Sermon: “No Way, Yeah But, and Whatever You Say”

Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“No Way, Yeah But, and Whatever You Say”
June 26, 2016
Stella Clark

I sat down to write this sermon and found myself almost finished with it, when it dawned on me, man, even I am bored!  Those poor people who have to sit and listen to me preach.  There really is nothing new here.  This is not the most dynamic story I have ever heard in Scripture.  No one dies, nothing gets blown up.  There is nothing really all that life changing.  What am I supposed to do with this thing?

Then God spoke to me.

Stella, did you bother to ask me what I think of this story?

Well, God no not really.

Maybe I should.

Yes, Stella, maybe you should.

So I prayed about it.  And saw something here that I had never seen before.

What a great story!

I mean it.  There is a lot more here than meets the eye.  Okay, so maybe it really isn’t all that enlightening from our own human perspective, But from God’s point of view, there really is a lesson here for us.

I call it…”no way, yeah but, and whatever you say.”

These are the three types of people we run into in this morning’s Scripture.  And they are the three kinds of people that God has to deal with on a regular basis.  Let’s take another look.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was on a journey to Samaria.  In the literal Greek, it uses the word journey 6 times.  This is obviously important to the story.

Bob Dylan asks “How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man”? Tom Cochrane says, “Life is a Highway”.  Robert Frost said that “two roads diverged in a wood…” We relate to the idea of life like a journey, with its ups and downs, peaks and valleys, time when we feel like we are flying through the air and other times when we feel stuck in the muck.

Jesus is going somewhere.  He is not a drifter.  He is not a vagrant. He is not a wanderer.  Jesus is the man with a plan.  He even has his own VIP PR team that he has sent out ahead to make reservations at the Ramada where they will be staying.  And the largest coliseum that he can address as many people as possible.

Here we come to the first response that God often hears from us.  No way!  Get out of town.  Pack it up and leave us alone.

Like I said, this is the first response that God is used to hearing from people.  No way God.  You are not welcome here.  We do things around here the way that I want.  Keep on going.  Adios.

Now take a look at the response… The response of the disciples is complete indignation to the point of absurdity and great amusement.

Jesus, let’s call fire down from heaven.  I mean, seriously, who does that?  Who says, “Hey, Jesus, do you want me to rain down fire from heaven on those people?” We’ll show them.

I can only imagine Jesus’ reaction.  Scripture tells us he rebuked them.  I wish someone was there taking notes that day so we could all hear what a scolding from the Son of God would sound like.

The second time I read the story, though, I did not find it to be quite so amusing.  Even as absurd and ridiculous as this request was, it tells us something else… Those who were closest to Jesus, still had no clue who he was.

That makes me sad.  Jesus was truly alone among these people who did not understand him.  This is a point that I will revisit later in the sermon.  Rather than responding according to the disciples wishes, we find that Jesus shows us the way that God responds to people who are not interested in knowing Him… the “no way” folks, He passes right on by.  He does not stop.  He does not punish them.  He does not go out of His way to proselytize them.

He just says, “Okay, if that’s the way you want it for now, so be it…” and He keeps right on going.

Why? Remember, we are on a journey here.  Jesus is the man with the plan.  He is not going to beat the door down to go where He is not wanted.

Jesus is a gentleman in this story, just as He is today.  He does not force Himself where He is not wanted.

Then we come to the second type of person in this story.  I will call them the “yeah, butter”.  Their motto… Yeah, but this…Yeah, but that…Yeah, but. Yeah, but. Yeah, but.

This is another person that God has become well acquainted with.  In Scripture, it looks like Jesus is well acquainted with them too.

Let’s look again…

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Now on the surface we have three very reasonable requests from potential disciples, and three completely unreasonable responses from Jesus.  WE do not know what the first guy was angling for, we just know that Jesus let him know that he was going to end up homeless if he did indeed follow.

Yeah, but…. And that was the end of him.

To the second guy, Jesus said, “Follow me.” Very short, very direct.

His response was “yeah, but,” let me go bury my father.  A perfectly reasonable request, but it is not what Jesus had asked of him.  For all we know, if the man had agreed, Jesus would have led him back to his father and who knows what would have happened.  Funny things happened when Jesus got around dead people.

Remember, dead folks had trouble staying dead around him.  Jesus is not insensitive around those who grieve, he has a way of turning their sorrow to joy.

Jesus said, “Follow me.” He yeah butted, and he was gone.

The third guy makes the perfectly reasonable request of going home to say goodbye to his family.  Perfectly reasonable.

Can you imagine trying to explain to your family why you took off for 3 years without saying goodbye? Don’t bother.  They are not going to be interested in your explanation.

