Sermon June 30 2019

Fr. Bob Saik

Audio Link


Humans are always looking for the new challenge, a new frontier to conquer. Mount Everest was first scaled in 1953 and now it is commonplace for people to ascend the mountain. In our generation, space became the great interest and on July 20th, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first landing of a man on the moon.

In the early 1900s, the frontier that called out to adventurers was the Antarctic. Ernest Shackleton was obsessed by a desire to get to the South Pole. In 1901, he joined with another adventurer on the trek but was turned back when he became seriously ill. In 1907, he tried again but was unable to reach his goal coming up 97 miles short. In August of 1914, Shackleton took off on the ship Endurance to make another try. His ship became trapped in ice in January 1915. He and his men had to abandon the ship. In April of 1916 they realized no relief was in sight so they took three small boats and made it to an uninhabited Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton took a small group of men on a lifeboat to South Georgia island. He returned to rescue the remaining men in August of 1916. Every man on that expedition survived the harrowing adventure which lasted almost 500 days. Ernest Shackleton is an example of dedication, heroism and leadership. Sadly, Shackleton died on another effort to go to the Antarctic in 1922. Shackleton once said that “Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all”.

We admire humans who are so driven to their goal. Today, we read about how committed Jesus was to his calling. In the first verse of our gospel is says, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”   Can you imagine what the face of Jesus looked like when he set his face to go to Jerusalem? We know that he would not waiver from the choice that he made, from the quest that God set before him.

Jesus spent the first part of his ministry in Galilee. His base was in Capernaum. If that is where Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem it was about 125 miles way. Google maps would suggest that you could drive it today in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. But for Jesus it would have taken perhaps two weeks of steady walking. And he would need to go through dangerous territory and climb a mountain to Jerusalem. It wasn’t a casual effort.

I would say that Jesus was on a pilgrimage. His disciples accompanied him on that journey. I think we are invited by Jesus to consider our own pilgrimage. Where are you being called to go? What pilgrimage are you on? How might we find Jesus on our own pilgrimage or think of our journey as joining with Jesus on his?

Jesus and his disciples decided to go through the area controlled by the Samaritans. The Samaritans refused to allow him to stay there. They believed Mount Gerizim was the holy place, not Jerusalem so why would they help Jesus on his path. James and John thought that God should punish the Samaritans for their inhospitality. But Jesus said, let it be. It is the first lesson Jesus gives us about a pilgrimage. It is easy to be diverted on your path. People on his journey made it harder for him to accomplish his goal. But he was telling James and John don’t let the Samaritans deter us from our goal. Jesus didn’t allow some grievance, petty or serious, to keep him from what he was called to do. It is also an example of Jesus’s commitment to non violence. Jesus told his disciples to forget about the inhospitality, it wasn’t important. Perhaps he even forgave the Samaritans for their actions, he understood why they rejected him.

Soon after Jesus asked James and John to let go of their anger, Jesus encountered three possible disciples. He invites each one to follow him. But for various reasons, these three are never able to make the commitment to follow Jesus. For the first, Jesus responds that when he follows Jesus, he will have no home, there is no safe place of refuge. The second person tells Jesus that he must first go and bury his father, then he will follow Jesus. The third man said he wanted to say good bye to his family. I was struck by the harshness of Jesus reply. Did Jesus not have any understanding?

Our parents and our families are important parts of our lives and doesn’t Jesus want us to care for our families? I would say yes, Jesus is committed to families. The author of a commentary I read suggested that the man’s father had not yet died. The man’s father was actually healthy. The man just wasn’t ready to follow Jesus until all of his prior understandings of God had passed on. He was just giving excuses for why he couldn’t follow Jesus immediately.

The third man may have given one of those wait a second excuses that is really meant to be a permanent excuse. If the man goes to say good-bye to his family, he may never return. I think we have all made excuses like that. Once you decide to be a follower of Jesus, there is no turning back. It reminds me of the song, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

Jesus wanted his followers to understand how difficult it can be to follow him. Following Jesus may separate us from close friends. It may keep us from accomplishing other objectives in our lives. It may require us to do things for others that create stress in our lives. Jesus did it all and he expected every one of his followers to do the same. Choosing to follow Jesus may cause us to make hard choices.

In this Pentecost season, we will read the Gospel of Luke. We will follow the story of Jesus from the time he set his face towards Jerusalem until he arrived in that city. I invite you to join with me as we follow the path that Jesus took.

Let’s think of Pentecost as a pilgrimage. There are many places that people choose to make their pilgrimage in life. For some, it is a trip to the Holy land: walking the streets of Jerusalem, seeing the path Jesus took on his way to Calvary, going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is thought to have been buried. All these have meaning to people. If you cannot make this journey in person, you might consider watching a PBS series called Sacred Journeys by Bruce Feiler.

Some Christians have walked the Camino de Santiago through northern Spain. It is also called the Way of Saint James who is believed to be buried in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The actor Martin Sheen made a movie about the walk. Martin Sheen’s character walked in memory of a son who died. He learned how to deal with his loss on that walk.

This year, our pilgrimage may not physically take us to the Holy Land. We may not be able to step on the places where Jesus did his ministry. But just as our walking group has figuratively walked to see friends who are gone for the summer, our summer pilgrimage can still be just as real.

Each of our pilgrimages is different. Today, I ask you to consider your walk with God. Is there a particular loss that weighs heavily on your soul? Is there a friendship that has been lost? Is there something you have done in your past that you cannot forgive yourself for? Is there a particular sin that you want God to help you with? Or maybe you just wish that you could be closer to God and follow his will in all that you do. This year, I am asking God to help me to forgive myself for things I have wished I did differently.

Whatever pilgrimage you choose or have already started, I ask you to invite Jesus to go along with you. Jesus has already taken a pilgrimage and is certainly willing to join you on yours. I am sure that he can help you find your way whatever you need to experience.

Ernest Shackleton dedicated his life to exploring the regions of the Antarctic. Our journey doesn’t have to be as physically demanding as his was. But it may require sacrifice and it may be a journey of emotional up and downs with questions and soul searching. May your journey be filled with God’s grace. Amen.


Last modified on Friday, 05 July 2019 21:20

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