Don’t Look Back
Sunday, June 26, 2016, Reflection on Luke 9:51-62
by Elizabeth Dede
This is some of Jesus’ teaching about counting the cost of discipleship. It is not cheap. You must give up a lot: home, family, visions for your future—all for a sometimes uncertain road.
And you can’t look back. If you look back when you’re plowing, your rows will be crooked. Jesus’ way is straight, and I’m not talking about sexual preference—I’m talking about the narrow gate we are called to enter, and the unwavering path we are called to follow.
I must confess that sometimes I look back and wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen a different path. What if I had gone on for my PhD? Would I be teaching at a small college somewhere, looking forward to retirement in another 10 years? What if I had stayed at the Open Door Community? Would I now be facing the end of my life’s calling as that community is closing? What if I had continued to work at the Prison & Jail Project? What would I have done when it closed?
All of that pondering, though, is chasing after the wind. It gets you nowhere. It is better to sing songs about staying the course. I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back. Keep your eyes on the prize. There is wisdom from Jesus in those songs.
What if St. Paul had decided to turn back? We might not be sitting here in worship and prayer. The early Christians might have been persecuted out of existence. What if Jesus had decided to turn back? We know we wouldn’t be sitting here because we would have nothing to follow.
So how do we follow Jesus here at Koinonia? First, we are a Christian community. We claim Jesus as our head. There are many paths of faith to follow, but we follow Jesus. We are intentional about what we do. We make decisions that are informed by the life of Christ. So there are things that we do together that identify us as a Christian community: those are specifically, prayer, work, study, service, and fellowship.
As the body of Christ, we look for things in our lives. We are people of peace. We want that in our own personal lives. We want to be at peace with the decisions we make, with our lifestyle. We want to be at peace with those around us. We don’t gossip; we seek reconciliation with each other if we have a quarrel or disagreement. We seek peace in our world.
We try to live and work sustainably. So we want to live lightly on the land, looking for ways that our cows can save the planet, treating our land with respect, taking care of our pecans, fruit, and gardens in ways that build up the health of our environment, rather than killing it off.
We share with each other. We don’t go off as individuals, but we eat together, worship together, and play together. We share the income of the farm, rather than making solitary wages. We make decisions together, not in a way that separates us, but in a way that brings us together.
We see our lives together as an alternative way to live in the face of a materialistic, militaristic, and racist society. We try to undo these three things, through peace, sharing, and reconciliation.
Our life together in Christian community is a structured life. We don’t look for individualism. It would probably be an easier life if we lived on our own, in our own house, with our private automobile, eating on our own, whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, getting up when we wanted, instead of going to chapel. But Jesus’ way is not easy. He tells us in this Gospel lesson that we won’t necessarily have a place to lay our heads; that we might have to give up family ties; and that we don’t look back.