If you’ve every ploughed a furrow, you will have no difficulty understanding the concluding image of today’s Gospel lesson. “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” You can’t plough a straight furrow if you’re constantly turning around to check your tracks. Ask any farmer! Instead, you need to pick out a spot such as a tree or fence post at the end of the field and never take your eyes off of it. Keep focused and never look back.
We’ve got to stop looking back over our shoulders and focussing on the past, solely focussed on doggedly maintaining the structures and institutional expressions which may have defined our life and ministry in the past. As important and good as they might have been, those things were merely tools – ploughs if you will – that only have value to the extent that they help us engage the primary task at hand, whether that be the work of ploughing a field or that of making disciples.
We need to lift our eyes up from the furrows of our churchly life and re-focus ourselves on the Gospel imperative to love, radically and extravagantly. We have been liberated from the old yoke of slavery and made free. We have been liberated by God’s grace and empowered to help fulfil God’s mission to love and save the world. God is calling us to expand our ministries beyond the perceived safety of our churchly lives and to go out into the world in extraordinary ways! We are being called to help people see and meet Jesus; to throw off the shackles of a too-domesticated religion and throw ourselves into a life of faith, into the life of a Saviour who refuses to be domesticated; into a life that is never predictable and certainly never safe.
In the Gospel that has been revealed to us in Jesus; God tells us loud and clear that his intentions toward the world are so good and so loving that he is willing to die for us. He then invites us to live in relationship with him; to grow and live and in the power of his love; and then to go forth serve our neighbours in the same self-sacrificing way that we ourselves have been served.
The Gospel challenges us to live in such a way that God’s reputation in the world is enhanced; to live as people whose relationship with Christ is radically visible. Those who would claim the greatest truth in this life must also seek to demonstrate the greatest love! As those who proclaim Jesus to be the truth and the way and the life, we must always opt for the way of radical grace, of abundant love; confident in the knowledge that there is no more powerful means for us to communicate the essence of the one in whose name we gather and serve.
As followers of Jesus whose discipleship is expressed, in part, through the life of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; may we freely and extravagantly share that gift with others. And may our faithful acts of loving discipleship help the world to more fully know this God whose loving intention toward the world is so great and vast as to be beyond our ability to fully imagine or comprehend. AMEN