The Scripture: Luke 9:51-62
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. 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 to him, "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."
Sermon – “Practice What You Preach”
Have you ever heard the phrase, “practice what you preach?” Most of us have, I suspect. It’s one of those things we like to say when we notice that other people are behaving badly. For instance, imagine there’s a famous religious leader who stands up in the pulpit, declaring the evils of dishonesty. Now imagine that same religious leader in the news because it was discovered that all the donations they had been taking from followers had been deposited in their personal account. It’s not that hard to imagine, is it? After all it has happened, hasn’t it? That’s when we say to ourselves and to whomever else will listen, “That person should practice what they preach!” And, if they happen to be Christian leaders, it seems that practicing what they preach should be the same as practicing what Jesus preached, don’t you think?
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to practice what Jesus preached. After all, he did! This scripture tells us the story of how Jesus practiced what he preached even in the face of prejudice and rejection. Jesus seeks followers who are willing to do as he does, and he doesn’t ask anyone to do anything more than he is willing to do himself. In this scripture, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem with his disciples. As they approach various towns, Jesus sends a couple of disciples ahead of him as messengers to let the town folk know there’s a group on the way, and to find a place for them to stay for the night. They come to a Samaritan village, where the people refuse to receive Jesus as a guest “because he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Now, Jerusalem was the Holy City of the Jews. So, what this really means is that they do not want him to stay in the village because he is a Jew. The people of the village hated the Jews, and they were not willing to extend hospitality to a Jewish rabbi and his disciples.
Rather than get angry and make a scene, Jesus chose to go on to another village along the way. What’s really interesting here is that his own disciples, in their usual fashion, simply don’t get what it is that Jesus is doing! He’s practicing what he preached to them when he sent them out to serve throughout the land. In Luke 9:5, Jesus says, “Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ Yet, now James and John ask Jesus if they should punish the people of this Samaritan village by commanding fire to come down upon them from the sky! James and John are the ones who he rebukes! Not the Samaritan villagers! By not allowing the disciples to do what they suggested, he was practicing what he preached. Jesus had taught his followers that they should practice what we have come to know as the “Golden Rule.” You know it, right? In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says it this way: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” In the story from today’s scripture, that’s exactly what Jesus is doing to the Samaritans in the village. More importantly, perhaps, he is modeling this “Golden” behavior for his disciples – and for us. Practicing what he preached.
If we truly want to follow Jesus, we have to do what he says…and sometimes, that’s not so easy to do. We’ve all got reasons why we are unable to follow Christ’s call to us. For goodness sake, even some of those whom he personally called along the road to Jerusalem found excuses.
What keeps us from following Him? What holds us back from discipleship? Is it fear that we will have to give up everything that we think matters to us? That we might have to stop what we’re doing and start something new? It’s true, we just might have to that. We might have to give up our nights out with friends because we have an important meeting about a ministry we are involved with. We might have to choose between a lucrative job that compromises our principles and living more frugally, but more honestly. We might find ourselves missing our favorite television show because someone needed us to be with them during a time of crisis. We might need to walk away from someone who bullied us or made us feel ashamed rather than fight with them. Following Jesus means we must do our very best to make the kinds of choices that he made during his life on earth. In all honesty, though, when it comes to living in this world, it’s not hard to know what we should do. What’s difficult is doing what we know we should do.
Though it is not easy to discern what we are called to do in our personal lives, it is easy to know how we are to do whatever it is we do. It’s easy, that is, if we look to the lessons that Jesus gave to his disciples, and understand what it means to follow the one most important commandment of all – to “love the Lord with all our mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
When we attend worship services or study the Bible, we are reminded often of this commandment, because it is so very important. It’s the secret to being a good disciple of Jesus. You see, if we were to live each moment of our lives with the good of others at the forefront of our minds and love for God’s people in our hearts, we would find ourselves more ready to do whatever it takes to be successful at it.
In some ways, we work for Jesus. We do the work he has assigned us to do in this world – that is, to love and care for God’s people. We work for Jesus at the same time that we work for our bosses in our jobs. Jesus is the best boss who ever lived. The best bosses are the ones who are willing to work alongside their employees. Jesus lived, worked, ate, and slept alongside his disciples. The best bosses would never ask their workers to do something they would not do themselves. Jesus asked his disciples to give up their homes; and he himself had no home. He asked his disciples to leave behind family; and he himself had very little family. The best bosses will model excellence in their work practices every day. Jesus modeled excellence in customer service, even serving those who could not pay even with a small meal. The best bosses treat their employees with kindness and understanding. Jesus modeled compassion for those who were most in need, even those whom others would not dare touch. He modeled forgiveness and mercy, even for those who hated him, Pharisee and Samaritan alike.
Jesus practiced what he preached. As his disciples, shouldn’t we at least try?