June 26, 2016 Sermon. 
Barriers to FOLLOWING JESUS: Distraction is the toughest  
Bible Reading for this sermon: Luke 9:51-62

Do you know what the No. 1 cause of traffic accidents is today?
It’s not speeding, or drunken driving, or bad weather - it’s ‘distracted driving’.
That’s when, besides driving you mess with the radio, a cell phone, or a cup of coffee.
It’s when we take our focus off the road and pay attention to something else in the car.

Coming up here to Holmdel from Toms River, I get to drive the Garden State Parkway.
One thing that I often see is drivers who are doing numerous things other than driving. 
Then, driving becomes just one aspect amongst the multi-tasking things they’re doing.
The result is that all kinds of bad things can end up happening to them or others.

We heard a very interesting story about following Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.
Jesus on his ministry journey, has all of his focus set on going to Jerusalem.
There he will make his last stand and be crucified and then resurrected.
On the way, several events cause him to speak on what it means to be a follower of his.

One is don’t expect to be thanked, even if you’re doing good things for others.
As he goes through the countryside of Samaria, Jesus needs a place to stay.
So he sends two of his top guys on ahead to secure lodging for the night.
But they return telling him that the people in the village have rejected him and his visit.
Even though most Jews despised Samaritans, Jesus went to them but they rejected him 

So if you’re doing Jesus-like things— don’t be surprised by ingratitude or even rejection.
Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean God always rewards goodness with goodness.

The second thing is don’t expect or hope to get even or have retribution.
Another rule of discipleship is we don’t respond with vengeance when we’re dumped on
Jesus’ angry disciples wanted to punish the villagers with destruction for rejecting him. 
But Jesus rebukes them and refuses to engage in carrying out this kind of justice.
A follower of Jesus is about relieving suffering, not causing it; even if it’s warranted.

But the third lesson for discipleship, is to expect to be distracted.
This is maybe the toughest thing for a true discipline because it’s all about focus.
Some followers in Jesus’ caravan said that they wanted to follow him,….but……
But first one wants to go deal with his father’s burial;.
But first, another says, he wants to go and say farewell to his family.

Jesus then tells them that being his follower means not being distracted by other things.
That one who is plowing but takes his eye off his task is not fit to be his follower.
Instead of looking at and tending to other things, his followers must focus on his way.
We can’t put other things equal to, or even ahead of, our focus on Jesus Christ.

We can get distracted by trying to go along with and paying attention to the crowd.
Then being popular or accepted overrides walking in the ways of Christ.
We can get distracted putting our personal needs before the good of others.
Then, loving neighbor becomes just an add on to how we live our life.

We get distracted with our obsession for material things and our perceived needs.
Then we tend to lose focus on the needs of others who have so much less than we.
We can distracted like the disciples, who wanted to do good but wanted appreciation
Then we stop doing what’s right when we fail to get rewarded by God for good deeds
We can get distracted wanting to get revenge so much that we forget about mercy.
Then we fail to do good, or even do bad, since we want to invoke justice for wrongs.

We can get distracted into favoring things contrary to the ideals of Jesus.
When we do, then we compromise our focus and our devotion to him.
And then, just like with distracted driving,…bad things can happen to us or others.

So what distracts you from really being a follower/disciple of Jesus Christ? 
Just like its easy to get distracted when we’re driving,…
so too is it easy to get distracted from being a faithful follower of Jesus. 
Being a disciple of Jesus means to keep our attention on him and his ways.

Our drivers license is privilege that we have been given by the State of New Jersey.
And we have a responsibility to keep our focus on the road when we’re driving.
If we compromise our focus on driving, then we abuse, and can even lose, the privilege.
So we keep our focus on the road ahead, for our good and the good of others.

Likewise, what God has given to us in Jesus Christ is a privilege and gift to us.
God’s love and presence, forgiveness, salvation are given to us through Jesus Christ.
We can abuse that privilege paying attention to things other than or contrary to Jesus.
And we can end up hurting ourselves or others by our lack of focus on Jesus.

But, unlike the State, God will never take away the gifts he’s given to us. 
Yet, we too have a responsibility to keep trying to maintain our focus on following Jesus.
We do so, not fearful of losing our privilege, but for our own good and the good of others

Amen