"He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
Christian writer Agnes Sanford (1898 -1982) titled her autobiography “Sealed Orders” to describe the way self-knowledge gradually unfolds in our life experience and understanding. Discipleship is rarely a single mystical breakthrough, but rather a slow process of self-discovery. But there comes a time when know what we must do to be true to ourselves and to our journey. We must take the next step.
Once Jesus tells his disciples what lies in store for him and for them in Jerusalem, his ministry of teaching and miracles shifts gears sharply and turns toward the holy city. Jesus’ reading of the prophets is confirmed by the Spirit that has been guiding him since his baptism. He is the Servant of the songs of Isaiah and of the Psalms. He will complete his redemptive mission by laying down his life. His sealed orders have been opened.
His singleness of purpose and urgency spills over into his words to would-be disciples along the way who ask to accompany him. If you want to follow me, let go of everything, even your tribal and family obligations. Take nothing but your determination to do the will of God. Travel light, because you must make swift and total passage from this world into the world to come. Let the dead bury their dead. Don’t look back or be distracted from the path before you.
How are we to understand this passionate determination in our own lives? Who do does not have many obligations and commitments that must be balanced to meet their own integrity and sense of responsibility? Who does not carry the ambiguities and compromises of ordinary living, even if they dream of a purer, freer, more radical path?
Jesus himself lived most of his life in quiet duty and conformity to family and village life. He reached the urgent decisiveness we see in today’s Gospel through a series of awakenings and baptisms that made clear his vocation. When his call came, he was ready because he had lived his entire life in obedience to his conscience and the shaping influence of his circumstances understood in the light of the Scriptures and the voice of the Spirit within him. Once he knew that a baptism of fire awaited him. Jesus was eager to embrace it.
As you gather at the Lord’s Table this weekend, see all around you others who are on the same journey as you. Everyone is trying to find his or her life’s meaning and purpose. Some are more aware and awake than others, but each person is carrying sealed orders known only by the Spirit. Jesus is saying to all of us, “Come, follow me.” Wherever we are on the journey, what God asks of us is to take the next step.