Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity: Commitment – preached at the Eucharist, Sherborne Abbey, on Sunday, 26 June 2022 by The Reverend Robert Green. (2 Kings Ch 2: v 1 – 2, 6 – 14; Luke Ch 9: v 51 – end)
On one occasion when I was interviewing a couple preparing for their marriage, the male partner proudly told me that he and his female partner were living together, and were committed to each other. Whereupon I pointed out to him that that there was no real commitment in a relationship where either partner could walk away, and the other partner could do nothing about it. He was not at all happy about my response, and the interview came to a rapid conclusion by them both walking out of my study. I subsequently found out that the relationship did not last, and they did not get married.
I give this example as both of our Readings this morning are about Commitment. In the Old Testament Reading, Elijah, whose life is drawing to a close, constantly tests Elisha’s commitment to be his successor, so that his prophetic ministry can continue. How strong is Elisha’s commitment to Elijah in order that he can be a worthy successor? The answer is surely that he was committed to Elijah to the very end.
In our Gospel Reading Jesus tests various people about their commitment, and the examples he gives are not rules, but that it could mean not even being present for the burial of your father, or it could mean not saying farewell to your family. Following Jesus may be more important than all of these. Clearly not everyone is asked to make such sacrifices, and it is equally valid to witness the good news in our daily lives, amongst our family, in our work situation, or school. As followers of Jesus we are committed to live differently.
We are blessed with a wonderful choir, but without real commitment by both the choristers, and our Director of Music, the standard of singing would not be achieved, but by devoting time and being willing to learn the music, we have been given a real aid to worship, and an offering which is to the greater glory of God. Thank you, choir.
Just 10 miles from here there is the Mother House of the Anglican Order of the Society of St. Francis at Hilfield. Here is another form of Christian commitment where the Brothers have taken vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, and have indeed left their families to live in Community. They believe God will provide for their needs as they are called to live a life of faith. I remember arranging a Parish Retreat in a Convent in Kent, and there was no actual charge for our accommodation. We were invited to make a donation, and we had to have a consultation amongst ourselves about what was an appropriate amount to give. The Sisters simply believed that God would provide for what is needed.
It may be that we lack courage or vision or determination to take the path that God wants us to follow. The result is that our contribution to the Kingdom will be less than it could be, and our lives as a consequence will be less fulfilled. It is when we see commitment in a positive light in the sense that it is not a question of what I might have to give up, but rather have I more to give, that we can discover that sense of vocation and well-being. In the early days of my parish ministry, we found that our finances were quite tight, and there was one occasion when after praying about this, one member of the congregation after the early Sunday Communion Service gave me a donation of £100 in cash to help pay for our oil bill. This all happened in the 1970’s. The lesson we learnt from that was, that if we knew of someone who was in need, and we were in a position to help, it was our duty to do so, anonymously if necessary.
The question we come back to is are we open to give our full commitment to Jesus? Last week we were reminded of the identity of Jesus, and who he is. If through the accounts of miracles and healings we see the Lordship of Christ, then he deserves our complete loyalty in building up the Kingdom.
There is a hymn which we often sing and expresses this very well.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! This our song shall ever be; for we have no hope nor Saviour if we have not hope in thee.
All for Jesus! Thou wilt give us strength to serve thee hour by hour: none can move us from thy presence while we trust thy love and power.