We are on a journey here.  There is a time table.  Jesus is the man with the plan.  Are you in or out?

Yeah, but, I need to go home first.

“Yeah, but”, is not good enough even if it is for a great reason.  You are the weakest like. Goodbye.

I want you to notice that all three of our “yeah butters” in this story had excellent reasons to resist. Yet, what do we find?

Jesus is consistent. Their “yeah but” gets them a “don’t bother”.

Why?

I think God is trying to tell us something here.  He is not interested in our excuses. He is interested in our obedience.  He will take care of the rest of the details if we will let him.

I wonder how many folks who call themselves Christians are truly followers of Christ?

This is where it gets a little hairy.  Because we are no longer talking about what we believe, but the way we live.

Here is a story of people approaching and wanting to follow Jesus, but they flat out won’t do what he is asking them to do.  How can we follow someone if we are not willing to do what is asked of us?

It doesn’t work.

He is on the journey. He is the man with the plan.  Do you want to come along or not? Let your yes be yes or your no be no.

I do not care what you believe if you are not willing to do what I am telling you to do.  God gets this person a lot.  In fact, if I read my statistics correctly, that’s just about each and every one of us.

What are the two greatest commandments?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself, or better yet, as I have loved you.

Wow…there goes a lot of us right there.

Those are supposed to be the easy two.  That is the bottom line.  That is the limbo stick set at 6 feet tall.  It shouldn’t be too hard to get under that one.  Yet, here we are…

Yeah but, what about my neighbor? Yeah but, what about my family? Yeah but what about that trouble maker in the church? (why do I get the feeling everyone is staring at me right now?)

God does not want to hear an excuse, even if it is a great one.  God wants our obedience and trust.  He will figure out the details.

Okay, let’s lower that limbo stick a bit.  When we abandon ourselves to Jesus, giving him our whole life, Jesus takes it, heals it, (over time, sometimes) and hands it back to us who are now changed people able to engage, embrace, love freely and passionately and live life to the fullest.

Are we willing to follow what he asks us to do? Or do we stand and find all the many excellent excuses to “yeah but” him in Jesus’ case, literally to death.

Now, I told you there were three types of people.  We’ve heard from the “no ways” and we’ve heard from the “yeah butters”. Both of these people got similar responses from Jesus.  Goodbye.

Then there was the third type.  The “whatever you say” folks.

Now, are these the great and powerful people of God who understand the greatest mysteries of the universe, spirituality, and God’s very mind and heart and soul?

Hardly.

The third type in this story is once again the bumbling disciples who do not have any clue what Jesus is about or what he is up to.

Once again they got it all wrong. “Shall we cause fire to fall down from heaven?” No John, don’t even go there.

“Shall we have the fire consume them”? No, James. And quit playing with matches.

I told you earlier that I would come back to talking about Jesus being completely alone, even in the midst of his closest friends.  They did not understand him.  They didn’t have the slightest clue.  In fact, we repeatedly keep seeing the most outrageous and bizarre responses from these people.  Why on earth would Jesus surround himself with this band of idiots?

To be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, we are not asked to be great thinkers or reasoners, we are asked to be obedient.

The disciples did not have a clue who Jesus was.

They did not have a clue where they were going.

They did not have a clue of what waited for them at the end of the journey.

All they know was that this was the man with the plan.  He is on a journey here, and I want to go with him.  Whatever you say, Jesus.  Whatever you say.

And from this group of meager peasants, fishermen, a tax collector, and some farmers, the church was born.  2000 years later we still sit here in awe of the magnificence of what God did in the lives of these men through his Son Jesus Christ.  And we still wait, hope and pray that he will do it again…through us.

So, how about it? Who are you in this story?

There are probably a few “no way” folks here who were drug in by a family member or friend. But most of us here are the “yeah butters”. Yeah, but God, there are all these reasons that I cannot lay my life at your feet and follow and trust you.  Yeah but God, I really cannot do what you have asked me to do because I have all these great reasons.

Yeah but God, if you just wait a little while longer, my life will be in a place that I can do what you ask of me.

It doesn’t work.  Jesus is on his journey without you. It doesn’t have to be like that.  It is a choice you make.  Obedience and trust.  Doubt and excuses. What will it be? Is there anyone who is willing to look into the eyes of Jesus and say to him…whatever you say, Lord, I will follow.

So…

Notice that in all three stories, we don’t hear the ending.  We don’t know what the response was.  I believe Luke did that absolutely on purpose, so that we the readers would have to wonder, and would ask the personalized question… What am I going to do with this challenge of Jesus to follow him first, to follow him completely and really make him number one in my life?

So I leave you with this: will you give Jesus your all?