June 30, 2019
Third Sunday After Pentecost
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
VBS – Nurturing Children in Discipleship
Vacation Bible School
What a wonderful week we had last week at our Vacation Bible School! It’s always fun to see little children come, sing and dance in our gatherings, isn’t it? I believe that our kids were excited about everything we provided for them and their parents were thankful for our programs as well. I was so thankful that our church was full of people coming from many communities. In my prayer for Family Night on Thursday, I said that as we have kids in our family, in our church, in our communities, we always have hope for the next generation.
But VBS is not only a fun time; it is also a lot of work. I can’t count the hours and efforts that our teachers and volunteers put into its preparation. If you stopped by our church last week, you must have been surprised to see how beautifully our sanctuary and fellowship hall were decorated. Some of our teachers took time off from their jobs to volunteer their time with the kids.
Why do we want to do VBS every year; what does VBS accomplish? If you ask me, I would say that it is “youth discipleship.” Our 2019 VBS reminds me of this old proverb: “The wise father doesn’t give his child a fish but teaches him/her how to fish. VBS director, Linda Shivers said, “We have taught our youth how to run the VBS programs so that they can serve Sunday School or youth group when they grow up.” Throughout our VBS program, we have nurtured both our kids and young adults to grow as disciples.
We Christians are called fishers of people in the world, for Jesus called his disciples fishers of people. Jesus doesn’t say “Follow me and I will give you fish,” but says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” During his three-year public ministry, Jesus nurtured and taught his disciples how to fish the souls of men. Our secular vocations can be varied, but our spiritual vocation is to catch people and bring them to God’s love.
The Field Education of Discipleship
In today’s Gospel lesson from Luke, we can see Jesus went on a mission trip with his disciples. He decided to go to Jerusalem because he knew that the time drew near for his return to heaven (v. 51). In other words, he was aware that it was almost time for him to die in Jerusalem for the forgiveness and redemption of all humanity.
In the face with his coming death, Jesus reflected on what to leave to his followers before he died, so they could continue his salvation ministry. As the Son of God, he had marvelous power: healing the sick, casting out demons, making storms calm with a few words; feeding thousands of people in the wilderness… Jesus could have given his supernatural power to his disciples so they could also show many miracles to attract people’s attention.
But Jesus never directly gave his disciples power. Instead, he taught them how to serve people as they traveled. Simply put, Jesus was trying to teach them how to fish people.
On this mission trip, Jesus meets several people eager to follow him, but he doesn’t look like a good recruiter. Someone says that he wants to follow him wherever he goes. Jesus replies, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (v. 58). To another, Jesus invites to follow. This one, as any good child would do, says, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus’ response is not positive: “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (v. 60). Another person has a perfectly reasonable request: “Let me first say farewell to those at my home.” This time, Jesus says the one thing that allows me to make sense of all the crankiness: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62).
Jesus is pretty harsh with these fellows. What does he expect? To my perspective, what he is doing is not recruiting but turning away willing volunteers!
Now let us be reasonable. Burying one’s father or going home to say goodbye to family and friends are perfectly normal things anyone wants to do. But why is Jesus so negative about those ordinary things? I believe that Jesus is not against burying the dead, nor is he anti-family values. He, too, left his parents. He, too, went away from his hometown Nazareth and all his friends. He too left everything behind when he decided to follow God’s calling. When he left everything behind, he made God’s Kingdom his top priority. He had counted the cost.
When Jesus is so harsh with those who want to follow him, I believe Jesus wants to make clear with them that the cost of following him is high. The point of his demand is total commitment – seeking God’s kingdom must be a top priority.
Signing on discipleship means that everything becomes secondary to serving God’s kingdom and sharing the Gospel of Christ. Jesus tells us that if we decide to follow him, we should keep in mind that we will be less secure than foxes and birds. Discipleship will cost us.
As modern-day followers of Jesus, unfortunately, are challenged by so many options in our daily routines. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to make a decision, and, before we make a decision, we should know our journey with him will not be easy at all. There are so many things that we need to give up against our desire. Nevertheless, if we feel more secure than foxes and birds, perhaps we are spending too much time burying our dead, chatting with friends, and looking back over the plow.
If we only focus on salvation in heaven, then we might expect God to just give us “fish.” But if we focus on discipleship, then we can strive hard to live a good life and fish the souls in the name of Jesus Christ. For that, we must decide to “put our hand to the plow and do not look back.”
Friends, we are called to follow Christ with a firm determination of no turning back. Following Jesus is 24/7/365. It is always forward and never easy. However, it doesn’t mean not doing anything else; it means doing everything else with our face set toward Jerusalem with all hearts, minds, and powers invested in God, through the power and witness of Jesus Christ. Amen.