A Sermon preached in St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle 27 June 2010 at Mattins

‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 

 (Luke 9. 51-62)

A glimpse of the nature of discipleship is offered to us this morning in the demanding and seemingly impossible directives of our Lord. What Jesus requires is single minded faithfulness. Here is an unprotected mission and a clear choice about priorities – a clean break with the past. Jesus’ single mindedness paves the way to challenge the disciples that no plausible distractions must deter them. Jesus warns us about compromise and accommodation to the social structures and the divided loyalties that might detract us from our life as disciples. These words challenge, prod and even anger.

I was recently at a long and rather tedious meeting .As my mind wandered I noticed that the clock on the wall wasn’t quite right; the second hand was moving correctly – tick, tick, tick, – counting every tiny section of the time with great regularity and determination – but the hour hand was stuck. Every second was counted, but time had no direction ad was going nowhere. We could have sat there forever if we had relied on that clock.

Unless we put the detail into a bigger picture – allow the seconds to become hours, days, years – then we are stagnant.

In any enterprise, not least the religious one we can be locked up into the small matters which make up most of our lives and miss the bigger picture – the vision and the demand. Jesus asks us to consider our purpose and to make intentional choices for the Gospel so that we can be signs of life and growth. We all know places and people where there is activity and meetings but no conversation and no reflection beyond the immediate and the mundane – tick, tick, tick.

We live in a community – a shared life – and all the more interesting for its partiality and humanness. All human nature comes out to play, for good and sometimes ill. Someone once asked Henry Kissinger why he thought it was academic politics that could be so vicious: ‘because the stakes are so small’ was his reply.

All places become small when they forget about the fostering of life and wisdom and worship and prayer – when they concentrate on the seconds and cannot tell the time. It takes effort to be radical – to get back to the roots of common purpose and to be visionary: to see beyond immediate concerns to recall the greater project of the common good of the Gospel.

I believe that Jesus asks us today a question about ultimate purpose and significance – and challenges us to think about whether we are prepared to pay the cost of discipleship. Let me put it another way – he asks us this : ‘ What will make you complete?’

And the answer? Look inside. Be honest. Open about your needs and your wants and see within these lie a great longing for God. A longing, yes in need, but also in love and trust – and the pulse of that longing is within all of us, though we mask it or deafen it or dull in with our tick, tick, tick of secondary concerns. We so often prefer to live on the surface and so miss the deeper pull of our souls towards God.  ‘What will make you complete?’

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, who have seen all the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then this longing takes shape in a life lived in fellowship with him and in obedience to his way, a fellowship shared by all those who are through his grace drawn together in his mystical body, and sustained by his spirit. This longing for God makes us disciples, a follower, a learner, servants sent in his name. In Christ this longing finds direction and shape. This community is a model, an enactment of what life’s true purpose is all about: a movement of the human soul in individual and society reaching out towards God; the stillness of the soul waiting on God; the hospitality of the human soul welcoming friend and stranger.  ‘What will make you complete?’ becoming more fully as human beings: Gods beloved in Christ. Of course we are imperfect; we get it wrong, we mess up, we are soiled and compromised. Our virtue is not our goodness but the choice we have made for Christ. Our complete dependence on God, making love for others a priority and preferring at all times mutuality and inter- connectedness.  Listening, bearing, working for justice, forgiving, praying. This will make us complete.

The pattern of Jesus’ life is good news for us. His being taken up – upon the cross and through the cross into the resurrection is to present to us and the world a receivable offering to God. His willingness constantly to repay challenge and criticism with mercy and justice is a sign of the wonder of God’s love for us – of taking us up into that love, embracing our lives and constantly renewing and restoring us.

This will make us complete. We respond and we follow. This does not mean that we shall be met with fame or praises or easy resolutions to life’s paradoxes. We shall have to embrace defeat – and failure as we celebrate the ideal, live by the vision.

‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

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