This reading is a head-on challenge to those of us who are church members. The New Revised Standard Version gives it this heading, ‘Would be Followers of Jesus’, but that’s not part of the Bible text. An alternative title would be, ‘What it means to follow Jesus’. In principle we all want to follow wherever Jesus wants us to go, but are we always prepared for what that is going to mean in practice?
The first thing we learn is that it means being prepared to let go of our base, our spiritual home. Foxes have a hole where they can shelter from the rain. Birds have nests where they can raise their young. But a bolt hole or a shelter from the storm is a luxury as far as the followers of Jesus are concerned.
The second thing we learn is that it means being prepared to let go of our roots, of tradition, of the place where our family belongs. Followers of Jesus who move from one town to another already know this, of course - although a lot never find a new Christian community to call home and simply give up practising their faith. But it’s equally true for followers who have never moved from the place they call home. We have all got to be prepared to let go of the past, even when it is part of our heritage, in order to follow Jesus into the future.
The third thing we learn is that being a follower of Jesus means we can never look back. A ploughman - or woman - can’t look back or they won’t be able to keep a straight line. They just have to trust that what has already been done is good enough.
If we’re not satisfied with the past, dwelling on it won’t change it. If we love the past, and prefer it to the present, we can’t bring it back. In anything, but especially when we are trying to follow Jesus, we can only look to the future.