As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
I’m sure that many of you, like me, sometimes have trouble sleeping. Perhaps, like me, you’ve read up on ‘sleep hygiene’ and try to follow a set routine to help you sleep well, but still occasionally find yourself awake at 4am pondering the meaning of the Universe. Drawing on this passage, a question you could ponder is ‘how did Jesus sleep?’
In the Gospels Jesus is always travelling and rarely stays in the same place for very long, so he would never have known where he was going to be sleeping. He didn’t have a set routine. After a long day walking, teaching and healing did he sleep the sound sleep of the just, or did he often lie awake, uncomfortable in a borrowed bed in a strange house, thinking about what he, or those opposing him, would do next? Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but he had no place to rest his head, or at least no regular, known, safe place.
We often build routines for ourselves because they can help us. We like to feel safe, secure and in control. But routine can also lead to complacency. Can any of us honestly say we have never made an excuse when we think we hear God calling us to something new and risky? I certainly can’t, or I would have candidated for ministry earlier in my life. It was the same two thousand years ago. The excuses given in this passage for not immediately dropping everything to follow Jesus are pretty good and reasonable as excuses go. I have to bury my father – a requirement according to law and custom. I want to say goodbye to my family – who wouldn’t?
And yet sometimes to follow Jesus we need to be ready to break out of our routines, even if it risks losing sleep and pondering ineffable questions as we lie awake.
Loving and gracious God, be with us both in the stillness of the night when we feel alone with our worries, and in the noise of the day. Help us, whenever and however we hear your voice, to be ready to follow you without making excuses, and respond to your challenge to help build your Kingdom. Amen.
The Rev’d Nick Jones is minister of Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough