“The Big Picture”
Luke 9:51 - 62
June 27, 2004
Vicar Dick Yost
I grew up third oldest in a family of four children – the oldest was my brother, as well as an older sister and a younger sister. Every once in a while my parents would go out for the evening and leave my brother “in charge” of the other three kids. My brother took his position of authority very seriously – too seriously we thought – and he had a pad of paper and pen with him to record any misbehavior on our parts during the course of the evening. His mission, it seemed, was to make sure we did something wrong so that when our parents came home he could produce a “full report” as he called it, of our misbehavings to our parents. If we didn’t do anything on our own that constituted a misdeed, he would begin assigning chores to the three of us in his charge so that if we refused or didn’t do the chores to his satisfaction, we’d make our way onto his list. I remember one time he had me go out and mow the lawn at 8:00 at night – in the dark – to make sure I’d done something wrong to make the list – either by refusing to mow the lawn or by missing a few spots because I couldn’t see what I was doing. Clearly – at least in our estimation – he’d lost track of what he was supposed to be doing. By being left to watch over the three of us, what our parents had in mind was making sure there was still a house to come home to when they returned home – not to develop a dictatorship in their absence. He ‘d lost track of the big picture, of what his job really was.
In our Gospel from St. Luke this morning we heard about Jesus making a trip to Jerusalem. On his way he and some of his disciples stopped over in a Samaritan village where they were not welcomed. In truth they weren’t wanted there because they were not Jews – like Jesus and the apostles – and were not liked because of their religious convictions. James and John asked Jesus if they should call upon the Lord to send down lightning and destroy the village because of their lack of hospitality. But Jesus rebuked them and told them that destroying a village was not part of their mission. If they were not welcomed by the Samaritans, so be it, but not welcoming Jesus as their guest for the evening was the Samaritans’ loss, not grounds for destroying the village. Then after explaining what discipleship wasn’t, Jesus went on to explain what being a disciple did mean. It meant leaving one’s past behind and devoting a new life to serving God.
When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother lived in Syracuse with an uncle. Every once in a while my uncle would go out of town on a business trip leaving my grandmother alone for a few days. Because she didn’t like being in the house alone at night, my brother would go over and keep her company while my uncle was gone. His role wasn’t to offer protection but rather just to provide companionship and to have someone in the house with her at night. After he’d done this a few times, I asked if maybe I couldn’t spend a few days with my grandmother the next time my uncle was out of town. My parents thought about it and decided since my role wasn’t to offer protection – only company – it would be okay. The day finally came when I went to stay with my grandmother. I couldn’t wait! She’d promised to bake my favorite cookies and to take me to downtown Syracuse on the bus and go to see the department stores on Salina Street. Of course I knew that meant I’d be getting to pick out a new toy when we went to the toy department so I was very anxious to go. I went over with my parents and we sat around talking for a while. After a couple of hours it was time for my parents to go home. Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t going home with them. I had never been away from my parents overnight anywhere before and I suddenly didn’t feel like this was the right time for such an adventure. My grandmother immediately realized my reluctance and she calmly said, “I’m so glad you’ve come over and keep me company.” With those few words she reminded me of what the big picture was. I decided to stay and we had a wonderful visit for those three days I was with her.
Dear friends, discipleship is not an easy thing. It forces us to do many things we’d rather not do. It forces us to step outside our “comfort zone” when we rather continue doing everything the same way as we had before. Sometimes it means making a telephone call to someone with whom we’ve had a falling out at some time in the past. Sometimes it means visiting a friend as he or she lies in a sick bed. Sometimes discipleship means having to say goodbye to old ways and old friends.
When I came to St. Peter’s last July, we all knew it was for a one-year assignment. We were all excited about this new adventure called “internship” and what it would mean to St. Peter’s. And what a wonderful year it’s been for me. I’ve been so warmly received and accepted – even with the lightning event last August! You’ve been patient, kind, loving and encouraging. And this past year has been an absolute joy.
But in my faith journey the time has come today to say goodbye and to move on in my preparation for the ordained ministry. As I stand before you now, I am filled with gratitude and feel blessed that I had the opportunity to come to St. Peter’s. I thank you for a wonderful year. I thank you for your mentoring and encouragement. I thank you for always helping me to see the big picture. And I thank you for sharing your passion for Jesus Christ with me.