The Third Sunday after Pentecost (C)
“What Are You Doing Here?”
June 30, 2019
Sermon Text: 1 Kings 19:9b-21, Luke 9:51-62
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
It is the age-old question which man has… in one form or another… always been asking himself … “What am I doing here?”
And one could be more specific, completing the question by asking…
“What am I doing here in this occupation or vocation?”
“What am I doing here in this relationship?”
“What am I doing here in this place, at this time?”
And then there is the grand-daddy of all introspective questions…
“What am I doing here on earth?”
And behind all of these questions is really a person (and let’s be honest with ourselves, that includes you and me) who is searching… hungering… desiring for PURPOSE in their life… some validating REASON for their existence.
We all need… want… purpose in our lives… a reason to go on… to continue on and to keep moving forward. Don’t worry though. There is a whole world out there who would love to not only suggest, but flat out tell you what your purpose in life is… or should be. What they say may even seem to be noble and good.
The fact of the matter is… if you and I want to know our real purpose during this oh-so short time we are here on earth… if we want to know reasons to go on which are truly divine… there is but one source for us… one place for us to look… and that is to the One who made us, created us… the One who sustains us, seeing to all of our needs… the One who has saved us from sin, death and the devil… the One who has sanctified us through the waters of Holy Baptism. I am, of course, referring to our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
You know, ever since the fall into sin, there has been but one Person in all the world who has perfectly known the purpose and reason for His being here on earth and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – True God and True Man.
He knew it already at the young age of twelve, sitting with the great teachers, the rabbis in the temple at Jerusalem astounding them with his knowledge and insight. Our Lord asks His parents, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV)
Over and over again Jesus stated His divine purpose declaring, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)
Now look with me to the beginning of our Gospel lesson where we are told, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
When the divinely appointed time drew near for Jesus, the Christ… our Messiah… to be taken up in glory into heaven, He… Jesus… resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem… to go to Calvary… to go to the cross where He will pay the full price for your sins and mine and that of all mankind.
Even though He knew what was coming, our Lord purposed to do this. He was determined to do this. Thanks be to God that there was no stopping Him.
It was for this very reason that He came to earth taking on flesh of our flesh that He might be our substitute and place Himself under the Law… that He might suffer and die in our stead, offering up His perfect life… His precious body and holy blood… as the one acceptable sacrifice for our iniquities… for the sins of all mankind.
Ok, so the Lord certainly knew His purpose and mission here on earth… but what about us? As I said, the question as to what one is doing here is an age old one. It is posed by all people and that includes those who follow the Lord and those whom the Lord has called to lead His people. Noah no doubt asked it. As did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David. “What am I doing here?”
It was the question (now looking to our Old Testament lesson) that I am sure Elijah asked of himself while hiding out in that cave, in fear for his life. But notice that even though Elijah was obviously wondering this, it is nevertheless the Lord God who asks the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9)
And Elijah answers, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)
Again, a little farther down in our text, the Lord asks the same question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13)
And Elijah proceeds to give the same response, lamenting over his situation and the burden… the “cross” that he bears.
But my friends, what is so important is that we see that the reason God repeatedly asked this question of Elijah and why He repeatedly asks the same of you and me is so that we might know without a shadow of a doubt that there is no hiding in caves… there is no hiding in our lives… that the Lord places us in Godly positions and roles which, by the very nature of them being Godly will be difficult to carry out. This ungodly, sin-sick world and whatever might be the prevailing culture will see to that.
But let that never dismay or deter us. As children of the Lord, following Him, serving Him, we are where we are because God has seen fit to place us here or there… in specific places, roles, vocations… at specific times for specific purposes… His divine purpose and will… as He did Elijah.
And as God would not allow Elijah to remain in some cave, so too He will not allow us to do the same… to hide… to withdraw… to give up… to run away from obligations… to shirk our responsibilities… to turn a deaf ear to God’s Word and His will for us. Indeed…
It was no accident that Elijah was called to be a prophet.
It was no accident the situation where he now found himself.
And likewise, it is no accident that you and I have been called to be Godly men and women… Godly husbands and wives… Godly fathers, mothers, grandparents… sons and daughters… Godly employees and employers… Godly students.
It is no accident that all of us have been called to be disciples of our Lord… to be His witnesses… His ambassadors… His humble servants.
You know, in an hour or so we will have a congregational meeting. It is no accident that some of you have been called to positions of authority as council members, elders, trustees, Sunday school teachers and that all of you… to a person… have been called to truly be members of God’s Church and this congregation… doing your part which goes far beyond occupying a pew on a Sunday morning and giving money to the church.
What is so important for all us to know is that in the Lord asking “What are you doing here?” comes His answer “You are doing my work. You are my person in a particular place, situation or relationship. You are here sharing my love… sharing my Word… my message of salvation. You are carrying out my ministry of reconciliation in the place where I have seen fit to put you.”
It is also so very important that we know that in the Lord asking “What are you doing here?” comes the assurance… the reassurance… that He will always be with you and me wherever we are at… whatever we are doing in His name… in His service and to His glory… that His power and might will see us through all things… that whatever obstacles we face… they will come tumbling down… each and every one of them.
This is what the Lord promised Elijah. Look what will happen to all of his enemies who it appears have the upper hand. They will be gone… destroyed. Look how the Lord surrounds Elijah with others who will help him… those who are still faithful.
The Lord declares to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)
“What are you doing here?” Interestingly enough, it is this very same question that must also be answered by James and John in our Gospel lesson because they are obviously confused. They think that it is there role to bring punishment upon those who reject the Lord (in this particular case, the Samaritans) just as Peter will later think it to be his role to take sword in hand and lop off the ear of the high priest’s servant when the crowd comes to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
All of these disciples will be rebuked for their actions… their thoughts… for even though they may be well-meaning from a worldly standpoint, it is nevertheless not in keeping with God’s holy will and the way of Christ…
He who simply came to serve… to give Himself… His whole self for others, even though it meant rejection, humiliation, pain and suffering and even death.
“What are you doing here?” the Lord asks each and every one of us and thankfully, before we can say anything… He puts His nail-scarred hand to our mouth and says “Let me tell you what you are doing here. Let me tell you why I have placed you here.”
“Let me tell you of my love for you. Let me tell you of the mercy and grace which through my death and resurrection is now poured out upon you and which you now have the joy… the privilege and pleasure of sharing with anyone and everyone you meet… with anyone and everyone that I will place before you.”
“You want purpose in your life… a reason to live? I am your purpose… your reason,” declares the Lord. “Come, follow me. Do not look back. Indeed, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
“Come follow me. Even though… for a little while… heartache and suffering will most certainly come upon you because of me, because of your faith in me… I will most assuredly sustain you through my Word and the blessed Sacraments. My Holy Spirit will be upon you.”
“Come follow me. Though the road is narrow and difficult, it is nevertheless the path of righteousness that most certainly leads to green pastures and still waters… that most certainly leads to heaven and your eternal home.”
Dearly beloved of the Lord, thanks be to God that in Christ Jesus we know what we are doing here… why we are here. We know our purpose. We know where we are going. We know what goes before us – the cross of Jesus, every step of the way. We know Who is going on before us, leading the way… our dear Savior who loves us so much. What peace all of this gives throughout our sojourn here below. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
“What Are You Doing Here” The Rev. Mark H. Hein, 6/30/19 St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lockport IL