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Dangerous Business - Sermon, 6/14/2020
June 16, 2020, 11:54 AM

One of the best movies in the world – at least in my opinion – is “The Fellowship of the Ring,” part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I admit to watching this movie more than 100 times – pretty depressing, when you consider that the movie is about three hours long.  There is just something comforting and familiar about “The Fellowship of the Ring.”  Maybe it’s because I have always felt a little bit like a Hobbit with a Hobbit’s love of growing things.  Or maybe it’s because I really resonate with the character Sam.

Sam is a combination bodyguard, gardener, and best friend to the main character, Frodo.  Without giving anything away, it is fair to say that Sam becomes quite the heroic character by the end of the story.  At the beginning of the first movie, though, Sam is timid and sheltered.  As Sam and Frodo begin their long journey together, Sam expresses his anxiety that he is going to be farther away from home than he has ever been.

Frodo, always a little bit worldlier than his bodyguard / gardener / best friend, Frodo assures Sam that all is will be well.  Frodo reminds Sam of a saying he heard growing up: “It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

I would argue that it’s not just a physical journey like Frodo’s and Sam’s that is “a dangerous business,” but a journey of discipleship is “a dangerous business,” too.  The danger of being on a journey of discipleship is nothing new.  We hear about it in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel. 

We hear that Jesus is teaching, proclaiming, and healing among God’s people, traveling to many cities and villages.  Jesus has compassion on the people he encounters.  Matthew says that the people Jesus meets are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Ever seeking to be a “Good Shepherd,” Jesus recognizes that his message of the coming of God’s kingdom could provide life to the people so “harassed and helpless.”  But Jesus does not try to share a message of liberation and salvation alone.  Instead, he calls others into the journey of discipleship. 

Jesus begins sending his disciples out their own front door onto an unsure and possibly dangerous road.  Jesus warns them that they are being sent out “like sheep in the midst of wolves.”  Talk about a dangerous business!  Jesus tells his beloved friends that they will likely be rejected by many people.  The message of the coming of God’s kingdom will be pushed aside – sometimes violently – by the people they encounter.

According to Jesus, “brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of (Christ’s) name.”  In fact, the message the disciples are commissioned to share may even land them in court.  Jesus warns his friends that they may be handed “over to councils and (flogged)” for proclaiming the coming kingdom of God.  They might even be “dragged before governors and kings because of (Jesus).” 

Being sent out by Jesus – sent out on the road – is a dangerous business.  It’s the kind of journey I wouldn’t look forward to taking.  I’d rather hide in my house with my comfortable clothes and my air conditioning, thank you very much.  Let’s avoid this whole “sheep among wolves” thing. 

However, this dangerous business of the discipleship journey is one we must take.  Even taking “no gold or silver, or copper in (our) belts,” Jesus commissions us – and all believers – to take the discipleship journey.  In telling us that we need to leave all our worldly possessions behind – even comfortable clothes and air conditioning – Jesus invites us to be totally reliant on him.

If we rely too heavily on the “stuff” we carry, “stuff” like bags, tunics, sandals, or staffs, “stuff” like laptops, cell phones, or tablets, “stuff” like degrees, wealth, or security, we might fall prey to the second part of the quotation from the movie.  As Frodo warns Sam, “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

There are many things that might make it hard for us on the discipleship journey to “keep (our) feet.”  We know that we are easily distracted from fulfilling Christ’s commission, easily sweeping us off-task.  Indeed, “there’s no knowing where (we) might be swept off to” if we don’t keep our eyes and our hearts on Jesus. 

“But,” as we hear in today’s Gospel, “but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  It is this promise that might – just might – keep us on the right road during our lifelong discipleship journey.  As dangerous a business as the discipleship journey might be, we give thanks for Christ’s promise of salvation. 

It might be true, as Sam heard in the movie: “It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  We are called and commissioned by Jesus to go out our front doors anyway – a dangerous business or not.  Sheep among wolves or not.  Facing stiff penalties or not.  The possibility of punishment or not. 

We give thanks that we do not face this dangerous business of the discipleship journey without help or support.  We give thanks for the help and support Jesus gives so that we might make the discipleship journey in one piece.  We give thanks that Christ keeps our feet on the path, the path that will allow us to proclaim God’s kingdom to a world that so desperately needs to hear it.  Amen.

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