Keep Your Hand on the Gospel Plow, Søren’s Affirmation of Baptism June 26th 2016
Søren’s Affirmation of Baptism June 26th 2016 Christ Lutheran Church
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 Psalm 16 Galatians 5:1,13-25 Luke 9:51-63
Keep Your Hand on the Gospel Plow
What a wonderful Sunday, one where we can celebrate Søren’s baptismal affirmation. We remember the blessing of Sophia’s confirmation, with those confirmands of our cluster of churches up at the seminary on Pentecost. (If we consider ourselves a fleet of churches, wouldn’t it be something if we became the flagship and called a youth pastor together? Imagine all the God-Out-There experiences the youth in our churches could have!) In the old days one church had many confirmands. A picture in my bookshelf has my father, a pastor, standing with eleven confirmands from his church. Yet because of the cooperation of our four churches and pastors, thanks to Pastor Barbara, you enjoyed being together with a good number of young people studying confirmation together. Now their confirmation took place on Pentecost, but today we have this lovely Pentecost bulletin cover for your service.
The verse I would like to highlight is “Jesus said to [one disciple]‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.’” Now after a reading we say “The Gospel of the Lord, even though that is really the law. So it is rather rough when you contemplate your discipleship, Søren, and then the Gospel lesson has three disciples, who get reproached by Jesus. But just look at the positive way the Psalm balances the gospel lesson out.
“LORD, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot. My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a rich inheritance.
My father gave me his white Cadillac as my inheritance. It had angelic wings it seemed where the tail lights swept back, push button windows and a real fine radio. When I drove it out of the garage, because it had been standing for a long time, the tires went, pop, pop, pop: four blow outs. My father said, “There goes the devil again!” The real inheritance that he left me was divine. Psalm 16 continues:
I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me night after night. I have set the LORD always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the pit. You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
How do you like that for a confirmation blessing? Who could ask for more? You might want to choose a verse from that for your very own confirmation verse.
But you are not only celebrating today, you are also affirming baptism and baptism means means a washing, a real scrubbing of forgiveness so you become pure, pure in heart so you can see God. Baptism can also mean drowning to the old self and being raised up a new self. Dying to your old self and coming alive to God, becoming the new being that God created you to be.
Now baptism would be unbearable, except that, even the psalm shows us why we can glory in the cross. That’s because of the resurrection. “Christ will not abandon you to the grave; nor let his holy one see the pit, but show you the path of life.”
That is the wonderful gospel promise that paints the colorful arch of the rainbow of God’s covenant over you. Rainbows are water droplets refracting white light into all the colors of the spectrum.
Was it you who put these words into the confirmation liturgy? “We give you thanks for the laws of physics and science that operate in our world?” Mark, Josh, and I were talking about black holes. If all these stars fall into them and add their gravity to the black hole, do the stars of the galaxies swirl and revolve around them like our planets around the sun? I wonder. I like Satchmo’s song: “What a Wonderful World!” You young people will learn more than we’ll ever know.”
But gravitational waves do not keep us together. The love that we receive as brothers and sisters in Christ does that. And like the spiritual says, “We have to keep our hands on the Gospel plow.” “Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on!”
That does not mean that you have to become a pastor, although I wonder if you have considered it. But we believe in the priesthood of all believers. You receive God’s calling in whatever vocation you receive from God. Doing science is also a calling. God knows we need more good scientists. The word “vocation” means calling. Right now your vocation, your calling is studying, so you can make your contribution and become the blessing in God’s kingdom, that God needs you to be.
So keep your hand on the gospel plow and hold on. Perhaps Jesus was thinking of the story of Elisha when he talked about putting one’s hand on a plow.
And Elisha must have been a rather prominent farmer plowing behind 12 yoke of oxen. When Elijah throws his mantle around him, Elisha says, “Let me first kiss my father and my mother and then I will follow you.” The old prophet rebukes Elisha by saying, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” But Elisha slaughters the oxen, uses the plow to have wood for the fire to cook them, calls together a huge feast for the whole village and leaves and follows Elijah to become his servant.
Jesus did not give the three disciples a second chance, but Jesus is setting his face to Jerusalem, where he will be taken up, taken up on the cross. Like in disaster movies, when there is a life and death situation, you often don’t get a second chance.
But look at what Elisha was doing. He was turning back, he burning his bridges behind him. He was giving up the plow on the farm to put his hand on the prophet’s plow, like we put it on the gospel plow in any vocation that God chooses for us. listen to St. Paul:
“For Freedom Christ has set us free.” says St. Paul. “Stand fast therefore and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again.”
Elisha was pretty high and mighty if he plowed with 12 oxen. But then he became Elijah’s servant. You may know what Luther said in “The Freedom of a Christian,” after all, you played the young Luther. “A Christian person is a free sovereign over all, subject to no one.” That’s because of faith. But at the very same time, “A Christian person is a dutiful servant, subject to everyone.” That’s because of love. A popular song long ago put it this way: “If they made me a king, I’d still be a slave to you.” That’s what love and passion do.
You have to slave away in your calling. Our faith lifts us up giving us the strength to love and serve God’s people. Elisha became the great prophet’s servant in order to learn how to be one himself. Are you now a junior? When you become a senior, don’t get senioritis. Studying is slavery; but we can endure it because of the freedom we have in Christ. So we have to work hard. I think people hate immigrants because they work so hard and we have gotten very pampered and rich and we don’t like hard work and there is a lot of work we won’t even bend our backs to do. So to follow after Christ we have to work as hard as immigrants and stop rejecting them.
The old spiritual talks about the gospel plow. When Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” You have to realize how wonderful God is. God makes us fit to put our hand on that plow. God forgives us more than any human being could or would until we become mature by God’s grace and mercy. It is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that you become fit to handle the plow that turns up the earth in straight furrows so that it can grow a harvest.
So keep on keeping on. It takes our whole life to get there. On your life’s journey Christ will always accompany you and be the closest to you when you think God is not even there. Now that you follow, don’t look back. Hate traps us in the past, while love opens the future. If we plow a field looking backward rather than straight ahead, the furrows are going to be crooked. If you already drive a car: it’s better to look forward through the windshield. Like Elisha, you can glance at the rear view mirror, but you can’t drive a car and you’ll be sure to crash if you only look at the cars behind you in the rear view mirror, instead of the way and everything in front of you.
In Revelation it says, “Be faithful until death and Christ will give you the crown of life.” By grace Christ will make you fit for the kingdom of God, for your calling, for the contribution that you will make, for the blessing that you will be.
Christ will keep your hand on the gospel plow and help you hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on. God bless you for following Christ, who will show you the path of life, and hold you in his presence for the fullness of joy.
The first thing you did right,
was affirm your baptism in God’s sight!
So keep your hand on the gospel plow
and hold on! Amen.
 Soren played the young Luther and his father Lars played Professor Luther in the preview of our Luther Musical on Reformation Sunday, October 25, 2015. Soren’s mother, Bertha played Katie von Bora.