sinking in a sea of sin made him laugh.

In today's Gospel, Jesus is talking about commitment. He set his face to go to Jerusalem. It is a line only found in Luke. He had been walking around Galilee, and now he is going to go to Jerusalem for the final showdown. It is found in chapter 9. He arrives in Jerusalem later, in chapter 19, so it is a long time there, but this chapter is all about making a commitment.

Today, people are making a commitment to join this congregation – to join the fellowship of this communion. Jesus puts this in very absolute terms, echoing the story of Elijah and Elisha, where Elisha is chosen to replace Elijah, the wonder working prophet. Elijah comes to give him mantle as prophet, and Elisha says, “Wait, I have some business to do.” And so he kills the oxen and cooks them on the wood of his plow. That is commitment. He made a choice. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and turns back is fit for the kingdom of God “ That is a very hard thing.

About commitment -- Are we committing to send out the lifeboat to rescue sinners who are sinking in a sea of sin, or in the more modern version, are we committing to be agents of transformation in the world and make justice and peace happen? And yet, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the church, in the House of Bishops always talks about saving souls; he is the only one of us who uses that vocabulary. “People are dying out there. Souls are being destroyed. We have to go save souls. So, what are we committing to today? Changing the world? Changing other people? What?

LISTEN TO THE SERMON


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