Message for Proper 16 – August 22, 2021

My Brothers and Sisters,
I share with you from the Website on the Gospel reading for today:
Many years ago, a missionary society wrote to David Livingstone, a Scottish Presbyterian pioneer medical missionary in Central Africa, and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only because there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” Every ministry and every ministry leader in the history of the Christian faith has faced tough times. Usually, seminaries do not tell their students that, but if you are a Christian leader you need to know it and recognize that you may never get used to it. It seems so far removed from the picture of faith living that we expect, and yet it is reality. In any ministry endeavor there will always be times of encouragement and times of discouragement. In discouraging times, ministry leaders often feel compelled to do two things. The first is to shore up as much support as possible and the second is to try to determine who is truly committed to the continued advancement of the ministry. Today we often are reluctant to present the demands of Christ to would-be disciples because we fear putting them off Christianity and driving them away. That is not the way of Jesus in this passage. His words are difficult for many people in this crowd to understand and harder still to follow.
Christ’s call to commitment is a double-edged demand. First, it sets forth clearly his life mission and his expectation for those who would go further with him. Second, it weeds out shallowness of commitment from among them. As a result, thousands drop out. Now, Jesus turns to the twelve and asks his pointed question: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” It is a make-up-your-mind moment of a lifetime! Look around you. See what is happening in some areas of the church. There are those who leave the church because they say, “I don’t get anything out of it … that church did not feed me … it didn’t meet my needs.” For them, church is all about what it does for them, with little or no thought given to what they might do for the church or its master. They run from fellowship to fellowship looking for the most recent famous convert or newest gospel gimmick. Let us be painfully honest: what they want is entertainment, not devotion to the Lord of the universe.
The call of this day is for each of us to examine our own commitment to Jesus. Do we follow him for what we imagine he can do for us or for who he is and what we can do for his glory? What about you? Surely, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” If you will follow Jesus Christ, come with all your heart! Amen.